“None, except for herself; and he is so fond of her that he will indulge her to his very last cent.”
“I thought he looked a little down as he passed us this morning.”
“Yes, he is beginning to realize that he has gone too far, and, poor fellow, it is tugging at him hard.”
Did she hear aright? Was it of her, Eleanor Woodruff, that they were talking? Swiftly she sped out of the dark, heavily-curtained back parlor of the stylish boarding-house, and into her room, a gorgeous alcove apartment on the first floor. She could not mount the stairs on account of her weak spine. Weak spine? She forgot all about it as she paced the floor, angry tears gushing from her large brown eyes. It was shameful—it was wicked—to be so abused. She had never in her whole petted life been found fault with. As to money, what did she know about it? Her father, before his failure and death, had always gratified her. Her husband had never made any difference. These men were friends of his.
Her bitter sobs ceased, and her wounded vanity gradually lost itself in better thoughts. Did all her world think of her like the scathing criticisms of those two chance callers, who thus killed the time of waiting for someone to come down to them? She began to feel glad that she had overheard it. The merest accident had sent her into the back parlor. Was it true? What ought she to do? What could she do? Her dear, kind husband in trouble, and she the cause. Long she sat buried in thought, and when the well-known step sounded at the door her face was radiant with a new resolve.
He came to her large easy-chair with a step somewhat weary, but his kiss was as usual.
“All right, Nellie? Had a good day? Why, you look—let me see—how do you look?” he satd, his kind eyes noting the brightness that shone in hers.
“I look as if I love my big boy very much, don’t I?” she responded merrily.
His answer was another kiss, and as he turned toward his dressing closet, her heart ached with unspoken tenderness. Her dinner was brought in. She was not considered strong enough to sit at table. For this service an extra charge was made.
Later, when he opened the evening paper, she sat and watched him. Surely those lines of care were new, now that he was not smiling fondly upon her. Oh, foolish, selfish wife! Rising gently, her long silken tea-gown trailing behind her, she stood beside him, one slender white hand upon his shoulder.
“Well, dear, what now? Another new gown?” he asked, with his old, sweet smile.
She pressed her lips in a slow, reverential fashion, upon the broad white brow, another pang at her heart. Then she spoke:
“Not this time. Harry, dear, let’s go to Mrs. Wickham’s to board.”
“Mrs. Wickham’s!” he echoed. “Why, you wouldn’t stay in her dull little place a week.”
But even as he spoke there flashed through his mind in rapid calculation, “Twenty dollars a week there, forty here; eighty dollars a month saved; nearly a thousand dollars a year.”