But Anne, shivering in the cotton kimono, argued the question hotly: “I should think Murray would want to marry someone with congenial tastes. He hates everything that I like.”
“He’ll make an excellent husband. You ought to be happy to know that he—cares.”
She began to cough—a racking cough that left her exhausted.
Anne, bending over her, said, “Why, Amy, are you sick?”
“I’m—I’m rather wretched, Anne.”
“Are you taking anything for your cough?”
“You ought to have a doctor.”
“I have had one.”
“What did he say?”
Amy put her off. “I’ll feel better in the morning, Anne. Don’t worry.” Again the cough tore her. Anne flew to Ethel.
“See what you can do for her. There is blood on her handkerchief! I am going to call a doctor.”
The doctor, arriving, checked the cough. Later he told Anne that Amy must have a change and strengthening food.
“At once. She’s in a very serious state. I’ve told her, but she won’t listen.”
In the days that followed Anne arraigned herself hotly. “I’ve been a selfish pig—eating up everything—and Amy needed it.”
In this state of mind she fasted—and was famished.
Maxwell, noting her paleness, demanded, “What’s the matter? Aren’t you well?”
She wanted to cry out, “I’m hungry.” But she, too, had her pride.
He got it out of her finally. “The doctor is much worried about her. He says she needs a change.”
“You need it too.”
She needed food, but she couldn’t tell him that. The state of their exchequer was alarming. It had been revealed to her since Amy’s illness that there was really nothing coming in until the next quarter.
“Why didn’t you let Charlotte go, Ethel?”
“We’ve always had a maid. What would people think?”
“And because of what people think, Amy is to starve?”
“Anne, how can you?”
“Well, it comes to that. She needs things; and we don’t need Charlotte.”
But when they spoke to Amy of sending Charlotte away she was feverishly excited. “There’s nobody to do the work.”
“I can do it,” said Anne.
“We Merrymans have never worked,” Amy began to cry. “I’d rather die,” she said, “than have people think we are—poor.”
Maxwell was a man of action. When he saw Anne pale he sought a remedy. “Look here, why can’t you and your sisters come out to my farm?”
Anne, remembering certain things—broilers and fresh eggs—was thrilled by the invitation. “I’d love it! But Amy won’t accept.”
“She’s terribly stiff.”
He laughed. “Perhaps I can talk her over.”
Amy, lying on her couch, very weary, facing a shadowy future, felt his magnetism as he talked to her. It was as if life spoke through his lips. Murray had sat there beside her only an hour before. He had brought her roses but he had brought no hope.