36. CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX
They did feel it, yet neither spoke of it, for often between
ourselves and those nearest and dearest to us there exists a reserve
which it is very hard to overcome. Jo felt as if a veil
had fallen between her heart and Beth's, but when she put out
her hand to lift it up, there seemed something sacred in the
silence, and she waited for Beth to speak. She wondered, and
was thankful also, that her parents did not seem to see what
she saw, and during the quiet weeks when the shadows grew so
plain to her, she said nothing of it to those at home, believing
that it would tell itself when Beth came back no better.
She wondered still more if her sister really guessed the hard
truth, and what thoughts were passing through her mind during
the long hours when she lay on the warm rocks with her head in
Jo's lap, while the winds blew healthfully over her and the sea
made music at her feet.
One day Beth told her. Jo thought she was asleep, she lay
so still, and putting down her book, sat looking at her with
wistful eyes, trying to see signs of hope in the faint color on
Beth's cheeks. But she could not find enough to satisfy her,
for the cheeks were very thin, and the hands seemed too feeble
to hold even the rosy little shells they had been collecting.
It came to her then more bitterly than ever that Beth was
slowly drifting away form her, and her arms instinctively
tightened their hold upon the dearest treasure she possessed.
For a minute her eyes were too dim for seeing, and when they
cleared, Beth was looking up at her so tenderly that there was
hardly any need for her to say, "Jo, dear, I'm glad you know
it. I've tried to tell you, but I couldn't."
There was no answer except her sister's cheek against her
own, not even tears, for when most deeply moved, Jo did not
cry. She was the weaker then, land Beth tried to comfort and
sustain her, with her arms about her and the soothing words
she whispered in her ear.
"I've known it for a good while, dear, and now I'm used
to it, it isn't hard to think of or to bear. Try to see it so
and don't be troubled about me, because it's best, indeed it is."