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Author's Chapter Notes:

Thanks for the lovely reviews, people. 

This is the last part of this, I'm afraid, but leads neatly into the start Jo's Biggest Challenge.

Jo was busy editing her latest book in preparation for typing it when she realised that she'd left some of her papers up in her bedroom. Without thinking, she dashed upstairs to fetch them, only to succumb to a violent fit of coughing when she reached her room. She was alone in the house, her sister having taken Robin and Daisy out to get new uniform and Jem was at the Sanatorium. She collapsed onto her bed and gave into the spasms going through her body as she coughed. When she finally stopped she lay there, exhausted. It was a good half hour before she felt able to sit up and attempt to sip any of the water she kept by her bedside. Her hand shook as she picked the glass up. Slowly, she sipped at the water until the glass was empty and she felt a little more like herself again. Eventually, she stood back up and retrieved the papers she had come upstairs to collect. Walking slowly back down to the study, she realised that she ought to tell someone what had just happened. No one was about, however so, pushing it to the back of her mind; she continued on and settled back down to her editing. In her absorption, the incident went from her mind.

Jo felt exhausted that evening and retired to bed early. She was soon sleeping, never hearing her sister slip into the room to check on her. Madge watched her sister sleeping for a few moments before she returned to the Salon, a worried look on her face. Jem was home for once, though he expected to be called back to the Sanatorium very soon.

"Is something wrong, Madge?"

"I think there's something wrong with Jo. I don't know what it is, though, and she isn't being very forthcoming."

"She's been rather busy with that new book of hers, lately. Maybe it's just worry over that."

"Possibly. I think it's more than that, though."

"You can't force her confidence, darling. She'll tell you in her own time."

"I know, but I can't help worrying about her." The telephone bell pealed in the hall and Jem rose to answer it. A minute later, he returned to the Salon.

"I'm sorry, darling, I have to go. Try not to worry about Jo. She'll be fine. I'm sure she's just worrying about her book and, once she's finished, she'll be back to her normal self." With this assurance, he departed to the Sanatorium, allowing the problem of his sister-in-law to slip from his mind.

Madge tried to forget her worry over her sister during the next few days. She could see that Jo was busy attempting to type a fair copy of her latest book. She hoped that Jem was correct in his assumption and Jo’s problem was indeed stress from trying to get her book finished. As much as she wanted to keep an eye on Jo, she found herself busy with the children as they demanded her attention and kept her occupied with their questions and activities.

For her own part, Jo was relieved to be left alone to try and get on with her typing. She always took far longer than necessary as she frequently found mistakes and ended up having to retype pages. She never gave another thought to the coughing fit she had had and subsequently, no one found out about it. She also began to skip meals as she concentrated on trying to type up her manuscript.

Finally, Jo packaged up her manuscript and it was ready to post. With a relived sigh she put it on the hall table ready to take to the post office next time she went to Spärtz. She went up to her room intending to change and go out into the garden for some fresh air, but she found herself coughing again. She made it into her bedroom and managed to close the door before she collapsed onto the floor. When she finally stopped, Jo laid her head on her knees and sighed. She made her mind up that she needed to speak to Jem. She couldn't go on like this any longer.

She was doomed to disappointment. Jem wasn't at Abendessen that evening, a critically ill patient keeping him at the Sanatorium. Jo knew she didn't want to worry her sister until she had spoken to him, so she put on a brave face and tried her hardest to be her normal self until she could speak to him. She had no idea what the next days and months were to bring for her.

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