He had a lot of money--his father was wealthy, and owned a sizable spread of fertile farmland. His father would give thousands of dollars (in money of a hundred years ago) to buy the children toys, the wives dresses and furniture. The picture I have of the family is well-dressed, professional, my great-great-grandfather patriarchal and bearded, his sons wild looking and well-groomed (some resemble Jack Kennedy in an odd way, to me), his daughters thin and nervous.
My great-grandfather had a blooded horse he only rode on Sundays, a habit of gambling that would eventually ruin him (the great depression aided and abetted), a habit of whoring, and a full-time mistress.
My great-grandmother, when she could no longer ignore these goings on, decided she was going to die.
She went about it with great deliberation--gathered the family around her, took to her bed, mentioned no cause, pronounced her upcoming death. She'd been feeling poorly.
She stayed in bed for a whole year, pining and wasting. Everyone thought for certain she was a goner, or if they had their suspicions otherwise, they kept it to themselves. I imagine her friends were sympathetic, for a while at least.
She didn't die. Her body refused to give out. She was relentlessly healthy, and no amount of wishing and willing would make her heart stop, no matter how hard she tried.
History does not record what the children thought, or who was feeding them. Servants were possible.
Her husband remained recalcitrant. He was what he was, and no dying wife, especially one so healthy, could make him anything else. Whether he felt bad about this fact is likewise not recorded. He continued on about his business, as far as I know.
Eventually, my great-great grandmother rose from her bed, and quietly got back to the business of living.
Such as it was.