He took her round the farms, not only in her own neighbourhood, but those near Donkey Street, over on Romney Marsh, across the Rhee Wall. In her honour he bought a new trap, and Ellen drove beside him in it, sitting very demure and straight. People said—“There goes Ellen Godden, who’s marrying her sister’s young man,” and sometimes Ellen heard them.
She inspected Donkey Street, which was a low, plain, oblong house, covered with grey stucco, against which flamed the orange of its lichened roof. It had been built in Queen Anne’s time, and enlarged and stuccoed over about fifty years ago. It was a good, solid house, less rambling than Ansdore, but the kitchens were a little damp.
Alce bought new linen and new furniture. He had some nice pieces of old furniture too, which Ellen was very proud of. She felt she could make quite a pleasant country house of Donkey Street. In spite of Joanna’s protests, Alce let her have her own way about styles and colours, and her parlour was quite unlike anything ever seen on the Marsh outside North Farthing and Dungemarsh Court. There was no centre table and no cabinet, but a deep, comfortable sofa, which Ellen called a chesterfield, and a “cosy corner,” and a Sheraton bureau, and a Sheraton china-cupboard with glass doors. The carpet was purple, without any pattern on it, and the cushions were purple and black. For several days those black cushions were the talk of the Woolpack bar and every farm. It reminded Joanna a little of the frenzy that had greeted the first appearance of her yellow waggons, and for the first time she felt a little jealous of Ellen.
She sometimes, too, had moments of depression at the thought of losing her sister, of being once more alone at Ansdore, but having made up her mind that Ellen was to marry Arthur Alce, she was anxious to carry through the scheme as quickly and magnificently as possible. The wedding was fixed for May, and was to be the most wonderful wedding in the experience of the three marshes of Walland, Dunge and Romney. For a month Joanna’s trap spanked daily along the Straight Mile, taking her and Ellen either into Rye to the confectioner’s—for Joanna had too true a local instinct to do as her sister wanted and order the cake from London—or to the station for Folkestone where the clothes for both sisters were being bought. They had many a squabble over the clothes—Ellen pleaded passionately for the soft, silken undergarments in the shop windows, for the little lace-trimmed drawers and chemises ... it was cruel and bigoted of Joanna to buy yards and yards of calico for nightgowns and “petticoat bodies,” with trimmings of untearable embroidery. It was also painful to be obliged to wear a saxe-blue going-away dress when she wanted an olive green, but Ellen reflected that she was submitting for the last time, and anyhow she was spared the worst by the fact that the wedding-gown must be white—not much scope for Joanna there.