The day before the wedding Joanna felt unusually nervous and restless. The preparations had been carried through so vigorously that everything was ready—there was nothing to do, no finishing touches, and into her mind came a sudden blank and alarm. All that evening she was unable to settle down either to work or rest. Ellen had gone to bed early, convinced of the good effect of sleep on her complexion, and Joanna prowled unhappily from room to room, glancing about mechanically for dust which she knew could not be there ... the farm was just a collection of gleaming surfaces and crackling chintzes and gay, dashing colours. Everything was as she wished it, yet did not please her.
She went into her room. On the little spare bed which had once been Ellen’s lay a mass of tissue paper, veiling a marvellous gown of brown and orange shot silk, the colour of the sunburn on her cheeks, which she was to wear to-morrow when she gave the bride away. In vain had Ellen protested and said it would look ridiculous if she came down the aisle with her sister—Joanna had insisted on her prerogative. “It isn’t as if we had any he-cousins fit to look at—I’ll cut a better figger than either Tom or Pete Stansbury, and what right has either of them to give you away, I’d like to know?” Ellen had miserably suggested Sam Huxtable, but Joanna had fixed herself in her mind’s eye, swaggering, rustling and flaming up Pedlinge aisle, with the little drooping lily of the bride upon her arm. “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” Mr. Pratt would say—“I do,” Joanna would answer. Everyone would stare at Joanna, and remember that Arthur Alce had loved her for years before he loved her sister—she was certainly “giving” Ellen to him in a double sense.
She would be just as grand and important at this wedding as she could possibly have been at her own, yet to-night the prospect had ceased to thrill her. Was it because in this her first idleness she realized she was giving away something she wanted to keep? Or because she saw that, after all, being grand and important at another person’s wedding is not as good a thing even as being humble at your own?
“Well, it might have been my own if I’d liked,” she said to herself, but even that consideration failed to cheer her.
She went over to the chest of drawers. On it stood Martin’s photograph in a black velvet frame adorned with a small metal shield on which were engraved the words “Not lost but gone before.” The photograph was a little faded—Martin’s eyes had lost some of their appealing darkness and the curves of the mouth she had loved were dim.... She put her face close to the faded face in the photograph, and looked at it. Gradually it blurred in a mist of tears, and she could feel her heart beating very slowly, as if each beat were an effort....
Then suddenly she found herself thinking about Ellen in a new way, with a new, strange anxiety. Martin’s fading face seemed to have taught her about Ellen, about some preparation for the wedding which might have been left out, in spite of all the care and order of the burnished house. Did she really love Arthur Alce?—Did she really know what she was doing—what love meant?