“Oh, don’t be an ass, Jo. Of course I don’t want to change my mind. I know what I’m doing, and I’m very fond of Arthur—I love him, if you want the word. I like being with him, and I even like it when he kisses me. So you needn’t worry.”
“Marriage is more than just being kissed and having a man about the house.”
“I know it is.”
Something in the way she said it made Joanna see she was abysmally ignorant.
“Is there anything you’d like to ask me, dearie?”
“Nothing you could possibly know anything about.”
Joanna turned on her.
“I’ll learn you to sass me. You dare say such a thing!”
“Well, Jo—you’re not married, and there are some things you don’t know.”
“That’s right—call me an old maid! I tell you I could have made a better marriage than you, my girl.... I could have made the very marriage you’re making, for the matter of that.”
She stood up, preparing to go in anger. Then suddenly as she looked down on Ellen, fragile and lily-white among the bed-clothes, her heart smote her and she relented. This was Ellen’s last night at home.
“Don’t let’s grumble at each other. I know you and I haven’t quite hit it off, my dear, and I’m sorry, as I counted a lot on us being at Ansdore together. I thought maybe we’d be at Ansdore together all our lives. Howsumever, I reckon things are better as they are—it was my own fault, trying to make a lady of you, and I’m glad it’s all well ended. Only see as it’s truly well ended, dear—for Arthur’s sake as well as yours. He’s a good chap and deserves the best of you.”
Ellen was still angry, but something about Joanna as she stooped over the bed, her features obscure in the lamplight, her shadow dim and monstrous on the ceiling, made a sudden, almost reproachful appeal. A rush of genuine feeling made her stretch out her arms.
Joanna stooped and caught her to her heart, and for a moment, the last moment, the big and the little sister were as in times of old.
Ellen’s wedding was the most wonderful that Brodnyx and Pedlinge had seen for years. It was a pity that the law of the land required it to take place in Pedlinge church, which was comparatively small and mean, and which indeed Joanna could never feel was so Established as the church at Brodnyx, because it had only the old harmonium, and queer paintings of angels instead of the Lion and the Unicorn.
However, Mr. Elphick ground and sweated wonders out of “the old harmonister” as it was affectionately called by the two parishes, and everyone was too busy staring at the bride and the bride’s sister to notice whether angels or King George the Third presided over the altar.
Joanna had all the success that she had longed for and expected. She walked down the aisle with Ellen white and drooping on her arm, like a sunflower escorting a lily. When Mr. Pratt said “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” she answered “I do” in a voice that rang through the church. Afterwards, she took her handkerchief out of her pocket and cried a little, as is seemly at weddings.