It had done Ellen a lot of good too. During the next year she blossomed and expanded. She lost some of her white looks. The state of marriage suited her thoroughly well. Being her own mistress and at the same time having a man to take care of her, having an important and comfortable house of her own, ordering about her own servants and spending her husband’s money, such things made her life pleasant, and checked the growth of peevishness that had budded at Ansdore.
During the first months of her marriage, Joanna went fairly often to see her, one reason being the ache which Ellen’s absence had left in her heart—she wanted to see her sister, sit with her, hear her news. Another reason was the feeling that Ellen, a beginner in the ways of life and household management, still needed her help and guidance. Ellen soon undeceived her on this point. “I really know how to manage my own house, Joanna,” she said once or twice when the other commented and advised, and Joanna had been unable to enforce her ideas, owing to the fact that she seldom saw Ellen above once or twice a week. Her sister could do what she liked in her absence, and it was extraordinary how definite and cocksure the girl was about things she should have approached in the spirit of meekness and dependence on her elders.
“I count my linen after it is aired—it comes in at such an inconvenient time that I can’t attend to it then. The girls can easily hang it out on the horse—really, Joanna, one must trust people to do something.”
“Well, then, don’t blame me when you’re a pillowcase short.”
“I certainly shan’t blame you,” said Ellen coolly.
Joanna felt put out and injured. It hurt her to see that Ellen did not want her supervision—she had looked forward to managing Donkey Street as well as Ansdore. She tried to get a hold on Ellen through Arthur Alce.
“Arthur, it’s your duty to see Ellen don’t leave the bread-making to that cook-gal of hers. I never heard of such a notion—her laying on the sofa while the gal wastes coal and flour.” ... “Arthur, Ellen needs a new churn—let her get a Wallis. It’s a shame for her to be buying new cushions when her churn’s an old butter-spoiler I wouldn’t use if I was dead—Arthur, you’re there with her, and you can make her do what I say.”
But Arthur could not, any more than Joanna, make Ellen do what she did not want. He had always been a mild-mannered man, and he found Ellen, in her different way, quite as difficult to stand up to as her sister.
“I’m not going to have Jo meddling with my affairs,” she would say with a toss of her head.
Another thing that worried Joanna was the fact that the passing year brought no expectations to Donkey Street. One of her happiest anticipations in connexion with Ellen’s marriage was her having a dear little baby whom Joanna could hug and spoil and teach. Perhaps it would be a little girl, and she would feel like having Ellen over again.