She was bitterly disappointed when Ellen showed no signs of obliging her quickly, and indeed quite shocked by her sister’s expressed indifference on the matter.
“I don’t care about children, Jo, and I’m over young to have one of my own.”
“Young! You’re rising twenty, and mother was but eighteen when I was born.”
“Well, anyhow, I don’t see why I should have a child just because you want one.”
“I don’t want one. For shame to say such things, Ellen Alce.”
“You want me to have one, then, for your benefit.”
“Don’t you want one yourself?”
“No—not now. I’ve told you I don’t care for children.”
“Then you should ought to! Dear little mites! It’s a shame to talk like that. Oh, what wouldn’t I give, Ellen, to have a child of yours in my arms.”
“Why don’t you marry and have one of your own?”
“I don’t want to marry.”
“But you ought to marry if that’s how you feel. Why don’t you take a decent fellow like, say, Sam Turner, even if you don’t love him, just so that you may have a child of your own? You’re getting on, you know, Joanna—nearly thirty-four—you haven’t much time to waste.”
“Well it ain’t my fault,” said Joanna tearfully, “that I couldn’t marry the man I wanted to. I’d have been married more’n five year now if he hadn’t been took. And it’s sorter spoiled the taste for me, as you might say. I don’t feel inclined to get married—it don’t take my fancy, and I don’t see how I’m ever going to bring myself to do it. That’s why it ud be so fine for me if you had a little one, Ellen—as I could hold and kiss and care for and feel just as if it was my own.”
“Thanks,” said Ellen.
The winding up of her plans for her sister made it necessary that Joanna should cast about for fresh schemes to absorb her energies. The farm came to her rescue in this fresh, more subtle collapse, and she turned to it as vigorously as she had turned after Martin’s death, and with an increase of that vague feeling of bitterness which had salted her relations with it ever since.
A strong rumour was blowing on the Marsh that shortly Great Ansdore would come into the market. Joanna’s schemes at once were given their focus. She would buy Great Ansdore if she had the chance. She had always resented its presence, so inaptly named, on the fringe of Little Ansdore’s greatness. If she bought it, she would be adding more than fifty acres to her own, but it was good land—Prickett was a fool not to have made more of it—and the possession carried with it manorial rights, including the presentation of the living of Brodnyx with Pedlinge. When Joanna owned Great Ansdore in addition to her own thriving and established patrimony, she would be a big personage on the Three Marshes, almost “county.” No tenant or yeoman from Dymchurch to Winchelsea, from Romney to the coast, would dare withhold his respect—she might even at last be admitted a member of the Farmers’ Club....