It was not perhaps surprising that, in spite of a lavish and exceedingly expensive offer of forgiveness, Ellen did not come home. Over a week passed without even an acknowledgment of the telegram, which she must have found reproachfully awaiting her arrival—the symbol of Walland Marsh pursuing her into the remoteness of a new life and a strange country.
As might have been expected Joanna felt this period of waiting and inactivity far more than she had felt the actual shock. She had all the weight on her shoulders of a sustained deception. She and Arthur had to dress up a story to deceive the neighbourhood, and they gave out that Ellen was in London, staying with Mrs. Williams—her husband had forbidden her to go, so she had run away, and now there would have to be some give and take on both sides before she could come back. Joanna had been inspired to circulate this legend by the discovery that Ellen actually had taken a ticket for London. She had probably guessed the sensation that her taking a ticket to Dover would arouse at the local station, so had gone first to London and travelled down by the boat express. It was all very cunning, and Joanna thought she saw the Old Squire’s experienced hand in it. Of course it might be true that he had not persuaded Ellen to come out to him, but that she had gone to him on a sudden impulse.... But even Joanna’s plunging instinct realized that her sister was not the sort to take desperate risks for love’s sake, and the whole thing had about it a sly, concerted air, which made her think that Sir Harry was not only privy, but a prime mover.
After some ten days of anxiety, self-consciousness, shame and exasperation, these suspicions were confirmed by a letter from the Squire himself. He wrote from Oepedaletti, a small place near San Remo, and he wrote charmingly. No other adverb could qualify the peculiarly suave, tactful, humorous and gracious style in which not only he flung a mantle of romance over his and Ellen’s behaviour (which till then, judged by the standards of Ansdore, had been just drably “wicked"), but by some mysterious means brought in Joanna as a third conspirator, linked by a broad and kindly intuition with himself and Ellen against a censorious world.
“You, who know Ellen so well, will realize that she has never till now had her birthright. You did your best for her, but both of you were bounded north, south, east and west by Walland Marsh. I wish you could see her now, beside me on the terrace—she is like a little finch in the sunshine of its first spring day. Her only trouble is her fear of you, her fear that you will not understand. But I tell her I would trust you first of all the world to do that. As a woman of the world, you must realize exactly what public opinion is worth—if you yourself had bowed down to it, where would you be now? Ellen is only doing now what you did for yourself eleven