So Ellen had to remain—very much against the grain, for she was fundamentally respectable—a breaker of the law. She wrote once or twice more on the subject, appealing to Arthur, since Joanna’s reply had shown her exactly how much quarter she could expect. But Arthur was not to be won, for apart from Joanna’s domination, and his own unsophisticated beliefs in the permanence of marriage, his suspicions were roused by the Old Squire’s silence on the matter. At no point did he join his appeals and arguments with Ellen’s, though he had been ready enough to write to excuse and explain.... No, Arthur felt that love and wisdom lay not in sanctifying Ellen in her new ways with the blessing of the law, but in leaving the old open for her to come back to when the new should perhaps grow hard. “That chap ’ull get shut of her—I don’t trust him—and then she’ll want to come back to me or Jo.”
So he wrote with boring reiteration of his willingness to receive her home again as soon as she chose to return, and assured her that he and Joanna had still managed to keep the secret of her departure, so that she need not fear scornful tongues. They had given the Marsh to understand that no settlement having been arrived at, Ellen had accompanied Mrs. Williams to the South of France, hoping that things would have improved on her return. This would account for the foreign post-marks, and both he and Joanna were more proud of their cunning than was quite warrantable from its results.
That winter brought Great Ansdore at last into the market. It would have come in before had not Joanna so rashly bragged of her intention to buy it. As it was—“I guess I’ll get a bit more out of the old gal by holding on,” said Prickett disrespectfully, and he held on till Joanna’s impatience about equalled his extremity; whereupon he sold it to her for not over fifty per cent, more than he would have asked had he not known of her ambition. She paid the price manfully, and Prickett went out with his few sticks.
The Woolpack was inclined to be contemptuous.
“Five thousand pounds for Prickett’s old shacks, and his mouldy pastures that are all burdock and fluke. If Joanna Godden had had any know, she could have beaten him down fifteen hundred—he was bound to sell, and she was a fool not to make him sell at her price.”
But when Joanna wanted a thing she did not mind paying for it, and she had wanted Great Ansdore very much, though no one knew better than she that it was shacky and mouldy. For long it had mocked with its proud title the triumphs of Little Ansdore. Now the whole manor of Ansdore was hers, Great and Little, and with it she held the living of Brodnyx and Pedlinge—it was she, of her own might, who would appoint the next Rector, and for some time she imagined that she had it in her power to turn out Mr. Pratt.