She wrote Ellen to this effect, and, not surprisingly, received no answer. She felt hard and desperate—the thought that she was perhaps binding her sister to her misdoing gave her only occasional spasms of remorse. Sometimes she would feel as if all her being and all her history, Ansdore and her father’s memory, disowned her sister, and that she could never take her back into her life again, however penitent—“She’s mocked at our good ways—she’s loose, she’s low.” At other times her heart melted towards Ellen in weakness, and she knew within herself that no matter what she did, she would always be her little sister, her child, her darling, whom all her life she had cherished and could never cast out.
She said nothing about these swaying feelings to Arthur—she had of late grown far more secretive about herself—as for him, he took things as they came. He found a wondrous quiet in this time, when he was allowed to serve Joanna as in days of old. He did not think of marrying her—he knew that even if it was true that the lawyers could set aside parson’s word, Joanna would not take him now, any more than she would have taken him five or ten or fifteen years ago; she did not think about him in that way. On the other hand she appreciated his company and his services. He called at Ansdore two or three times a week, and ran her errands for her. It was almost like old times, and in his heart he knew and was ashamed to know that he hoped Ellen would never come back. If she came back either to him or to Joanna, these days of quiet happiness would end. Meantime, he would not think of it—he was Joanna’s servant, and when she could not be in two places at once it was his joy and privilege to be in one of them. “I could live like this for ever, surely,” he said to himself, as he sat stirring his solitary cup of tea at Donkey Street, knowing that he was to call at Ansdore the next morning. That was the morning he met Joanna in the drive, hatless, and holding a piece of paper in her hand.
“I’ve heard from Ellen—she’s telegraphed from Venice—she’s coming home.”
Now that she knew Ellen was coming, Joanna had nothing in her heart but joy and angry love. Ellen was coming back, at last, after many wanderings—and she saw now that these wanderings included the years of her life with Alce—she was coming back to Ansdore and the old home. Joanna forgot how much she had hated it, would not think that this precious return was merely the action of a woman without resources. She gave herself up to the joy of preparing a welcome—as splendidly and elaborately as she had prepared for her sister’s return from school. This time, however, she went further, and actually made some concessions to Ellen’s taste. She remembered that she liked dull die-away colours “like the mould on jam,” so she took down the pink curtains and folded away the pink bedspread, and put in their places material that the shop at Rye assured her was “art green”—which, in combination with the crimson, flowery walls and floor contrived most effectually to suggest a scum of grey-green mould on a pot of especially vivid strawberry jam.