“Anyways, I’ve said enough to you for to-night.”
“I hope you don’t mean to say more to-morrow.”
“No—I don’t know that I do. Reckon you’re right, and we don’t get any good from ‘having things out.’ Seemingly we speak with different tongues, and think with different hearts.”
She stood up, and her huge shadow sped over the ceiling, hanging over Ellen as she crouched on the bed. Then she stalked out of the room, almost majestic in her turkey-red dressing-gown.
Ellen kept very close to the house during the next few days. Her face wore a demure, sullen expression—towards Joanna she was quiet and sweet, and evidently anxious that there should be no further opening of hearts between them. She was very polite to the maids—she won their good opinion by making her bed herself, so that they should not have any extra work on her account.
Perhaps it was this domestic good opinion which was at the bottom of the milder turn which the gossip about her took at this time. Naturally tongues had been busy ever since it became known that Joanna was expecting her back—Sir Harry Trevor had got shut of her for the baggage she was ... she had got shut of Sir Harry Trevor for the blackguard he was ... she had travelled back as somebody’s maid, to pay her fare ... she had brought her own French maid as far as Calais ... she had walked from Dover ... she had brought four trunks full of French clothes. These conflicting rumours must have killed each other, for a few days after her return the Woolpack was saying that after all there might be something in Joanna’s tale of a trip with Mrs. Williams—of course everyone knew that both Ellen and the Old Squire had been at San Remo, but now it was suddenly discovered that Mrs. Williams had been there too—anyway, there was no knowing that she hadn’t, and Ellen Alce didn’t look the sort that ud go to a furrin place alone with a man. Mrs. Vine had seen her through the parlour window, and her face was as white as chalk—not a scrap of paint on it. Mr. Southland had met her on the Brodnyx Road, and she had bowed to him polite and stately—no shrinking from an honest man’s eye. According to the Woolpack, if you sinned as Ellen was reported to have sinned, you were either brazen or thoroughly ashamed of yourself, and Ellen, by being neither, did much to soften public opinion, and make it incline towards the official explanation of her absence.
This tendency increased when it became known that Arthur Alce was leaving Donkey Street. The Woolpack held that if Ellen had been guilty, Alce would not put himself in the wrong by going away. He would either have remained as the visible rebuke of her misconduct, or he would have bundled Ellen herself off to some distant part of the kingdom, such as the Isle of Wight, where the Goddens had cousins. By leaving the neighbourhood he gave colour to the