“Oh, don’t you think of that—it wasn’t your doing”—she melted towards him now she had a genuine cause for indignation—“and we’ve come through it better than we hoped, and some of us deserved.”
Lawrence gave her an odd smile, which made his face with its innumerable lines and pouches look rather like a gargoyle’s. Then he walked off bare-headed into the twilight.
Ellen was intensely relieved when she heard that he had refused the living, and a little indignant with Joanna for having offered it to him.
“You don’t seem to realize how very awkward it would have been for me—I don’t want to have anything more to do with that family.”
“I daresay not,” said Joanna grimly, “but that ain’t no reason why this parish shouldn’t have a good parson. Lawrence ud have made the people properly mind their ways. And it ain’t becoming in you, Ellen Alce, to let your own misdoings stand between folk and what’s good for ’em.”
Ellen accepted the rebuke good-humouredly. She had grown more mellow of late, and was settling into her life at Ansdore as she had never settled since she went to school. She relished her widowed state, for it involved the delectable business of looking about for a second husband. She was resolved to act with great deliberation. This time there should be no hustling into matrimony. It seemed to her now as if that precipitate taking of Arthur Alce had been at the bottom of all her troubles; she had been only a poor little schoolgirl, a raw contriver, hurling herself out of the frying-pan of Ansdore’s tyranny into the fire of Donkey Street’s dullness. She knew better now—besides, the increased freedom and comfort of her conditions did not involve the same urgency of escape.
She made up her mind that she would not take anyone of the farming classes; this time she would marry a gentleman—but a decent sort. She did not enjoy all her memories of Sir Harry Trevor. She would not take up with that kind of man again, any more than with a dull fellow like poor Arthur.
She had far better opportunities than in the old days. The exaltation of Ansdore from farm to manor had turned many keys, and Joanna now received calls from doctors’ and clergymen’s wives, who had hitherto ignored her except commercially. It was at Fairfield Vicarage that Ellen met the wife of a major at Lydd camp, and through her came to turn the heads of various subalterns. The young officers from Lydd paid frequent visits to Ansdore, which was a novelty to both the sisters, who hitherto had had no dealings with military society. Ellen was far too prudent to engage herself to any of these boys; she waited for a major or a captain at least. But she enjoyed their society, and knew that their visits gave her consequence in the neighbourhood. She was invariably discreet in her behaviour, and was much reproached by them for her coldness, which they attributed to Joanna, who watched over her like a dragon, convinced that the moment she relaxed her guard her sister would inevitably return to her wicked past.