Ellen would have felt sore and insulted if she had not the comfort of knowing in her heart that Joanna was secretly envious—a little hurt that these personable young men came to Ansdore for Ellen alone. They liked Joanna, in spite of her interference; they said she was a good sort, and spoke of her among themselves as “the old girl” and “Joanna God-dam.” But none of them thought of turning from Ellen to her sister—she was too weather-beaten for them, too big and bouncing—over-ripe. Ellen, pale as a flower, with wide lips like rose-leaves and narrow, brooding eyes, with her languor, and faint suggestions of the exotic, all the mystery with which fate had chosen to veil the common secret which was Ellen Alce.... She could now have the luxury of pitying her sister, of seeing herself possessed of what her tyrant Joanna had not, and longed for.... Slowly she was gaining the advantage, her side of the wheel was mounting while Joanna’s went down; in spite of the elder woman’s success and substance the younger was unmistakably winning ascendancy over her.
Her pity made her kind. She no longer squabbled, complained or resented. She took Joanna’s occasionally insulting behaviour in good part. She even wished that she would marry—not one of the subalterns, for they were not her sort, but some decent small squire or parson. When the new rector first came to Brodnyx she had great hopes of fixing a match between him and Jo—for Ellen was now so respectable that she had become a match-maker. But she was disappointed—indeed, they both were, for Joanna had liked the looks of Mr. Pratt’s successor, and though she did not go so far as to dream of matrimony—which was still below her horizons—she would have much appreciated his wooing.
But it soon became known that the new rector had strange views on the subject of clerical marriage—in fact, he shocked his patron in many ways. He was a large, heavy, pale-faced young man, with strange, sleek qualities that appealed to her through their unaccustomedness. But he was scarcely a sleek man in office, and under his drawling, lethargic manner there was an energy that struck her as shocking and out of place. He was like Lawrence, speaking forbidden words and of hidden things. In church he preached embarrassing perfections—she could no longer feel that she had attained the limits of churchmanship with her weekly half-crown and her quarterly communion. He turned her young people’s heads with strange glimpses of beauty and obligation.
In fact, poor Joanna was deprived of the spectacle she had looked forward to with such zest—that of a parish made to amend itself while she looked on from the detachment of her own high standard. She was made to feel just as uncomfortable as any wicked old man or giggling hussy.... She was all the more aggrieved because, though Mr. Palmer had displeased her, she could not get rid of him as she would have got rid of her looker in the same circumstances. “If I take a looker and he don’t please me I can sack him—the gal I engage I can get shut of at a month’s warning, but a parson seemingly is the only kind you can put in and not put out.”