“Well, anyhow we’ll go as far as the Commissioners. If I were you, I shouldn’t apply for total exemption, but for a rebate. We might do something with allowances. Let me see, what did you sell for?"...
He finally prepared an involved case, partly depending on the death duties that had already been paid when Joanna inherited Alce’s farm, and which he said ought to be considered in calculating increment value. Joanna would not have confessed for worlds that she did not understand the grounds of her appeal, though she wished Edward Huxtable would let her make at least some reference to her steam tractor, and thus win her victory on moral grounds, instead of just through some lawyer’s mess. But, moral appeal or lawyer’s mess, her case should go to the Commissioners, and if necessary to the High Court. Just because she knew that in her own home and parish the fighting spirit was failing her, Joanna resolved to fight this battle outside it without counting the cost.
That autumn she had her first twinge of rheumatism. The days of the marsh ague were over, but the dread “rheumatiz” still twisted comparatively young bones. Joanna had escaped till a later age than many, for her work lay mostly in dry kitchens and bricked yards, and she had had little personal contact with the soil, that odorous sponge of the marsh earth, rank with the soakings of sea-fogs and land-fogs.
Like most healthy people, she made a tremendous fuss once she was laid up. Mene Tekel and Mrs. Tolhurst were kept flying up and down stairs with hot bricks and poultices and that particularly noxious brew of camomile tea which she looked upon as the cure of every ill. Ellen would come now and then and sit on her bed, and wander round the room playing with Joanna’s ornaments—she wore a little satisfied smile on her face, and about her was a queer air of restlessness and contentment which baffled and annoyed her sister.
The officers from Lydd did not now come so often to Ansdore. Ellen’s most constant visitor at this time was the son of the people who had taken Great Ansdore dwelling-house. Tip Ernley had just come back from Australia; he did not like colonial life and was looking round for something to do at home. He was a county cricketer, an exceedingly nice-looking young man, and his people were a good sort of people, an old West Sussex family fallen into straightened circumstances.
On his account Joanna came downstairs sooner than she ought. She could not get rid of her distrust of Ellen, the conviction that once her sister was left to herself she would be up to all sorts of mischief. Ellen had behaved impossibly once and therefore, according to Joanna, there was no guarantee that she would not go on behaving impossibly to the end of time. So she came down to play the dragon to Tip Ernley as she had played the dragon to the young lieutenants of the summer. There was not much for her to do—she saw at once that the boy was different from the officers, a simple-minded creature, strong, gentle and clean-living, with deferential eyes and manners. Joanna liked him at first sight, and relented. They had tea together, and a game of three-handed bridge afterwards—Ellen had taught her sister to play bridge.