But these were all too far—Joanna did not want to be beyond the summons of Ansdore, which she could scarcely believe would survive her absence. Also, to her horror, she discovered that nothing would induce Ellen to accompany her.
“But I can’t go without you!” she cried dismally—“it wouldn’t be seemly—it wouldn’t be proper.”
“What nonsense, Jo. Surely a woman of your age can stop anywhere by herself.”
“Oh, indeed, can she, ma’am? And what about a woman of your age?—It’s you I don’t like leaving alone here.”
“That’s absurd of you. I’m a married woman, and quite able to look after myself. Besides, I’ve Mrs. Tolhurst with me, and the Ernleys are quite close.”
“Oh, yes, the Ernleys!” sniffed Joanna with a toss of her head. She felt that now was a fitting opportunity for Ellen to disclose her exact relations with the family, but surprisingly her sister took no advantage of the opening thus made.
“You’d much better go alone, Joanna—it won’t do you half so much good if I go with you. We’re getting on each other’s nerves, you know we are. At least I’m getting on yours. You’ll be much happier among entirely new people.”
It ended in Joanna’s taking rooms at the Palace Hotel, Marlingate. No persuasions would make her go farther off. She was convinced that neither Ansdore nor Ellen could exist, at least decorously, without her, and she must be within easy reach of both. The fortnight between the booking of her room and her setting out she spent in mingled fretfulness and swagger. She fretted about Ansdore, and nearly drove her carter and her looker frantic with her last injunctions; she fretted about Ellen, and cautioned Mrs. Tolhurst to keep a strict watch over her—“She’s not to go up to late dinner at Great Ansdore without you fetch her home.” On the other hand, she swaggered tremendously about the expensive and fashionable trip she was making. Her room was on the first floor of the hotel and would cost her twelve-and-six a night. She had taken it for a week, “But I told them I’d stay a fortnight if I was satisfied, so reckon they’ll do all they can. I’ll have breakfast in bed”—she added, as a climax.
In spite of this, Joanna could not help feeling a little nervous and lonely when she found herself at the Palace Hotel. It was so very different from the New Inn at Romney, or the George at Rye, or any other substantial farmers’ ordinary where she ate her dinner on market days. Of course she had been to the Metropole at Folkestone—whatever place Joanna visited, whether Brodnyx or Folkestone, she went to the best hotel—so she was not uninitiated in the mysteries of hotel menus and lifts and hall porters, and other phenomena that alarm the simple-minded; but that was many years ago, and it was more years still since she had slept away from Ansdore, out of her own big bed with its feather mattress and flowered curtains, so unlike this narrow hotel arrangement, all box mattress and brass knobs.