The cessation of the music and scattering of the crowd recalled Joanna to a sense of her position. She realized also that it was quite dark—the last redeeming ray had left the sky. She stood up—
“Well, I must be getting back.”
“Where are you staying?”
“The Palace Hotel.”
What ho! She must have some money.
“May I walk back with you?”
“Oh, thanks,” said Joanna—“it ain’t far.”
They walked, rather awkwardly silent, the few hundred yards to the hotel. Joanna stopped and held out her hand. She suddenly realized that she did not want to say good-bye to the young man. Their acquaintanceship had been most shockingly begun—Ellen must never know—but she did not want it to end. She felt, somehow, that he just meant to say good-bye and go off, without any plans for another meeting. She must take action herself.
“Won’t you come and have dinner—I mean lunch—with me to-morrow?”
She scanned his face eagerly as she spoke. It suddenly struck her what a terrible thing it would be if he went out of her life now after having just come into it—come back into it, she had almost said, for she could not rid herself of that strange sense of Martin’s return, of a second spring.
But she need not have been afraid. He was not the man to refuse his chances.
“Thanks no end—I’ll be honoured.”
“Then I’ll expect you. One o’clock, and ask for Miss Godden.”
Joanna had a nearly sleepless night. The torment of her mind would not allow her to rest. At times she was overwhelmed with shame at what she had done—taken up with a strange man at the band, like any low servant girl on her evening out—My! but she’d have given it to Mene Tekel if she dared behave so! At other times she drifted on a dark sweet river of thought ... every detail of the boy’s appearance haunted her with disturbing charm—his eyes, black and soft like Martin’s—his mouth which was coarser and sulkier than Martin’s, yet made her feel all disquieted ... the hair which rolled like Martin’s hair from his forehead—dear hair she used to tug.... Oh, he’s the man I could love—he’s my sort—he’s the kind I like.... And I don’t even know his name.... But he talks like Martin—knows all about old places when they were new—queer he should talk about them floods.... Romney Church, you can see the marks on the pillars.... I can’t bear to think of that.... I wonder what he’ll say when he comes to-morrow?—Maybe he’ll find me too old—I’m ten year older than him if I’m a day.... I must dress myself up smart—I’m glad I brought my purple body.... Martin liked me in the old basket hat I fed the fowls in ... but I was slimmer then.... I’m getting on now ... he won’t like me as well by daylight as he did in the dark—and properly I’ll deserve it, carrying on like that. I’ve half a mind not to be in—I’ll leave a polite message, saying “Miss Godden’s compliments, but she’s had to go home, owing to one of her cows having a miscarriage.” I’ll be wise to go home to-morrow—reckon I ain’t fit to be trusted alone.