Their talk was very much on the same lines as the night before. He discovered that she had a zest for hearing him discourse on old places—she drank in all he had to say about the old days of Marlingate, when it was just a red fishing-village asleep between two hills. He told her how the new town had been built northward and westward, in the days of the great Monypenny, whose statue now stares blindly out to sea. He was a man naturally interested in topography and generally “read up” the places he visited, but he had never before found a woman who cared to listen to that sort of stuff.
After luncheon, drinking coffee in the lounge, they became more personal and intimate. He told her about himself. His name was Albert Hill—his father was dead, and he lived with his mother and sister at Lewisham. He had a good position as clerk in a firm of carpet-makers. He was twenty-five years old, and doing well. Joanna became confidential in her turn. Her confidences mostly concerned the prosperity of her farm, the magnitude of its acreage, the success of this year’s lambing and last year’s harvest, but they also included a few sentimental adventures—she had had ever so many offers of marriage, including one from a clergyman, and she had once been engaged to a baronet’s son.
He wondered if she was pitching him a yarn, but did not think so; if she was, she would surely do better for herself than a three hundred acre farm, and an apparently unlimited dominion over the bodies and souls of clergymen. By this time he was liking her very much, and as he understood she had only two days more at Marlingate, he asked her to go to the pier theatre with him the next evening.
Joanna accepted, feeling that she was committing herself to a desperate deed. But she was reckless now—she, as well as Hill, thought of those two poor days which were all she had left. She must do something in those two days to bind him, for she knew that she could not let him go from her—she knew that she loved again.
She did not love as she had loved the first time. Then she had loved with a calmness and an acceptance which were impossible to her now. She had trusted fate and trusted the beloved, but now she was unsure of both. She was restless and tormented, and absorbed as she had never been in Martin. Her love consumed every other emotion, mental or physical—it would not let her sleep or eat or listen to music. It kept her whole being concentrated on the new force that had disturbed it—she could think of nothing but Albert Hill, and her thoughts were haggard and anxious, picturing their friendship at a standstill, failing, and lost.... Oh, she must not lose him—she could not bear to lose him—she must bind him somehow in the short time she had left.