Joanna dreamily shook her head.
“Well, I’m thinking of getting married again.”
“Yes—it’s eighteen months since poor Arthur died,” sighed the devoted widow, “and—perhaps you’ve noticed—Tip Ernley’s been getting very fond of me.”
“Yes, I had noticed.... I was wondering why you didn’t tell.”
“There was nothing to tell. He couldn’t propose to me till he had something definite to do. Now he’s just been offered the post of agent on the Duke of Wiltshire’s estate—a perfectly splendid position. Of course, I told him all about my first marriage”—she glanced challengingly at her sister—“but he’s a perfect dear, and he saw at once I’d been more sinned against than sinning. We’re going to be married this summer.”
“I’m unaccountable glad.”
Ellen gave her a queer look.
“You take it very calmly, Jo.”
“Well, I’d been expecting it all along.”
“You won’t mind my going away and leaving you?”
“Reckon you’ll have to go where your husband goes.”
“What on earth’s happened?” thought Ellen to herself—“She’s positively meek.”
The next minute she knew.
“Ellen,” said Joanna, as they swung into the Straight Mile, “I’ve got a friend coming to spend the day on Monday—a Mr. Hill that I met in Marlingate.”
For the next few days Joanna was restless and nervous; she could not be busy with Ansdore, even after a fortnight’s absence. The truth in her heart was that she found Ansdore rather flat. Wilson’s pride in the growth of the young lambs, Broadhurst’s anxiety about Spot’s calving and his preoccupation with the Suffolk dray-horse Joanna was to buy at Ashford fair that year, all seemed irrelevant to the main purpose of life. The main stream of her life had suddenly been turned underground—it ran under Ansdore’s wide innings—on Monday it would come again to the surface, and take her away from Ansdore.
The outward events of Monday were not exciting. Joanna drove into Rye with Peter Crouch behind her, and met Albert Hill with a decorous handshake on the platform. During the drive home, and indeed during most of his visit, his attitude towards her was scarcely more than ordinary friendship. In the afternoon, when Ellen had gone out with Tip Ernley, he gave her a few kisses, but without much passion. She began to feel disquieted. Had he changed? Was there someone else he liked? At all costs she must hold him—she must not let him go.
The truth was that Hill felt uncertain how he stood—he was bewildered in his mind. What was she driving at? Surely she did not think of marriage—the difference in their ages was far too great. But what else could she be thinking of? He gathered that she was invincibly respectable—and yet he was not sure.... In spite of her decorum, she had queer, unguarded ways. He had met no