“Your Martin Trevor! Jo, what nonsense, he’s not a bit like him.”
“He’s the living image—the way his hair grows out of his forehead, and his dark, saucy eyes ...”
“Well, I was only a little girl when you were engaged to Martin Trevor, but as I remember him he was quite different from Mr. Hill. He belonged to another class, for one thing.... He was a gentleman.”
“And you think Mr. Hill ain’t a gentleman?”
“My dear Joanna! Of course he’s not—he doesn’t profess to be.”
“He’s got a good position as a clerk. Some clerks are gentlemen.”
“But this one isn’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I happen to be engaged to someone who is.”
“That ain’t any reason for miscalling my friends.”
“I’m not ‘miscalling’ anyone.... Oh, hang it all, Jo, don’t let’s quarrel about men at our time of life. I’m sorry if I said anything you don’t like about Mr. Hill. Of course, I don’t know him as well as you do.”
So Joanna wrote to Albert Hill in her big, cramped handwriting, on the expensive yet unostentatious note-paper which Ellen had decreed, inviting him to come and spend Whitsuntide at Ansdore.
His answer did not come for three or four days, during which, as he meant she should, she suffered many doubts and anxieties. Was he coming? Did he care for her? Or had he just been fooling? She had never felt like this about a man before. She had loved, but love had never held her in the same bondage—perhaps because till now she had always had certainties. Her affair with Martin, her only real love affair, had been a certainty, Arthur Alce’s devotion had been a most faithful certainty, the men who had comforted her bereavement had also in their different ways been certainties. Albert Hill was the only man who had ever eluded her, played with her or vexed her. She knew that she attracted him, but she also guessed dimly that he feared to bind himself. As for her, she was now determined. She loved him and must marry him. Characteristically she had swept aside the drawbacks of their different ages and circumstances, and saw nothing but the man she loved—the man who was for her the return of first love, youth and spring. A common little tawdry-minded clerk some might have called him, but to Joanna he was all things—fulfilment, lover and child, and also a Sign and a Second Coming.
She could think of nothing else. Once again Ansdore was failing her, as it always failed her in any crisis of emotion—Ansdore could never be big enough to fill her heart. But she valued it because of the consequence it must give her in young Hill’s eyes, and she was impressed by the idea that her own extra age and importance gave her the rights of approach normally belonging to the man.... Queens always invited their consorts to share their thrones, and she was a queen, opening her gates to the man she