“Oh, it doesn’t matter.”
She was ashamed.
She was frightened, too—never in her life had she imagined that she could drift so far as she had drifted in those few seconds. She was still trembling as she led the way back to the church. She could hear him treading after her, and as she thought of him her heart smote her. She felt as if she had hurt him—oh, what had she done to him? What had she denied him? What had she given him to think?
As they climbed into the trap she could tell that he was sulking. He looked at her half-defiantly from under his long lashes, and the corners of his mouth were turned down like a child’s. The drive home was constrained and nearly silent. Joanna tried to talk about the grazings they had broken at Yokes Court, in imitation of her own successful grain-growing, about her Appeal to the High Court which was to be heard that summer, and the motor-car she would buy if it was successful—but it was obvious that they were both thinking of something else. For the last part of the drive, from Brodnyx to Ansdore, neither of them spoke a word.
The sunset was scattering the clouds ahead and filling the spaces with lakes of gold. The dykes turned to gold, and a golden film lay over the pastures and the reeds. The sun wheeled slowly north, and a huge, shadowy horse and trap began to run beside them along the embankment of the White Kemp Sewer. They turned up Ansdore’s drive, now neatly gravelled and gated, and a flood of light burst over the gables of the house, pouring on Joanna as she climbed down over the wheel. She required no help, and he knew it, but she felt his hands pressing her waist; she started away, and she saw him laugh—mocking her. She nearly cried.
The rest of that evening was awkward and unhappy. She had a vague feeling in her heart that she had treated Albert badly, and yet ... the strange thing was that she shrank from an explanation. It had always been her habit to “have things out” on all occasions, and many a misunderstanding had been strengthened thereby. But to-night she could not bear the thought of being left alone with Albert. For one thing, she was curiously vague as to the situation—was she to blame or was he? Had she gone too far or not far enough? What was the matter, after all? There was nothing to lay hold of.... Joanna was unused to this nebulous state of mind; it made her head ache, and she was glad when the time came to go to bed.
With a blessed sense of relief she felt the whitewashed thickness of her bedroom walls between her and the rest of the house. She did not trouble to light her candle. Her room was in darkness, except for one splash of light reflected from her mirror which held the moon. She went over to the window and looked out. The marsh swam in a yellow, misty lake of moonlight. There was a strange air of unsubstantiality about it—the earth was not the solid earth, the watercourses were moonlight rather than water, the light was water rather than light, the trees were shadows....