Albert Hill went back to London on Tuesday, but he came down again the following week-end, and the next, and the next, and then his engagement to Joanna was made public.
In this respect the trick was hers. The affair had ended in a committal which he had not expected, but his own victory was too substantial for him to regret any development of it to her advantage. Besides, he had seen the impossibility of conducting the affair on any other lines, both on account of the circumstances in which she lived and of her passionate distress when she realized that he did not consider marriage an inevitable consequence of their relation. It was his only way of keeping her—and he could not let her go. She was adorable, and the years between them meant nothing—her beauty had wiped them out. He could think of her only as the ageless woman he loved, who shared the passion of his own youth and in it was for ever young.
On the practical side, too, he was better reconciled. He felt a pang of regret when he thought of London and its work and pleasures, of his chances of a “rise”—which his superiors had hinted was now imminent—of a head clerkship, perhaps eventually of a partnership and a tight marriage into the business—since his Whitsuntide visit to Ansdore he had met the junior partner’s daughter and found her as susceptible to his charms as most young women. But after all, his position as Joanna Godden’s husband would be better even than that of a partner in the firm of Sherwood and Son. What was Sherwood’s but a firm of carpet-makers?—a small firm of carpet-makers. As Joanna’s husband he would be a Country Gentleman, perhaps even a County Gentleman. He saw himself going out with his gun ... following the hounds in a pink coat.... He forgot that he could neither shoot nor ride.
Meantime his position as Joanna’s lover was not an unenviable one. She adored him and spoiled him like a child. She poured gifts upon him—a gold wrist-watch, a real panama hat, silk socks in gorgeous colours, boxes and boxes of the best Turkish and Egyptian cigarettes—she could not give him enough to show her love and delight in him.
At first he had been a little embarrassed by this outpouring, but he was used to receiving presents from women, and he knew that Joanna had plenty of money to spend and really got as much pleasure out of her gifts as he did. They atoned for the poverty of her letters. She was no letter-writer. Her feelings were as cramped as her handwriting by the time she had got them down on paper; indeed, Joanna herself was wondrously expressed in that big, unformed, constricted handwriting, black yet uncertain, sprawling yet constrained, in which she recorded such facts as “Dot has calved at last,” or “Broadhurst will be 61 come Monday,” or—as an utmost concession—“I love you, dear.”