However, too great a strain was not put on this frail link, for he came down to Ansdore almost every week-end, from Saturday afternoon to early Monday morning. He tried to persuade her to come up to London and stay at his mother’s house—he had vague hopes that perhaps an experience of London might persuade her to settle there (she could afford a fine house over at Blackheath, or even in town itself, if she chose). But Joanna had a solid prejudice against London—the utmost she would consent to was a promise to come up and stay with Albert’s mother when her appeal was heard at the High Court at the beginning of August. Edward Huxtable had done his best to convince her that her presence was unnecessary, but she did not trust either him or the excellent counsel he had engaged. She had made up her mind to attend in person, and look after him properly.
The attitude of Brodnyx and Pedlinge towards this new crisis in Joanna Godden’s life was at first uncertain. The first impression was that she had suddenly taken fright at the prospect of old-maidenhood, and had grabbed the first man she could get, even though he was young enough to be her son.
“He ain’t twenty-one till Michaelmas,” said Vine at the Woolpack.
“She’s always liked ’em young,” said Furnese.
“Well, if she’d married Arthur Alce when she fust had the chance, instead of hanging around and wasting time the way she’s done, by now she could have had a man of her intended’s age for a son instead of a husband.”
“Reckon it wouldn’t have been the same thing.”
“No—it would have been a better thing,” said Vine.
When it became known that Joanna’s motive was not despair but love, public opinion turned against her, Albert’s manner among the Marsh people was unfortunate. In his mind he had always stressed his bride’s connexions through Ellen—the Ernleys, a fine old county family; he found it very satisfying to slap Tip Ernley on the back and call him “Ole man.” He had deliberately shut his eyes to the other side of her acquaintance, those Marsh families, the Southlands, Furneses, Vines, Cobbs and Bateses, to whom she was bound by far stronger, older ties than any which held her to Great Ansdore. He treated these people as her and his inferiors—unlike Martin Trevor, he would not submit to being driven round and shown off to Misleham, Picknye Bush, or Slinches.... It was small wonder that respectable families became indignant at such airs.
“What does he think himself, I’d like to know? He’s nothing but a clerk—such as I’d never see my boy.”
“And soon he won’t be even that—he’ll just be living on Joanna.”
“She’s going to keep him at Ansdore?”
“Surelye. She’ll never move out now.”
“But what’s she want to marry for, at her age, and a boy like that?”
“She’s getting an old fool, I reckon.”