“Did you have a comfortable journey, Miss Godden?” asked Mrs. Hill.
“You needn’t call her Miss Godden, ma,” said Albert, “she’s going to be one of the family.”
“I had a fine journey,” said Joanna, drowning Mrs. Hill’s apologetic twitter, “the train came the whole of sixty miles with only one stop.”
Agatha giggled, and Bertie stabbed her with a furious glance.
“Did you make this tea?” he asked.
“No—She made it.”
“I might have thought as much. That girl can’t make tea any better than the cat. You reelly might make it yourself when we have visitors.”
“I hadn’t time. I’ve only just come in.”
“You seem to be out a great deal.”
“I’ve my living to get.”
Joanna played with her teaspoon. She felt ill at ease, though it would be difficult to say why. She had quarrelled too often with Ellen to be surprised at any family disagreements—it was not ten years since she had thought nothing of smacking Ellen before a disconcerted public.
What was there different—and there was something different—about this wrangle between a brother and sister, that it should upset her so—upset her so much that for some unaccountable reason she should feel the tears running out of her eyes.
On solemn ceremonial occasions Joanna always wore a veil, and this was now pushed up in several folds, to facilitate tea-drinking. She could feel the tears wetting it, so that it stuck to her cheeks under her eyes. She was furious with herself, but she could not stop the tears—she felt oddly weak and shaken. Agatha had flounced off with the teapot to make a fresh brew, Albert was leaning gloomily back in his chair with his hands in his pockets, Mrs. Hill was murmuring—“I hope you like fancy-work—I am very fond of fancy-work—I have made a worsted kitten.” Joanna could feel the tears soaking through her veil, running down her cheeks—she could not stop them—and the next moment she heard Bertie’s voice, high and aggrieved—“What are you crying for, Jo?”
Directly she heard it, it seemed to be the thing she had been dreading most. She could bear no more, and burst into passionate weeping.
They all gathered round her, Agatha with the new teapot, Mrs. Hill with her worsted, Bertie patting her on the back and asking what was the matter.
“I don’t know,” she sobbed—“I expect I’m tired, and I ain’t used to travelling.”
“Yes, I expect you must be tired—have a fresh cup of tea,” said Agatha kindly.
“And then go upstairs and have a good lay down,” said Mrs. Hill.
Joanna felt vaguely that Albert was ashamed of her. She was certainly ashamed of herself and of this entirely new, surprising conduct.