“I do love you”—she said doggedly, “but I couldn’t give up my farm for you and come and live with you in London—because if I did, reckon I shouldn’t love you much longer. These last ten days have shown me more than anything before that you’d make anyone you lived with miserable, and if I hadn’t my farm to take my thoughts off I’d just about die of shame and sorrow.”
He flushed angrily.
“Reelly, Joanna—what do you mean? I’ve given you as good a time as I knew how.”
“Most likely. But all the while you were giving me that good time you were showing me how little you cared for me. Oh, it isn’t as if I hadn’t been in love before and seen how good a man can be.... I don’t want to say hard things to you, my dear, but there’s been times when you’ve hurt me as no man could hurt a woman he really loved. And I’ve lived in your home and seen how you treat your poor mother and your sister—and I tell you the truth, though it hurts me—you ain’t man enough for me.”
“Well, if that’s how you feel about me, we had certainly better not go on.”
“Don’t be angry with me, dear. Reckon it was all a mistake from the start—I’m too old for you.”
“Then it’s a pity we went as far as this. What’ll mother and Agatha think when they hear you’ve turned me down? They’re cats enough to imagine all sorts of things. Why do you dash off like this as if I was the plague? If you must break off our engagement, you must, though I don’t want you to—I love you, even though you don’t love me—but you might at least do it decently. Think of what they’ll say when they come down and find you’ve bolted.”
“I’m sorry, Bertie. But I couldn’t bear to stick on here another hour. You may tell them any story about me you like. But I can’t stay. I must think of myself a bit, since I’ve no one else to do it for me.”
His face was like a sulky child’s. He looked at the floor, and kicked the wainscot.
“Well, I think you’re treating me very badly, Joanna. Hang it all, I love you—and I think you’re a damn fine woman—I reelly do—and I don’t care if you are a bit older—I don’t like girls.”
“You won’t think me fine in another ten years—and as for loving me, don’t talk nonsense; you don’t love me, or I shouldn’t be going. Now let me go.”
Her voice was hard, because her self-control was failing her. She tore open the door, and pushed him violently aside when he tried to stand in her way.
“Let me go—I’m shut of you. I tell you, you ain’t man enough for me.”
She had told the cabman to drive to Charing Cross station, as she felt unequal to the complications of travelling from Lewisham. It was a long drive, and all the way Joanna sat and cried. She seemed to have cried a great deal lately—her nature had melted in a strange way, and the tears she had so seldom shed as a girl were now continually ready to fall—but she had never cried as much as she cried this morning. By the time she reached Charing Cross she was in desperate need of that powder-puff Bertie had urged her to possess.