Joanna saw Ansdore looking at her through the chaffy haze of the August afternoon. It stewed like an apple in the sunshine, and a faint smell of apples came from it, as its great orchard dragged its boughs in the grass. They were reaping the Gate Field close to the house—the hum of the reaper came to her, and seemed in some mysterious way to be the voice of Ansdore itself, droning in the sunshine and stillness. She felt her throat tighten, and winked the tears from her eyes.
She could see Ellen coming down the drive, a cool, white, belted figure, with trim white feet. From her bedroom window Ellen had seen the Misleham gig turn in at the gate, and had at once recognized the golden blot beside Mrs. Furnese as her sister Joanna.
“Hullo, Jo! I never expected you back to-day. Did you send a wire? For if you did, I never got it.”
“No, I didn’t telegraph. Where’s Mene Tekel? Tell her to come around with Nan and carry up my box. Mrs. Furnese, ma’am, I hope you’ll step in and drink a cup of tea.”
Joanna climbed down and kissed Ellen—her cheek was warm and moist, and her hair hung rough about her ears, over one of which the orange toque, many times set right, had come down in a final confusion. Ellen on the other hand was as cool as she was white—and her hair lay smooth under a black velvet fillet. Of late it seemed as if her face had acquired a brooding air; it had lost its exotic look, it was dreamy, almost virginal. Joanna felt her sister’s kiss like snow.
“Is tea ready?”
“No—it’s only half-past three. But you can have it at once. You look tired. Why didn’t you send a wire, and I’d have had the trap to meet you.”
“I never troubled, and I’ve managed well enough. Ain’t you coming in, Mrs. Furnese?”
“No, thank you, Miss Godden—much obliged all the same. I’ve my man’s tea to get, and these fowls to see to.”
She felt that the sisters would want to be alone. Joanna would tell Ellen all about her failure, and Mene Tekel and Nan would overhear as much as they could, and tell Broadhurst and Crouch and the other men, who would tell the Woolpack bar, where Mr. Furnese would hear it and bring it home to Mrs. Furnese.... So her best way of learning the truth about the Appeal and exactly how many thousands Joanna had lost depended on her going home as quickly as possible.
Joanna, was glad to be alone. She went with Ellen into the cool parlour, drinking in the relief of its solid comfort compared with the gimcrackiness of the parlour at Lewisham.
“I’m sorry about your Appeal,” said Ellen—“I saw in to-day’s paper that you’ve lost it.”
Joanna had forgotten all about the Appeal—it seemed twenty-four years ago instead of twenty-four hours that she had come out of the Law Courts and seen Bertie standing there with the pigeons strutting about his feet—but she welcomed it as a part explanation of her appearance, which she saw now was deplorable, and her state of mind, which she found impossible to disguise.