“Yes, it’s terrible—I’m tedious upset.”
“I suppose you’ve lost a lot of money.”
“Not more than I can afford to pay”—the old Joanna came out and boasted for a minute.
“That’s one comfort.”
Joanna looked at her sister and opened her mouth, but shut it as Mene Tekel came in with the tea tray and Arthur Alce’s good silver service.
Mene set the tea as silently as the defects of her respiratory apparatus would admit, and once again Joanna sighed with relief as she thought of the clatter made by Her at Lewisham.... Oh, there was no denying that she had a good house and good servants and had done altogether well for herself until in a fit of wickedness she had bust it all.
She would not tell Ellen to-night. She would wait till to-morrow morning, when she’d had a good sleep. She felt tired now, and would cry the minute Ellen began.... But she’d let her know about the breaking off of her engagement—that would prepare the way, like.
“Ellen,” she said, after she had drunk her tea—“one reason I’m so upset is that I’ve just broken off my marriage with my intended.”
Ellen put down her cup and stared at her. In her anxiety to hide her emotion, Joanna had spoken more in anger than in sorrow, so her sister’s pity was checked.
“What ever made you do that!”
“We found we didn’t suit.”
“Well, my dear, I must say the difference in your age made me rather anxious. Thirteen years on the woman’s side is rather a lot, you know. But I knew you’d always liked boys, so I hoped for the best.”
“Well, it’s all over now.”
“Poor old Joanna, it must have been dreadful for you—on the top of your failure in the courts, too; but I’m sure you were wise to break it off. Only the most absolute certainty could have justified such a marriage.”
She smiled to herself. When she said “absolute certainty” she was thinking of Tip.
“Well, I’ve got a bit of a headache,” said Joanna rising—“I think I’ll go and have a lay down.”
“Do, dear. Would you like me to come up with you and help you undress?”
“No thanks. I’ll do by myself. You might ask the girl to bring me up a jug of hot water. Reckon I shan’t be any worse for a good wash.”
Much as Joanna was inclined to boast of her new bathroom at Ansdore, she did not personally make much use of it, having perhaps a secret fear of its unfriendly whiteness, and a love of the homely, steaming jug which had been the fount of her ablutions since her babyhood’s tub was given up. This evening she removed the day’s grime from herself by a gradual and excessively modest process, and about one and a half pints of hot water. Then she twisted her hair into two ropes, put on a clean night-gown, and got into bed.