The will was, after all, not so sensational as had been hoped. It opened piously, as might have been expected of Thomas Godden, who was as good an old man as ever met death walking in a cornfield unafraid. It went on to leave various small tokens of remembrance to those who had known him—a mourning ring to Mr. Vine, Mr. Furnese and Mr. Southland, his two volumes of Robertson’s Sermons, and a book called “The Horse in Sickness and in Health,” to Arthur Alce, which was a disappointment to those who had expected the bequest to be his daughter Joanna. There was fifty pounds for Mr. Samuel Huxtable of Huxtable, Vidler and Huxtable, Solicitors, Watchbell Street, Rye, five pounds each for those farm hands in his employment at the time of his death, with an extra ten pounds to “Nathan Stuppeny, my carter, on account of his faithful services both to me and to my father. And I give, devise and bequeath the residue of my property, comprising the freehold farm of Little Ansdore, in the parish of Pedlinge, Sussex, with all lands and live and dead stock pertaining thereto to my daughter Joanna Mary Godden. And I appoint the said Joanna Mary Godden sole executrix of this my will.”
When the reading was over the company remained staring for a minute as decency required, then the door burst open and a big servant-girl brought in a tray set with glasses of whisky and water for the men and spaced wine for the women. These drink-offerings were received with a subdued hum of conversation—it was impossible to hear what was said or even to distinguish who was saying it, but a vague buzzing filled the room, as of imprisoned bees. In the midst of it Ellen’s voice rose suddenly strident.
“Joanna, may I take off my hat now?”
Her sister looked doubtful. The funeral was not ceremonially complete till Grandfather Vine had done choking over his heel-taps, but Ellen had undoubtedly endured a good deal with remarkable patience—her virtue ought in justice to be rewarded. Also Joanna noticed for the first time that she was looking grotesque as well as uncomfortable, owing perhaps to the hat being still on hind part before. So the necessary dispensation was granted, and Ellen further refreshed by a sip of her sister’s wine.
The guests now took their departure, each being given a memorial card of the deceased, with a fine black edge and the picture of an urn upon it. Ellen also was given one, at her urgent request, and ran off in excitement with the treasure. Joanna remained with Mr. Huxtable for a final interview.
“Well,” he said, “I expect you’ll want me to help you a bit, Miss Joanna.”
Joanna had sat down again at the end of the table—big, tousled, over-dressed, alive. Huxtable surveyed her approvingly. “A damn fine woman,” he said to himself, “she’ll marry before long.”
“I’m sure I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Huxtable,” said Joanna, “there’s many a little thing I’d like to talk over with you.”