Nevertheless she was proud of what she had done for her little sister, and she was proud too of having restored Ansdore to prosperity, not by stinging and paring, but by her double capacity for working hard herself and for getting all the possible work out of others. If no one had gone short under her roof, neither had anyone gone idle—if the tea was strong and the butter was thick and there was always prime bacon for breakfast on Sundays, so was there also a great clatter on the stairs at five o’clock each morning, a rattle of brooms and hiss and slop of scrubbing-brushes—and the mistress with clogs on her feet and her father’s coat over her gown, poking her head into the maids’ room to see if they were up, hurrying the men over their snacks, shouting commands across the yard, into the barns or into the kitchen, and seemingly omnipresent to those slackers who paused to rest or chat or “put their feet up.”
That time had scarred her a little—put some lines into the corners of her eyes and straightened the curling corners of her mouth, but it had also heightened the rich healthy colour on her cheeks, enlarged her fine girth, her strength of shoulder and depth of bosom. She did not look any older, because she was so superbly healthy and superbly proud. She knew that the neighbours were impressed by Ansdore’s thriving, when they had foretold its downfall under her sway.... She had vindicated her place in her father’s shoes, and best of all, she had expiated her folly in the matter of Socknersh, and restored her credit not only in the bar of the Woolpack but in her own eyes.
One afternoon, soon after Ellen had gone back to school for her second year, when Joanna was making plum jam in the kitchen, and getting very hot and sharp-tongued in the process, Mrs. Tolhurst saw a man go past the window on his way to the front door.
“Lor, miss! There’s Parson!” she cried, and the next minute came sounds of struggle with Joanna’s rusty door-bell.
“Go and see what he wants—take off that sacking apron first—and if he wants to see me, put him into the parlour.”
Mr. Pratt lacked “visiting” among many other accomplishments as a parish priest—the vast, strewn nature of his parish partly excused him—and a call from him was not the casual event it would have been in many places, but startling and portentous, requiring fit celebration.
Joanna received him in state, supported by her father’s Bible and stuffed owls. She had kept him waiting while she changed her gown, for like many people who are sometimes very splendid she could also on occasion be extremely disreputable, and her jam-making costume was quite unfit for the masculine eye, even though negligible. Mr. Pratt had grown rather nervous waiting for her—he had always been afraid of her, because of her big, breathless ways, and because he felt sure that she was one of the many who criticized him.