At dinner she sat on the Chairman’s right. On her other side, owing to some accident of push and shuffle, sat young Martin Trevor. At first she had not thought his place accidental, in spite of his rather stiff manner before they sat down, but after a while she realized with a pang of vexation that he was not particularly pleased to find himself next her. He replied without interest to her remarks and then entered into conversation with his right-hand neighbour. Joanna was annoyed—she could not put down his constraint to shyness, for he did not at all strike her as a shy young man. Nor was he being ungracious to Mr. Turner of Beckett’s House, though the latter could not talk of turnips half so entertainingly as Joanna would have done. He obviously did not want to speak to her. Why? Because of what had happened in Pedlinge all that time ago? She remembered how he had drawn back ... he had not liked the way she had spoken to Mr. Pratt. She had not liked it herself by the time she got to the road’s turn. But to think of him nursing his feelings all this time ... and something she had said to Mr. Pratt ... considering that she had bought them all a new harmonium ... the lazy, stingy louts with their half-crowns....
She had lost her serenity, her sense of triumph—she felt vaguely angry with the whole company, and snapped at Arthur Alce when he spoke to her across the table. He had asked after Ellen, knowing she had been to Folkestone.
“Ellen’s fine—and learning such good manners as it seems a shame to bring her into these parts at Christmas for her to lose ’em.”
“On the other hand. Miss Godden, she might impart them to us,” said the Squire from a little farther down.
“She’s learning how to dance and make curtsies right down to the floor,” said Joanna.
“Then she’s fit to see the Queen. You really mustn’t keep her away from us at Christmas—on the contrary, we ought to make some opportunities for watching her dance; she must be as pretty as a sprite.”
“That she is,” agreed Joanna, warming and mollified, “and I’ve bought her a new gown that pulls out like an accordion, so as she can wave her skirts about when she dances.”
“Well, the drawing-room at North Farthing would make an excellent ball-room ... we must see about that—eh, Martin?”
“It’ll want a new floor laid down—there’s rot under the carpet,” was his son’s disheartening reply. But Joanna had lost the smarting of her own wound in the glow of her pride for Ellen, and she ate the rest of her dinner in good-humoured contempt of Martin Trevor.
When the time for the speeches came her health was proposed by the Chairman.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “let us drink to—the Lady.”