In the fall of the next year, she found that once again she had something to engross her outside Ansdore. Ellen was to leave school that Christmas. The little sister was now seventeen, and endowed with all the grace; and learning that forty pounds a term can buy. During the last year she and Joanna had seen comparatively little of each other. She had received one or two invitations from her school friends to spend her holidays with them—a fine testimonial, thought Joanna, to her manners and accomplishments—and her sister had been only too glad that she should go, that she should be put out of the shadow of a grief which had grown too black even for her sentimental schoolgirl sympathy, so gushing and caressing, in the first weeks of her poor Joanna’s mourning.
But things were different now—Martin’s memory was laid. She told herself that it was because she was too busy that she had not gone as usual to the Harvest Festival at New Romney, to sing hymns beside the pillar marked with the old floods. She was beginning to forget. She could think and she could love. She longed to have Ellen back again, to love and spoil and chasten. She was glad that she was leaving school, and would make no fugitive visit to Ansdore. Immediately her mind leapt to preparations—her sister was too big to sleep any more in the little bed at the foot of her own, she must have a new bed ... and suddenly Joanna thought of a new room, a project which would mop up all her overflowing energies for the next month.
It should be a surprise for Ellen. She sent for painters and paper-hangers, and chose a wonderful new wall-paper of climbing chrysanthemums, rose and blue in colour, and tied with large bows of gold ribbon—real, shining gold. The paint she chose was a delicate fawn, picked out with rose and blue. She bought yards of flowered cretonne for the bed and window curtains, and had the mahogany furniture moved in from the spare bedroom. The carpet she bought brand new—it was a sea of stormy crimson, with fawn-coloured islands rioted over with roses and blue tulips. Joanna had never enjoyed herself so much since she lost Martin, as she did now, choosing all the rich colours, and splendid solid furniture. The room cost her nearly forty pounds, for she had to buy new furniture for the spare bedroom, having given Ellen the mahogany.
As a final touch she hung the walls with pictures. There was a large photograph of Ventnor church, Isle of Wight, and another of Furness Abbey in an Oxford frame; there was “Don’t Touch” and “Mother’s Boy” from “Pears’ Christmas Annual,” and two texts, properly expounded with robins. To crown all, there was her father’s certificate of enrolment in the Ancient Order of Buffaloes, sacrificed from her own room, and hung proudly in the place of honour over Ellen’s bed.