Joanna swept her eye contemptuously over “The Vigil,” “Sir Galahad,” “The Blessed Damozel,” and one or two other schoolgirl favourites that were lying on the bed.
“You can stick those up as well—there ain’t such a lot.”
“But can’t you see, Joanna, that there are too many pictures on the wall already?—It’s simply crowded with them. Really, you’re an obstinate old beast,” and Ellen began to cry.
Joanna fought back in herself certain symptoms of relenting. She could not bear to see Ellen cry, but on the other hand she had “fixed up” this room for Ellen—she had had it furnished and decorated for her—and now Ellen must and should appreciate it. She should not be allowed to disguise and bowdlerize it to suit the unwelcome tastes she had acquired at school. The sight of her father’s Buffalo certificate, lying face downwards on the cupboard floor, gave strength to her flagging purpose.
“You pick that up and hang it in its proper place.”
“I won’t! Why should I have that hideous thing over my bed?”
“Because it was your father’s, and you should ought to be proud of it.”
“It’s some low drinking society he belonged to, and I’m not proud—I’m ashamed.”
Joanna boxed her ears.
“You don’t deserve to be his daughter, Ellen Godden, speaking so. It’s you that’s bringing us all to shame—thank goodness you’ve left school, where you learned all that tedious, proud nonsense. You hang those pictures up again, and those curtains, and you’ll keep this room just what I’ve made it for you.”
Ellen was weeping bitterly now, but her sacrilege had hardened Joanna’s heart. She did not leave the room till the deposed dynasty of curtains and pictures was restored, with poor father’s certificate once more in its place of honour. Then she marched out.
The days till Christmas were full of strain. Joanna had won her victory, but she did not find it a satisfying one. Ellen’s position in the Ansdore household was that of a sulky rebel—resentful, plaintive, a nurse of hard memories—too close to be ignored, too hostile to be trusted.
The tyrant groaned under the heel of her victim. She was used to quarrels, but this was her first experience of a prolonged estrangement. It had been all very well to box Ellen’s ears as a child, and have her shins kicked in return, and then an hour or two later be nursing her on her lap to the tune of “There was an Old Woman,” or “Little Boy Blue".... But this dragged out antagonism wore down her spirits into a long sadness. It was the wrong start for that happy home she had planned, in which Ellen, the little sister, was to absorb that overflowing love which had once been Martin’s, but which his memory could not hold in all its power.