(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

After her father’s funeral, Joanna Godden took immediate command of her sister Ellen and of the prosperous farm, Little Ansdore. She had always had many notions about making the farm even more productive, and she proposed now to execute these ideas, although her neighbors and her advisers thought her a stubborn and foolish woman. Her perennial suitor, Arthur Alce, stuck by her, although he knew he could never change Joanna’s mind about the farm or about accepting him as a husband.

In addition to the farm, her sister Ellen consumed much of Joanna’s energy. Ellen must be a lady. To this end, she was sent to school and humored in many other ways. Joanna, however, was the boss. No matter how much she babied Ellen, Joanna still made all decisions for her. Ellen was pliable, but she secretly planned for the day when she could escape her sister’s heavy hand.

Little Ansdore prospered under Joanna. She shocked her neighbors by painting her house and wagons in bright colors and by appearing in loud clothing and jewels as soon as the period of mourning was over. In spite of their distrust of her, they were forced to admire her business acumen. Many men failed while she accumulated money in the bank. Through it all, Arthur stood by her and ran her errands. Once she felt stirrings of passion for one of her farmhands, but she quickly subdued the feeling because the ignorant lad was unsuitable. Joanna knew vaguely that she was missing something every woman wanted, something she did not completely understand but still longed for.

When Joanna met Martin Trevor, the son of a neighboring squire, she knew almost at once that Martin was the kind of man she had waited for. Although they were at first antagonistic, they soon were drawn together in real love and announced their engagement. Joanna was happy; Martin made her feel she was a woman first and a successful farmer second. The sensation was novel for Joanna. Martin’s father and clergyman brother accepted her, in spite of a social position lower than theirs. Poor Arthur Alce grieved to lose her, even though he had never possessed more than her friendship. He sincerely wished her happiness.

The only thing that dimmed their happiness was Joanna’s insistence upon waiting for the wedding until there should be a slack time on the farm. Martin knew that if he gave in to her, he would forever play second fiddle to Ansdore. One rainy day, on a walk, he begged her to marry him at once, both to please him and to show him that he was first in her heart. She refused, but at home a few nights later, she knew that she must give in, for herself as well as for Martin. When she hurried to his home to see him the next day, she found Martin gravely ill. He had not been strong, and the walk in the rain had caused a serious lung congestion. Joanna, realizing that her happiness was not to last, felt no surprise when Martin died. Her grief was so deep that she could feel nothing, only numbness. She...

(The entire section is 1214 words.)