Page:Court Royal.djvu/281

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Since Joanna’s return from Court Royal Lodge a change for the better had been effected in the house of the Golden Balls. She had been firm with Lazarus, and he had yielded. She kept everything in good order; she refused peremptorily to have the kitchen and what belonged to the housekeeping department untidy and broken. She got white lime, mixed it herself, and with a pawned mason’s brush whitewashed the kitchen, the back kitchen, and her own attic bedroom. She mixed yellow ochre with the wash and coloured the walls. Where the slates in the floor were broken, she relaid them herself in cement of her own mixing. She stitched some muslin and made a blind for her window. She scrubbed the shelves and table in the kitchen with pumice-stone and soda, till the white deal shone like new. When work for the day was over, she laid a rug before the kitchen fire, brought the tea-table before it, threw over it a cloth, and put on it her lamp. She seated herself beside the stove, with the door open, so that the red light flickered over her knees and skirt, and white stockings and neat shoes, whilst the lamp irradiated her face and hands, intent and engaged on needlework.

Joanna had always been an energetic worker, never idle, but her work hitherto had been unsystematic, undirected, desultory; it was like her conscience, unsystematic, undirected, spasmodic in action. She had done what came to hand, and done it as the light of nature taught her. At Court Royal Lodge she had seen order, cleanliness, reduced to clockwork. She had learned that comfort was inseparable from both. Her feminine instinct for what is seemly and right was satisfied, and she was resolved, with the whole strength of her strong will, to reform the domestic arrangements at the Golden Balls.

She had several battles with Lazarus, but she was victorious along the line. The meals were better. He had made himself ill by the nastiness of the food he had eaten whilst she was away, and he was ready to yield a point in this particular, on her return, for his own health’s sake. She did not openly oppose him when she found she could carry her purpose by quiet persistence.