“Maybe two score.”
“You can take the lot. It’ll save us their grazing money this winter, and we can start fattening the tegs in the spring.”
“There’s but two score wethers fit for market.”
“How d’you mean?”
“The others aeun’t fatted praeaperly.”
“Nonsense—you know we never give ’em cake or turnips, so what does it matter?”
“They aeun’t fit.”
“I tell you they’ll do well enough. I don’t expect to get such prices for them as for that lot you’ve kept down in the New Innings, but they won’t fetch much under, for I declare they’re good meat. If we keep them over the winter we’ll have to send them inland and pay no end for their grazing—and then maybe the price of mutton ull go down in the Spring.”
“It ud be a fool’s job to taeake them.”
“You say that because you don’t want to have to fetch them up from the Salt Innings. I tell you you’re getting lazy, Fuller.”
“My old maeaster never called me that.”
“Well, you work as well for me as you did for him, and I won’t call you lazy, neither.”
She gave him a conciliatory grin, but Fuller had been too deeply wounded for such easy balm. He turned and walked away, a whole speech written in the rebellious hunch of his shoulders.
“You’ll get them beasts,” she called after him.
“Surelye”—came in a protesting drawl. Then “Yup!—Yup!” to the two sheep dogs couched on the doorstep.
What with supervising the work and herding slackers, getting her breakfast and packing off Ellen to the little school she went to at Rye, Joanna found all too soon that the market hour was upon her. It did not strike her to shirk this part of a farmer’s duty—she would drive into Rye and into Lydd and into Romney as her father had always driven, inspecting beasts and watching prices. Soon after ten o’clock she ran upstairs to make herself splendid, as the occasion required.
By this time the morning had lifted itself out of the mist. Great sheets of blue covered the sky and were mirrored in the dykes—there was a soft golden glow about the marsh, for the vivid green of the pastures was filmed over with the brown of the withering seed-grasses, and the big clumps of trees that protected every dwelling were richly toned to rust through scales of flame. Already there were signs that the day would be hot, and Joanna sighed to think that approaching winter had demanded that her new best black should be made of thick materials. She hated black, too, and grimaced at her sombre frills, which the mourning brooch and chain of jet beads could only embellish, never lighten. But she would as soon have thought of jumping out of the window as of discarding her mourning a day before the traditions of the Marsh decreed. She decided not to wear her brooch and chain—the chain might swing and catch in the beasts’ horns as she inspected them, besides her values demanded that she should be slightly more splendid in church than at market, so her ornaments were reserved as a crowning decoration, all except her mourning ring made of a lock of her father’s hair.