She went first of all to a firm of house-painters, for she meant to brighten up Ansdore. She disliked seeing the place with no colour or ornament save that which the marsh wind gave it of gold and rust. She would have the eaves and the pipes painted a nice green, such as would show up well at a distance. There was plenty of money, so why should everything be drab? Alce discouraged her as well as he was able—it was the wrong time of year for painting, and the old paint was still quite good. Joanna treated his objections as she had treated his proposal—with good-humoured, almost tender, indifference. She let him make his moan at the house-painter’s, then carelessly bore him on to the furnishers’, where she bought brightly-flowered stuff for new curtains. Then he stood by while at an outfitter’s she inspected coats for Stuppeny, and finally bought one of a fine mulberry colour with brass buttons all down the front.
She now returned to the market-place, and sought out two farmers from the Iden district, with whom she made arrangements for the winter keep of her lambs. Owing to the scanty and salt pastures of winter, it had always been the custom on the marsh to send the young sheep for grazing on upland farms, and fetch them back in the spring as tegs. Joanna disposed of her young flock between Relf of Baron’s Grange and Noakes of Mockbeggar, then, still accompanied by Alce, strolled down to inspect the wethers she had brought to the market.
On her way she met the farmer of Picknye Bush.
“Good day, Miss Godden—I’ve just come from buying some tegs of yourn.”
“My looker’s settled with you, has he?”
“He said he had the power to sell as he thought proper—otherways I was going to ask for you.”
An angry flush drowned the freckles on Joanna’s cheek.
“That’s Fuller, the obstinate, thick-headed old man....”
Bates’s round face fell a little.
“I’m sorry if there’s bin any mistaeake. After all, I aeun’t got the beasts yet—thirty shillings a head is the price he asked and I paid. I call it a fair price, seeing the time of year and the state of the meat market But if your looker’s bin presuming and you aeun’t pleased, then I woean’t call it a deal.”
“I’m pleased enough to sell you my beasts, and thirty shillings is a fairish price. But I won’t have Fuller fixing things up over my head like this, and I’ll tell him so. How many of ’em did you buy, Mr. Bates?”
“I bought the lot—two score.”
Joanna made a choking sound. Without another word, she turned and walked off in the direction of the hurdles where her sheep were penned, Bates and Alce following her after one disconcerted look at each other. Fuller stood beside the wethers, his two shaggy dogs couched at his feet—he started when he suddenly saw his mistress burst through the crowd, her black feathers nodding above her angry face.