“Fuller!” she shouted, so loud that those who were standing near turned round to see—“How many wether-tegs have you brought to Lydd?”
“How many did I tell you to bring?”
“The others wurn’t fit, surelye.”
“But didn’t I tell you to bring them?”
“You did, but they wurn’t fit.”
“I said you were to bring them, no matter if you thought ’em fit or not.”
“They wurn’t fit to be sold as meat.”
“I tell you they were.”
“No one shall say as Tom Fuller doean’t bring fit meat to market.”
“You’re an obstinate old fool. I tell you they were first-class meat.”
Men were pressing round, farmers and graziers and butchers, drawn by the spectacle of Joanna Godden at war with her looker in the middle of Lydd market. Alce touched her arm appealingly—
“Come away, Joanna,” he murmured.
She flung round at him.
“Keep dear—leave me to settle my own man.”
There was a titter in the crowd.
“I know bad meat from good, surelye,” continued Fuller, feeling that popular sentiment was on his side—“I should ought to, seeing as I wur your father’s looker before you wur your father’s daughter.”
“You were my father’s looker, but after this you shan’t be looker of mine. Since you won’t mind what I say or take orders from me, you can leave my service this day month.”
There was a horror-stricken silence in the crowd—even the lowest journeyman butcher realized the solemnity of the occasion.
“You understand me?” said Joanna.
“Yes, ma’am,” came from Fuller in a crushed voice.
By the same evening the news was all over Lydd market, by the next it was all over the Three Marshes. Everyone was repeating to everyone else how Joanna Godden of Little Ansdore had got shut of her looker after twenty-eight years’ service, and her father not been dead a month. “Enough to make him rise out of his grave,” said the Marsh.
The actual reasons for the turning away were variously given—“Just because he spuck up and told her as her pore father wudn’t hold wud her goings on,” was the doctrine promulgated by the Woolpack; but the general council sitting in the bar of the Crown decreed that the trouble had arisen out of Fuller’s spirited refusal to sell some lambs that had tic. Other pronouncements were that she had sassed Fuller because he knew more about sheep than she did—or that Fuller had sassed her for the same reason—that it wasn’t Joanna who had dismissed him, but he who had been regretfully obliged to give notice, owing to her meddling—that all the hands at Ansdore were leaving on account of her temper.
“He’ll never get another plaeace agaeun, will pore old Fuller—he’ll end in the Union and be an everlasting shame to her.”
There was almost a feeling of disappointment when it became known that Fuller—who was only forty-two, having started his career at an early age—had been given a most satisfactory job at Arpinge Farm inland, and something like consternation when it was further said and confirmed by Fuller himself that Joanna had given him an excellent character.