No doubt Peter Relf from Honeychild was the best man—the oldest and most experienced—but on the other hand he wanted the most money, and probably also his own way. After the disastrous precedent of Fuller, Joanna wasn’t going to have another looker who thought he knew better than she did. Now, Dick Socknersh, he would mind her properly, she felt sure.... Day from Slinches had the longest “character”—fifteen years man and boy; but that would only mean that he was set in their ways and wouldn’t take to hers—she wasn’t going to start fattening her sheep with turnips, coarsening the meat, not to please anyone.... Now, Socknersh, having never been longer than two years in a place wouldn’t have got fixed in any bad habits.... As for Jenkins and Taylor, they weren’t any good—just common Southdown men—she might as well write off to them at once. Her choice lay between Relf and Day and Socknersh. She knew that she meant to have Socknersh—he was not the best shepherd, but she liked him the best, and he would mind her properly and take to her ways ... for a moment he seemed to stand before her, with his head stooping among the rafters, his great shoulders shutting out the window, his curious, brown, childlike eyes fixed upon her face. Day was a scrubby little fellow, and Relf had warts all over his hands.... But she wasn’t choosing Socknersh for his looks; she was choosing him because he would work for her the best, not being set up with “notions.” Of course she liked him the best, too, but it would be more satisfactory from every practical point of view to work with a man she liked than with a man she did not like—Joanna liked a man to look a man, and she did not mind if he was a bit of a child too.... Yes, she would engage Socknersh; his “characters,” though short, were most satisfactory—he was “good with sheep and lambs,” she could remember—“hard-working”—“patient".... She wrote to Botolph’s Bridge that evening, and engaged him to come to her at the end of the week.
Nothing happened to make her regret her choice. Socknersh proved, as she had expected, a humble, hard-working creature, who never disputed her orders, indeed who sometimes turned to her for direction and advice. Stimulated by his deference, she became even more of an oracle than she had hitherto professed. She looked up “The Sheep” in her father’s “Farmer’s Encyclopaedia” of the year 1861, and also read one or two more books upon his shelves. From these she discovered that there was more in sheep breeding than was covered by the lore of the Three Marshes, and her mind began to plunge adventurously among Southdowns and Leicesters, Black-faced, Blue-faced, and Cumberland sheep. She saw Ansdore famous as a great sheep-breeding centre, with many thousands of pounds coming annually to its mistress from meat and wool.