“It’s her looker that should ought to have known better,” said Furnese. “Joanna Godden’s a woman, fur all her man’s ways, and you can’t expect her to have praeaper know wud sheep.”
“I wonder if she’ll get shut of him after this,” said Vine.
“Not she! She don’t see through him yet.”
“She’ll never see through him,” said Prickett solemnly. “The only kind of man a woman ever sees through is the kind she don’t like to look at.”
Joanna certainly did not “see through” Dick Socknersh. She knew that she was chiefly to blame for the tragedy of her lambing, and when her reason told her that her looker should have discouraged instead of obeyed and abetted her, she rather angrily tossed the thought aside. Socknersh had the sense to realize that she knew more about sheep than he, and he had not understood that in this matter she was walking out of her knowledge into experiment. No one could have known that the scheme would turn out so badly—the Spanish rams had not been so big after all, only a little bigger than her ewes ... if anyone should have foreseen trouble it was the Northampton farmer who knew the size of Spanish lambs at birth, and from his Kentish experience must also have some knowledge of Romney Marsh sheep.
But though she succeeded in getting all the guilt off her looker and some of it off herself, she was nevertheless stricken by the greatness of the tragedy. It was not only the financial losses in which she was involved, or the derision of her neighbours, or the fulfilment of their prophecy—or even the fall of her own pride and the shattering of that dream in which the giant sheep walked—there was also an element of almost savage pity for the animals whom her daring had betrayed. Those dead ewes, too stupid to mate themselves profitably and now the victims of the farm-socialism that had experimented with them.... At first she ordered Socknersh to save the ewes even at the cost of the lambs, then when in the little looker’s hut she saw a ewe despairingly lick the fleece of its dead lamb, an even deeper grief and pity smote her, and she burst suddenly and stormily into tears.
Sinking on her knees on the dirty floor, she covered her face, and rocked herself to and fro. Socknersh sat on his three-legged stool, staring at her in silence. His forehead crumpled slightly and his mouth twitched, as the slow processes of his thought shook him. The air was thick with the fumes of his brazier, from which an angry red glow fell on Joanna as she knelt and wept.
When the first sharpness of death had passed from Ansdore, Joanna’s sanguine nature, her hopeful bumptiousness, revived. Her pity for the dead lambs and her fellow-feeling of compassion for the ewes would prevent her ever dreaming of a new experiment, but already she was dreaming of a partial justification of the old one—her cross-bred lambs would grow so big both in size and price that they would, even in their diminished numbers pay for her daring and proclaim its success to those who jeered and doubted.