“I’ll do my best, for you’ve worked well on the whole, and I shan’t forget that Orpington hen you saved when she was egg-bound. But don’t you think, Martha,” she added seriously, “that I’m holding with any of your goings-on. I’m shocked and ashamed at you, for you’ve done something very wicked—something that’s spoken against in the Bible, and in church too—it’s in the Ten Commandments. I wonder you could kneel in your place and say ‘Lord have mercy upon us,’ knowing what you’d been up to”—Martha’s tears flowed freely—“and it’s sad to think you’ve kept yourself straight for years as you say, and then gone wrong at last, just because you hadn’t patience to wait for your lawful wedding ... and all the scandal there’s been and ull be, and folks talking at you and at me ... and you be off now, and tell Mrs. Tolhurst you’re to have the cream on your milk and take it before it’s skimmed.”
For the rest of the day Joanna was in a strange fret—dreams seemed to hang over life like mist, there was sorrow in all she did, and yet a queer, suffocating joy. She told herself that she was upset by Martha’s revelation, but at the same time she knew it had upset her not so much in itself as in the disturbing new self-knowledge it had brought. She could not hide from herself that she was delighted, overjoyed to find that her shepherd did not love her chicken-girl, that the thoughts she had thought about them for nine months were but vain thoughts.
Was it true, then, that she was moving along that road which the villages had marked out for her—the road which would end before the Lion and the Unicorn in Brodnyx church, with her looker as her bridegroom? The mere thought was preposterous to her pride. She, her father’s daughter, to marry his father’s son!—the suspicion insulted her. She loved herself and Ansdore too well for that ... and Socknersh, fine fellow as he was, had no mind and very little sense—he could scarcely read and write, he was slow as an ox, and had common ways and spoke the low Marsh talk—he drank out of his saucer and cut his bread with his pocket-knife—he spat in the yard. How dared people think she would marry him?—that she was so undignified, infatuated and unfastidious as to yoke herself to a slow, common boor? Her indignation flamed against the scandal-mongers ... that Woolpack! She’d like to see their licence taken away, and then perhaps decent women’s characters would be safe....
But folk said it was queer she should keep on Socknersh when he had done her such a lot of harm—they made sure there must be something behind it. For the first time Joanna caught a glimpse of his shortcomings as a looker, and in a moment of vision asked herself if it wasn’t really true that he ought to have known about that dip. Was she blinding herself to his incapacity simply because she liked to have him about the place—to see his big stooping figure blocked against the sunset—to see his queer eyes light up with queer thoughts that were like a dog’s thoughts or a sheep’s thoughts ... to watch his hands, big and heavy and brown, with the earth worked into the skin ... and his neck, when he lifted his head, brown as his hands, and like the trunk of an oak with roots of firm, beautiful muscle in the field of his broad chest?