Then, after she had engaged him, he had shown just enough natural capacity for her to blind herself with—his curious affinity with the animals he tended had helped her to forget the many occasions on which he had failed to rise above them in intelligence. It had been left to another to point out to her that a man might be good with sheep simply because he was no better than a sheep himself.
And now she was humbled—in her own eyes, and also in the eyes of her neighbours. She would have to confess herself in the wrong. Everyone knew that she had just raised Socknersh’s wages, so there would be no good pretending that she had known his shortcomings from the first, but had put up with them as long as she could. Everyone would guess that something had happened to make her change her mind about him ... there would be some terrible talk at the Woolpack.
And there was Socknersh himself, poor fellow—the martyr of her impulses. She thrust her face deep into the pillow when she thought of him. She had given him as sharp a blow as his thick hide would ever let him suffer. She would never forget that last look on his face....
Then she began wondering why this should have come upon her. Why should she have made a fool of herself over Socknersh, when she had borne unmoved the courtship of Arthur Alce for seven years? Was it just because Alce had red whiskers and red hands and red hair on his hands, while Socknersh was dark and sweet of face and limb? It was terrible to think that mere youth and comeliness and virility should blind her judgment and strip her of common sense. Yet this was obviously the lesson she must learn from to-day’s disgrace.
Hot and tear-stained, she climbed out of bed, and paced across the dark room to the grey blot of the window. She forgot her distrust of the night air in all her misery of throbbing head and heart, and flung back the casement, so that the soft marsh wind came in, with rain upon it, and her tears were mingled with the tears of the night.
“Oh God!” she mourned to herself—“why didn’t you make me a man?”
It took Joanna nearly two years to recover from the losses of her sheep. Some people would have done it earlier, but she was not a clever economist. Where many women on the Marsh would have thrown themselves into an orgy of retrenchment—ranging from the dismissal of a dairymaid to the substitution of a cheaper brand of tea—she made no new occasions for thrift, and persevered but lamely in the old ones. She was fond of spending—liked to see things trim and bright; she hated waste, especially when others were guilty of it, but she found a positive support in display.
She was also generous. Everybody knew that she had paid Dick Socknersh thirty shillings for the two weeks that he was out of work after leaving her—before he went as cattleman to an inland farm—and she had found the money for Martha Tilden’s wedding, and for her lying-in a month afterwards, and some time later she had helped Peter Relf with ready cash to settle his debts and move himself and his wife and baby to West Wittering, where he had the offer of a place with three shillings a week more than they gave at Honeychild.