Martin stared at her with his mouth open.
“So I say as I’ve done proper by Mr. Pratt,” she continued, her voice rising to a husky flurry, “for I’ll have to give ’em all a day off to get confirmed in, and that’ll be a tedious affair for me. However, I don’t grudge it, if it’ll make things up between us—between you and me, I’m meaning.”
“But, I—I—that is, you’ve made a mistake—your behaviour to Mr. Pratt is no concern of mine.”
He was getting terribly embarrassed—this dreadful woman, what would she say next? Unconsciously yielding to a nervous habit, he took off his cap and violently rubbed up his hair the wrong way. The action somehow appealed to Joanna.
“But it is your concern, I reckon—you’ve shown me plain that it is. I could see you were offended at the Farmers’ Dinner.”
A qualm of compunction smote Martin.
“You’re showing me that I’ve been jolly rude.”
“Well, I won’t say you haven’t,” said Joanna affably. “Still you’ve had reason. I reckon no one ud like me better for behaving rude to Mr. Pratt ...”
“Oh, damn Mr. Pratt!” cried Martin, completely losing his head—“I tell you I don’t care tuppence what you or anyone says or does to him.”
“Then you should ought to care, Mr. Trevor,” said Joanna staidly, “not that I’ve any right to tell you, seeing how I’ve behaved. But at least I gave him a harmonium first—it’s only that I couldn’t abide the fuss he made of his thanks. I like doing things for folks, but I can’t stand their making fools of themselves and me over it.”
Trevor had become miserably conscious that they were standing in the middle of the road, that Joanna was not inconspicuous, and if she had been, her voice would have made up for it. He could see people—gaitered farmers, clay-booted farm-hands—staring at them from the pavement. He suddenly felt himself—not without justification—the chief spectacle of Romney market-day.
“Please don’t think about it any more, Miss Godden,” he said hurriedly. “I certainly should never presume to question anything you ever said or did to Mr. Pratt or anybody else. And, if you’ll excuse me, I must go on—I’m a farmer now, you know,” with a ghastly attempt at a smile, “and I’ve plenty of business in the market.”
“Reckon you have,” said Joanna, her voice suddenly falling flat.
He snatched off his cap and left her standing in the middle of the street.
He did not let himself think of her for an hour or more—the episode struck him as grotesque and he preferred not to dwell on it. But after he had done his business of buying a farm horse, with the help of Mr. Southland who was befriending his inexperience, he found himself laughing quietly, and he suddenly knew that he was laughing over the interview with Joanna. And directly he had laughed, he was smitten with a sense of pathos—her bustle