“When Martin Trevor comes I’ll make her say her piece.”
Martin came on Christmas Day. He knew that the feast would lend a special significance to the visit, but he did not care; for in absence he had idealized Joanna into a fit subject for flirtation. He had no longer any wish to meet her on the level footing of friendship—besides, he was already beginning to feel lonely on the Marsh, to long for the glow of some romance to warm the fogs that filled his landscape. In spite of his father’s jeers, he was no monk, and generally had some sentimental adventure keeping his soul alive—but he was fastidious and rather bizarre in his likings, and since he had come to North Farthing, no one, either in his own class or out of it, had appealed to him, except Joanna Godden.
She owed part of her attraction to the surviving salt of his dislike. There was still a savour of antagonism in his liking of her. Also his curiosity was still unsatisfied. Was that undercurrent of softness genuine? Was she really simple and tender under her hard flaunting? Was she passionate under her ignorance and naivete? Only experiment could show him, and he meant to investigate, not merely for the barren satisfaction of his curiosity, but for the satisfaction of his manhood which was bound up with a question.
When he arrived, Joanna was still in church—on Christmas Day as on other selected festivals, she always “stayed the Sacrament,” and did not come out till nearly one. He went to meet her, and waited for her some ten minutes in the little churchyard which was a vivid green with the Christmas rains. The day was clear and curiously soft for the season, even on the Marsh where the winters are usually mild. The sky was a delicate blue, washed with queer, flat clouds—the whole country of the Marsh seemed faintly luminous, holding the sunshine in its greens and browns. Beside the dyke which flows by Brodnyx village stood a big thorn tree, still bright with haws. It made a vivid red patch in the foreground, the one touch of Christmas in a landscape which otherwise suggested October—especially in the sunshine, which poured in a warm shower on to the altar-tomb where Martin sat.
He grew dreamy with waiting—his thoughts seemed to melt into the softness of the day, to be part of the still air and misty sunshine, just as the triple-barned church with its grotesque tower was part.... He could feel the great Marsh stretching round him, the lonely miles of Walland and Dunge and Romney, once the sea’s bed, now lately inned for man and his small dwellings, his keepings and his cares, perhaps one day to return to the same deep from which it had come. People said that the bells of Broomhill church—drowned in the great floods which had changed the Rother’s mouth—still rang under the sea. If the sea came to Brodnyx, would Brodnyx bells ring on?—And Pedlinge? And Brenzett? And Fairfield? And all the little churches of Thomas a Becket on their mounds?—What a ringing there would be.