“She’ll meddle wud you, Martha, just as she’ll meddle wud the rest of us,” said Broadhurst, the cowman.
“She’s meddled wud me for years—I’m used to it. It’s you men what’s going to have your time now. Ha! Ha! I’ll be pleased watching it.”
Martha’s short, brightly-coloured face seemed ready to break in two as she laughed with her mouth wide open.
“When she’s had a terrification wud me and said things as she’s sorry for, she’ll give me a gownd of hers or a fine hat. Sometimes I think as I make more out of her tempers than I do out of my good work what she pays me wages for.”
“Well, if I wur a decent maid I’d be ashamed to wear any of her outlandish gowns or hats. The colours she chooses! Sometimes when I see her walking through a field near the lambing time, I’m scared for my ewes, thinking they’ll drop their lambs out of fright. I can’t help being thankful as she’s in black now for this season, though maybe I shudn’t ought to say it, seeing as we’ve lost a good maeaster, and one as we’ll all be tediously regretting in a week or two if we aeun’t now. You take my word, Martha—next time she gives you a gownd, you give it back to her and say as you don’t wear such things, being a respectable woman. It aeun’t right, starting you like that on bad ways.”
There was only one house in the joint parishes where Joanna had any honourable mention, and that was North Farthing House on the other side of the Kent Ditch. Here lived Sir Harry Trevor, the second holder of a title won in banking enterprises, and lately fallen to low estate. The reason could perhaps be seen on his good-looking face, with its sensual, humorous mouth, roving eyes, and lurking air of unfulfilled, undefeated youth. The taverns of the Three Marshes had combined to give him a sensational past, and further said that his two sons had forced him to settle at Brodnyx with a view to preserving what was left of his morals and their inheritance. The elder was in Holy Orders, and belonged to a small community working in the East End of London; he seldom came to North Farthing House. The younger, Martin, who had some definite job in the city, was home for a few days that October. It was to him his father said:
“I can’t help admiring that girl Joanna Godden for her pluck. Old Godden died suddenly two weeks ago, and now she’s given out that she’ll run the farm herself, instead of putting in a bailiff. Of course the neighbours disapprove, they’ve got very strict notions round here as to woman’s sphere and all that sort of thing.”
“Godden? Which farm’s that?”
“Little Ansdore—just across the Ditch, in Pedlinge parish. It’s a big place, and I like her for taking it on.”
“And for any other reason?”
“Lord, no! She isn’t at all the sort of woman I admire—a great big strapping wench, the kind this marsh breeds twelve to the acre, like the sheep. Has it ever struck you, Martin, that the women on Romney Marsh, in comparison with the women one’s used to and likes, are the same as the Kent sheep in comparison with Southdowns—admirably hardy and suited to the district and all that, but a bit tough and coarse-flavoured?”