Martin was very ill. The herb tea did not cure him, nor did the stuff the doctor gave him. Nor did the starched crackling nurse, who turned Joanna out of the room and exasperatingly spoke of Martin as “my patient.”
Joanna had lunch with Sir Harry, who in the stress of anxiety was turning into something very like a father, and afterwards drove off in her trap to Rye, having forgotten all about the Honeychild errand. She went to the fruiterers, and ordered grapes and peaches.
“But you won’t get them anywhere now, Miss Godden. It’s just between seasons—in another month ...”
“I must have ’em now,” said Joanna truculently, “I don’t care what I pay.”
It ended in the telephone at the Post Office being put into hysteric action, and a London shop admonished to send down peaches and grapes to Rye station by passenger train that afternoon.
The knowledge of Martin’s illness was all over Walland Marsh by the evening. All the Marsh knew about the doctor and the nurse and the peaches and grapes from London. The next morning they knew that he was worse, and that his brother had been sent for—Father Lawrence arrived on Saturday night, driving in the carrier’s cart from Rye station. On Sunday morning people met on their way to church, and shook their heads as they told each other the latest news from North Farthing—double pneumonia, an abscess on the lung.... Nell Raddish said his face was blue ... the Old Squire was quite upset ... the nurse was like a heathen, raging at the cook.... Joanna Godden?—she sat all day in Mr. Martin’s study, waiting to be sent for upstairs, but she’d only seen him once....
Then, when tongues at last were quiet in church, just before the second lesson, Mr. Pratt read out—
“I publish the banns of marriage between Martin Arbuthnot Trevor, bachelor, of this parish, and Joanna Mary Godden, spinster, of the parish of Pedlinge. This is for the first time of asking. If any of you know any just cause or impediment why these persons should not be joined together in holy matrimony, ye are to declare it.”
Martin died early on Monday morning. Joanna was with him at the last, and to the last she did not believe that he would die—because he had given up worrying about himself, so she was sure he must feel better. Three hours before he died he held both her hands and looked at her once more like a man out of his eyes ... “Lovely Jo,” he said.
She had lain down in most of her clothes as usual, in the little spare room, and between two and three o’clock in the morning the nurse had roused her.
“You’re wanted ... but I’m not sure if he’ll know you.”
He didn’t. He knew none of them—his mind seemed to have gone away and left his body to fight its last fight alone.