“I see that farming has already enlarged and refined your stock of similes. I hope you aren’t getting tired of it.”
“No, not exactly. I’m interested in the place now I manage it without that dolt Lambarde, and Hythe isn’t too far for the phaeton if I want to See Life. Besides, I haven’t quite got over the thrill of not being in debt and disgrace”—he threw Martin a glance which might have come from a rebellious son to a censorious father. “But sometimes I wish there was less Moated Grange about it all. Damn it, I’m always alone here! Except when you or your reverend brother come down to see how I’m behaving.”
“Why don’t you marry again?”
“I don’t want to marry. Besides, whom the devil should I marry round here? There’s mighty few people of our own class about, and those there are seem to have no daughters under forty.”
Martin looked at him quizzically.
“Oh yes, you young beast—I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that forty’s just the right age for me. You’re reminding me that I’m a trifle passe myself and ought to marry something sere and yellow. But I tell you I don’t feel any older than twenty-five—never have, it’s my affliction—while you’ve never been younger than forty in all your life. It’s you who ought to marry middle-age”—and he grimaced at Martin.
Joanna rather enjoyed being the centre of discussion. She had none of the modest shrinking from being talked about which might have affected some young women. She was glad when Martha Tilden or another of the girls brought her any overheard scraps. “Oh, that’s what they say, is it?” and she would laugh a big jolly laugh like a boy’s.
So far she had enjoyed being “Maeaster” of Little Ansdore. It meant a lot of work and a lot of thought and a lot of talking and interference, but Joanna shrank from none of these things. She was healthy and vigorous and intelligent, and was, moreover, quite unhampered by any diffidence about teaching their work to people who had been busy at it before she was born.
Still it was scarcely more than a fortnight since she had taken on the government, and time had probably much to show her yet. She had a moment of depression one morning, rising early as she always must, and pulling aside the flowered curtain that covered her window. The prospect was certainly not one to cheer; even in sunshine the horizons of the marsh were discouraging with their gospel of universal flatness, and this morning the sun was not yet up, and a pale mist was drifting through the willows, thick and congealed above the watercourses, thinner on the grazing lands between them, so that one could see the dim shapes of the sheep moving through it. Even in clear weather only one other dwelling was visible from Little Ansdore, and that was its fellow of Great Ansdore, about half a mile away seawards. The sight of it never failed to make Joanna contemptuous—for Great Ansdore had but fifty acres of land compared with the three hundred of its Little neighbour. Its Greatness was merely a matter of name and tradition, and had only one material aspect in the presentation to the living of Brodnyx-with-Pedlinge, which had been with Great Ansdore since the passing of the monks of Canterbury.