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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 316 pages of information about A Tale of a Lonely Parish.

The squire had grown used to the position in which he found himself after Mary Goddard had told him her story.  He continued his visits as formerly, and it could hardly be said that there was any change in his manner towards her; there was no need of any change, for even at the time when he contemplated making her his wife there had been nothing lover-like in his behaviour.  He had been a friend and had treated her with all the respect due to a lonely lady who was his tenant, and even with a certain formality which had sometimes seemed unnecessary.  But though there was no apparent alteration in his mode of talking, in his habit of bringing her flowers and books and of looking after the condition of the cottage, both she and he were perfectly conscious of the fact that they understood each other much better than before.  They were united by the common bond of a common secret which very closely concerned one of them.  Things were not as they had formerly been.  Mrs. Goddard no longer felt that she had anything to hide; the squire knew that he no longer had anything to hope.  If he had been a selfish man, if she had been a less sensible woman, their friendship might have ended then and there.  But Mr. Juxon was not selfish, and Mary Goddard did not lack good sense.  Having ascertained that in the ordinary course of events there was no possibility of ever marrying her, the squire did not at once give her over and go elsewhere; on the contrary he showed himself more desirous than ever of assisting her and amusing her.  He was a patient man; his day might come yet, if Goddard died.  It did not follow that if he could not marry Mrs. Goddard he must needs marry some one else; for it was not a wife that he sought, but the companionship of this particular woman as his wife.  If he could not marry he could still enjoy at least a portion of that companionship, by visiting her daily and talking with her, and making himself a part of her life.  He judged things very coldly and lost himself in no lofty flights of imagination.  It was better that he should enjoy what fell in his way in at least seeing Mrs. Goddard and possessing her friendship, than that he should go out of his course in order to marry merely for the sake of marrying.  He had seen so much of the active side of life that he was well prepared to revel in the peace which had fallen to his lot.  He cared little whether he left an heir to the park; there were others of the name, and since the park had furnished matter for litigation during forty years before he came into possession of it, it might supply the lawyers with fees for forty years more after his death, for all he cared.  It would have been very desirable to marry Mrs. Goddard if it had been possible, but since the thing could not be done at present it was best to submit with a good grace.  Since the day when his suit had suddenly come to grief in the discovery of her real position, Mr. Juxon had philosophically said to himself that he had perhaps been premature in making his proposal, and that it was as well that it could not have been accepted; perhaps she would not have made him a good wife; perhaps he had deceived himself in thinking that because he liked her and desired her friendship he really wished to marry her; perhaps all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds, after all and in spite of all.

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