“Do you think we are called upon to do anything?” he asked at last, stopping in his walk immediately in front of Mr. Juxon.
“If we can do anything to save Mrs. Goddard from annoyance or further trouble, we are undoubtedly called upon to do it,” replied the squire. “If that wretch finds her out, he will try to break into the cottage at night and force her to give him money.”
“Do you really think so? Dear me! I hope he will do no such thing!”
“So do I, I am sure,” said Mr. Juxon, with a grim smile. “But if he finds her out, he will. I almost think it would be better to tell her in any case.”
“But think of the anxiety she will be in until he is caught!” cried the vicar. “She will be expecting him every day—every night. Well—I suppose we might tell Gall to watch the house.”
“That will not do,” said Mr. Juxon firmly. “It would be a great injustice to allow Gall or any of the people in the village to know anything about her. She might be subjected to all kinds of insult. You know what these people are. A ‘real lady,’ who is at the same time the wife of a convict, is a thing they can hardly understand. I am sure both you and I secretly flatter ourselves that we have shown an unusual amount of good sense and generosity in understanding her position as we do.”
“I daresay we do,” said the vicar with a smile. He was too honest to deny it. “Indeed it took me some time to get used to the idea myself.”
“Precisely. The village people would never get used to it. Of all things to do, we should certainly not tell Gall, who is an old woman and a great chatterbox. I wish you could have heard his statement this morning—it filled me with admiration for the local police, I assure you. But—I think it would be better to tell her. I did not think so before you came, I believe. But talking always brings the truth out.”
The vicar hesitated, rising and falling upon his toes and heels in profound thought, after his manner.
“I daresay you are right,” he said at last. “Will you do it? Or shall I?”
“I would rather not,” said the squire, thoughtfully. “You know her better, you have known her much longer than I.”
“But she will ask me where I heard of it,” objected the vicar. “I shall be obliged to say that you told me. That will be as bad as though you told her yourself.”
“You need not say you heard it from me. You can say that Gall has received instructions to look out for Goddard. She will not question you any further, I am sure.”
“I would much rather that you told her, Mr. Juxon,” said the vicar.
“I would much rather that you told her, Mr. Ambrose,” said the squire, almost in the same breath. Both laughed a little.
“Not that I would not do it at once, if necessary,” added Mr. Juxon.
“Or I, in a moment,” said Mr. Ambrose.
“Of course,” returned Mr. Juxon. “Only it is such a very delicate matter, you see.”