“Of course he shall come,” said Mrs. Ambrose with enthusiasm. “He must stop here till the lists are published and then we shall know—anything else?”
“The other is a note from a tutor of his side—my old friend Brown—he is very enthusiastic; says it is an open secret that John will be at the head of the list—begins to congratulate. Well, my dear, this is very satisfactory, very flattering.”
“One might say very delightful, Augustin.”
“Delightful, yes quite delightful,” replied the vicar, burying his long nose in his teacup.
“I only hope it may be true. I was afraid that perhaps John had done himself harm by coming here at Christmas. Young men are so very light-headed, are they not, Augustin?” added Mrs. Ambrose with a prim smile. On rare occasions she had alluded to John’s unfortunate passion for Mrs. Goddard, and when she spoke of the subject she had a tendency to assume something of the stiffness she affected towards strangers. As has been seen she had ceased to blame Mrs. Goddard. Generally speaking the absent are in the wrong in such matters; she could not refer to John’s conduct without a touch of severity. But the Reverend Augustin bent his shaggy brows; John was now successful, probably senior classic—it was evidently no time to censure his behaviour.
“You must be charitable, my dear,” he said, looking sharply at his wife. “We have all been young once you know.”
“Augustin, I am surprised at you!” said Mrs. Ambrose sternly.
“For saying that I once was young?” inquired her husband. “Strange and paradoxical as such a statement must appear, I was once a baby.”
“I think your merriment very unseemly,” objected Mrs. Ambrose in a tone of censure. “Because you were once a baby it does not follow that you ever acted in such a very foolish way about a—”
“My dear,” interrupted the vicar, handing his cup across the table, “I wish you would leave John alone, and give me another cup of tea. John will be here to-morrow. Let us receive him as we should. He has done us credit.”
“He will never be received otherwise in this house, Augustin,” replied Mrs. Ambrose, “whether you allow me to speak my mind or not. I am aware that Short has done us credit, as you express it. I only hope he always may do us credit in the future. I am sure, I was like a mother to him. He ought never to forget it. Why, my dear, cannot you remember how I always had his buttons looked to and gave him globules when he wanted them? I think he might show some gratitude.”
“I do not think he has failed to show it,” retorted the vicar.
“Oh, well, Augustin, if you are going to talk like that it is not possible to argue with you; but he shall be welcome, if he comes. I hope, however, that he will not go to the cottage—”
“My dear, I have a funeral this morning. I wish you would not disturb my mind with these trifles.”