Mr. Juxon received the vicar in the library as he had received him on the previous day; but on the present occasion Mr. Ambrose had not been sent for and the squire’s face wore an expression of inquiry. He supposed his friend had come to ask him the result of the interview with Mrs. Goddard, and as he himself was on the point of going towards the cottage he wished the vicar had come at a later or an earlier hour.
“I have a message to give you,” said Mr. Ambrose, “a very important message.”
“Indeed?” answered the squire, observing his serious face.
“Yes. I had better tell you at once. Mrs. Goddard sent for me this morning. She has actually seen her husband, who must be hiding in the neighbourhood. He came to her drawing-room window last night and the night before.”
“Dear me!” exclaimed Mr. Juxon. “You don’t tell me so!”
“That is not the worst of the matter,” continued the vicar, looking very grave and fixing his eyes on the squire’s face. “This villainous fellow has been threatening to take your life, Mr. Juxon.”
Mr. Juxon stared at the vicar for a moment in surprise, and then broke into a hearty laugh.
“My life!” he cried. “Upon my word, the fellow does not know what he is talking about! Do you mean to say that this escaped convict, who can be arrested at sight wherever he is found, imagines that he could attack me in broad daylight without being caught?”
“Well, no, I suppose not—but you often walk home at night, Mr. Juxon—alone through the park.”
“I think that dog of mine could manage Mr. Goddard,” remarked the squire calmly. “And pray, Mr. Ambrose, now that we know that the man is in the neighbourhood, what is to prevent us from finding him?”
“We do not know where he is,” replied the vicar, thanking the inspiration which had prevented him from asking Mrs. Goddard more questions. He had promised to save Goddard, too, or at least not to facilitate his capture. But though he was glad to be able to say honestly that he did not know where he was, he began to doubt whether in the eyes of the law he was acting rightly.
“You do not know?” asked the squire.
“No; and besides I think—perhaps—we ought to consider poor Mrs. Goddard’s position.”
“Mrs. Goddard’s position!” exclaimed Mr. Juxon almost angrily. “And who should consider her position more than I, Mr. Ambrose? My dear sir, I consider her position before all things—of course I do. But nothing could be of greater advantage to her position than the certainty that her husband is safely lodged in prison. I cannot imagine how he contrived to escape—can you?”