But during all that night Mrs. Goddard lay awake, listening for the sound she so much dreaded, of a creeping footstep on the slated path outside and for the tapping at the window. Nothing came, however, and as the grey dawn began to creep in through the white curtains, she fell peacefully asleep. Nellie would not let her be waked, and breakfasted without her, enjoying with childish delight the state of being waited on by Martha alone.
Meanwhile, at an early hour, John arrived at the vicarage and was received with open arms by Mr. Ambrose and his wife. The latter seemed to forget, in the pleasure of seeing him again, that she had even once spoken doubtfully of him or hinted that he was anything short of perfection itself. And to prove how much she had done for him she communicated with great pride the squire’s message, to the effect that he expected John at the Hall that very day.
John’s heart leaped with delight at the idea. It was natural. He was indeed most sincerely attached to the Ambroses, and most heartily glad to be with them; but he had never in his life had an opportunity of staying in a “big” house, as he would have described it. It seemed as though he were already beginning to taste the sweet first-fruits of success after all his labour and all his privations; it was the first taste of another world, the first mouthful of the good things of life which had fallen to his lot. Instantly there rose before him delicious visions of hot-water cans brought by a real footman, of luxurious meals served by a real butler, of soft carpets perpetually beneath his feet, of liberty to lounge in magnificent chairs in the magnificent library; and last, though not least, there was a boyish feeling of delight in the thought that when he went to see Mrs. Goddard he would go from the Hall, that she would perhaps associate him henceforth with a different kind of existence, in a word, that he was sure to acquire importance in her eyes from the fact of his visit to the squire. Many a young fellow of one and twenty is as familiar with all that money can give and as tired of luxury as a broken-down hard liver of forty years; for this is an age of luxurious living. But poor John had hardly ever tasted the least of those