That was how John Short went to Trinity. It was a hard struggle at first, for he found himself much poorer than he had imagined, and it seemed as though the ends could not possibly meet. There was no question of denying himself luxuries; that would have been easy enough. In those first months it was the necessities that he lacked, the coals for his little grate, the oil for his one small lamp. But he fought bravely through it, having, like many another young fellow who has weathered the storms of poverty in pursuit of learning, an iron constitution, and an even stronger will. He used to say long afterwards that feeling cold was a mere habit and that when one thoroughly understood the construction of Greek verses, some stimulus of physical discomfort was necessary to make the imagination work well; in support of which assertion he said that he had never done such good things by the comfortable fire in the study at Billingsfield vicarage as he did afterwards on winter nights by the light of a tallow candle, high up in Neville’s Court. Moreover, if any one argued that it was better for an extremely poor man not to go to Trinity, but to some much smaller college, he answered that as far as he himself was concerned he could not have done better, which was quite true and therefore perfectly unanswerable. Where the competition was less, he would have been satisfied with less, he said; where it was greatest a man could only be contented when he had reached the highest point possible. But before he attained his end he suffered more than any one knew, especially during those first months. For when he had got his first scholarship, he insisted upon sending back the little sums of hard-earned money his father sent him from time to time, and he consequently had nearly as hard work as before to keep himself warm and to keep oil in his lamp during the long winter’s evenings. But he succeeded, nevertheless.
In the month of October of that year, a short time after John had taken up his abode in Trinity College, an event occurred which shook Billingsfield to its foundations; no less an event than the occupation of the dwelling known as the “cottage.” What the cottage was will appear hereafter. The arrival of the new tenants occurred in the following manner.
The Reverend Augustin Ambrose received a letter, which he immediately showed to his wife, as he showed most of his correspondence; for he was of the disposition which may be termed wife-consulting. Married men are generally of two kinds; those who tell their wives everything and those who tell them nothing. It is evident that the relative merits of the two systems depend chiefly upon the relative merits of the wives in question. Mr. Ambrose had no doubt of the advantages of his own method and he carried it to its furthest expression, for he never did anything whatever without consulting his better half. On the whole the plan worked well, for the vicar had learning and his wife had common sense. He therefore showed the letter to her and she read it, and read it again, and finally put it away, writing across the envelope in her own large, clear hand the words—Goddard, Cottage—indicative of the contents.