But far down in the involutions of her feminine consciousness there was present a perpetual curiosity in regard to the squire, a curiosity she never expected to satisfy, but was wholly unable to repress. Under the influence of this feeling she made remarks from time to time of an apparently harmless nature, but which in the squire promoted that strange inclination to talk about himself, which he had lately observed and which caused him so much alarm. He said to himself that he had nothing to be concealed, and that if any one had asked him direct questions concerning his past he would have answered them boldly enough. But he knew himself to be so singularly averse to dwelling on his own affairs that he wondered why he should now be impelled to break through so good a rule. Indeed he had not the insight to perceive that Mrs. Goddard lost no opportunity of leading him to the subject of his various adventures, and, if he had suspected it, he would have been very much surprised.
Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose were far from guessing what an intimacy had sprung up between the two. Both the cottage and the Hall lay at a considerable distance from the vicarage, and though Mrs. Ambrose occasionally went to see Mrs. Goddard at irregular hours in the morning and afternoon, it was remarkable that the squire never called when she was there. Once Mrs. Ambrose arrived during one of his visits, but thought it natural enough that Mr. Juxon should drop in to see his tenant. Indeed when she called the two were talking about the garden—as usual.
John Short had almost finished his hard work at college. For two years and a half he had laboured on acquiring for himself reputation and a certain amount of more solid advantage in the shape of scholarships. Never in that time had he left Cambridge even for a day unless compelled to do so by the regulations of his college. His father had found it hard to induce him to come up to town; and, being in somewhat easier circumstances since John had declared that he needed no further help to complete his education, he had himself gone to see his son more than once. But John had never been to Billingsfield and he knew nothing of the changes that had taken place there. At last, however, Short felt that he must have some rest before he went up for honours; he had grown thin