“Come in,” said the squire cheerily. “We are not so cold as we used to be up here.”
A great fire of logs was burning upon the hearth in the Hall. Stamboul stalked up to the open chimney, scratched the tiger’s skin which served for a rug, and threw himself down as though his day’s work were done. Mr. Juxon went up to Mrs. Goddard.
“I think you had better take off your coat,” he said. “The house is very warm.”
Mrs. Goddard allowed the squire to help her in removing the heavy black jacket lined and trimmed with fur, which she wore. John eyed the proceeding uneasily and kept on his greatcoat.
“Thank you—I don’t mind the heat,” he said shortly when the squire suggested to him that he might be too warm. John was in a fit of contrariety. Mrs. Goddard glanced at him, as he spoke, and he thought he detected a twinkle of amusement in her eyes, which did not tend to smooth his temper.
“You will have some tea, Mrs. Goddard?” said Mr. Juxon, leading the way into the library, which he regarded as the most habitable room in the house. Mrs. Goddard walked by his side and the vicar followed, while John and Nellie brought up the rear.
“Is not it a beautiful place?” said Nellie, who was anxious that the new-comer should appreciate the magnificence of the Hall.
“Can’t see very well,” said John, “it is so dark.”
“Oh, but it is beautiful,” insisted Miss Nellie. “And they have lots of lamps here in the evening. Perhaps Mr. Juxon will have them lighted before we go. He is always so kind.”
“Is he?” asked John with a show of interest.
“Yes—he brings mamma a rose every day,” said Nellie.
“Not really?” said John, beginning to feel that he was justified in hating the squire with all his might.
“Yes—and books, too. Lots of them—but then, he has so many. See, this is the library. Is not it splendid!”
John looked about him and was surprised. The last rays of the setting sun fell across the open lawn and through the deep windows of the great room, illuminating the tall carved bookcases, the heavily gilt bindings, the rich, dark Russia leather and morocco of the folios. The footsteps of the party fell noiselessly upon the thick carpet and almost insensibly the voices of the visitors dropped to a lower key. A fine large wood fire was burning on the hearth, carefully covered with a metal netting lest any spark should fly out and cause damage to the treasures accumulated in the neighbouring shelves.
“Pray make yourself at home, Mr. Short,” said the squire, coming up to John. “You may find something of interest here. There are some old editions of the classics that are thought rare—some specimens of Venetian printing, too, that you may like to look at. Mr. Ambrose can tell you more about them than I.”