John’s feeling of antagonism, and even his resentment against Mr. Juxon, roused by Nellie’s innocent remark about the roses, were not proof against the real scholastic passion aroused by the sight of rare and valuable books. In a few minutes he had divested himself of his greatcoat and was examining the books with an expression of delight upon his face which was pleasant to see. He glanced from time to time at the other persons in the room and looked very often at Mrs. Goddard, but on the whole he was profoundly interested in the contents of the library. Mrs. Goddard was installed in a huge leathern easy-chair by the fire, and the squire was handing her one after another a number of new volumes which lay upon a small table, and which she appeared to examine with interest. Nellie knew where to look for her favourite books of engravings and had curled herself up in a corner absorbed in “Hyde’s Royal Residences.” The vicar went to look for something he wanted to consult.
“What do you think of our new friend?” asked Mrs. Goddard of the squire. She spoke in a low tone and did not look up from the new book he had just handed her.
“He appears to have a very peculiar temper,” said Mr. Juxon. “But he looks clever.”
“What do you think he was talking about as we came through the park?” asked Mrs. Goddard.
“He was saying that he saw me once before he went to college, and—fancy how deliciously boyish! he said he had written ever so many Greek odes to my memory since!” Mrs. Goddard laughed a little and blushed faintly.
“Let us hope, for the sake of his success, that you may continue to inspire him,” said the squire gravely. “I have no doubt the odes were very good.”
“So he said. Fancy!”
Mrs. Goddard did not mean to walk home with John; but on the other hand she did not mean to walk with the squire. She revolved the matter in her mind as she sat in the library talking in an undertone with Mr. Juxon. She liked the great room, the air of luxury, the squire’s tea and the squire’s conversation. It is worth noticing that his flow of talk was more abundant to-day than it had been for some time; whether it was John’s presence which stimulated Mr. Juxon’s imagination, or whether Mrs. Goddard had suddenly grown more interesting since John Short’s appearance it is hard to say; it is certain that Mr. Juxon talked better than usual.
The afternoon, however, was far spent and the party had only come to make a short visit. Mrs. Goddard rose from her seat.
“Nellie, child, we must be going home,” she said, calling to the little girl who was still absorbed in the book of engravings which she had taken to the window to catch the last of the waning light.
John started and came forward with alacrity. The vicar looked up; Nellie reluctantly brought her book back.