“It is very early,” objected the squire. “Really, the days have no business to be so short.”
“It would not seem like Christmas if they were long,” said Mrs. Goddard.
“It does not seem like Christmas anyhow,” remarked John, enigmatically. No one understood his observation and no one paid any attention to it. Whereupon John’s previous feeling of annoyance returned and he went to look for his greatcoat in the dark corner where he had laid it.
“You must not come all the way back with us,” said Mrs. Goddard as they all went out into the hall and began to put on their warm things before the fire. “Really—it is late. Mr. Ambrose will give me his arm.”
The squire insisted however, and Stamboul, who had had a comfortable nap by the fire, was of the same opinion as his master and plunged wildly at the door.
“Will you give me your arm, Mr. Ambrose?” said Mrs. Goddard, looking rather timidly at the vicar as they stood upon the broad steps in the sparkling evening air. She felt that she was disappointing both the squire and John, but she had quite made up her mind. She had her own reasons. The vicar, good man, was unconsciously a little flattered by her choice, as with her hand resting on the sleeve of his greatcoat he led the way down the park. The squire and John were fain to follow together, but Nellie took her mother’s hand, and Stamboul walked behind affecting an unusual gravity.
“You must come again when there is more daylight,” said Mr. Juxon to his companion.
“Thank you,” said John. “You are very good.” He intended to relapse into silence, but his instinct made him ashamed of seeming rude. “You have a magnificent library,” he added presently in a rather cold tone.
“You have been used to much better ones in Cambridge,” said the squire, modestly.
“Do you know Cambridge well, Mr. Juxon?”
“Very well. I am a Cambridge man, myself.”
“Indeed?” exclaimed John, immediately discovering that the squire was not so bad as he had thought. “Indeed! I had no idea. Mr. Ambrose never told me that.”
“I am not sure that he is aware of it,” said Mr. Juxon quietly. “The subject never happened to come up.”
“How odd!” remarked John, who could not conceive of associating with a man for any length of time without asking at what University he had been.
“I don’t know,” answered Mr. Juxon. “There are lots of other things to talk about.”
“Oh—of course,” said John, in a tone which did not express conviction.
Meanwhile Mr. Ambrose and Mrs. Goddard walked briskly in front; so briskly in fact that Nellie occasionally jumped a step, as children say, in order to keep up with them.
“What a glorious Christmas eve!” exclaimed Mrs. Goddard, as they turned a bend in the drive and caught sight of the western sky still clear and red. “And there is the new moon!” The slender crescent was hanging just above the fading glow.