Poor John, he had but one idea, which consisted simply in getting Mrs. Goddard to himself as often and as long as possible. Unfortunately this idea did not coincide with Mr. Juxon’s views. Mr. Juxon was an older, slower and calmer man than the enthusiastic young scholar, and though very far from obtruding his views or making any assertion of his rights, was equally far from forgetting them. He was a man more of actions than words. He had been in the habit of monopolising Mrs. Goddard’s society for months and he had no intention of relinquishing his claims, even for the charitable purpose of allowing a poor student to enjoy his Christmas holiday and bit of romance undisturbed. If John had presented himself as a boy, it might have been different; but John emphatically considered himself a man, and the squire was quite willing to treat him as such, since he desired it. That is to say he would not permit him to “cut him out” as he would have expressed it. The result of the position in which John and Mr. Juxon soon found themselves was to be expected.
John did not sleep so peacefully nor dream so happily that night as on the night before. The course of true love had not run smooth that afternoon. The squire had insisted upon having his share of the lovely Mrs. Goddard’s society and she herself had not seemed greatly disturbed at a temporary separation from John. The latter amused her for a little while; the former held the position of a friend whose conversation she liked better than that of other people. John was disappointed and thought of going back to Cambridge the next day. So strong, indeed, was his sudden desire to leave Billingsfield without finishing his visit, that before going to bed he had packed some of his belongings into his small portmanteau; the tears almost stood in his eyes as he busied himself about his room and he muttered certain formulae of self-accusation as he collected his things, saying over and over in his heart—“What a fool I am! Why should she care for me? What am I that she should care for me?” etc. etc. Then he opened his window and looked at the bright stars which shone out over the old yew tree; but it was exceedingly cold, and so he shut it again and went to bed, feeling very uncomfortable and unhappy.
But when he awoke in the morning he looked at his half-packed portmanteau and laughed, and instead of saying “What a fool I am!” he said “What a fool I was!”—which is generally and in most conditions of human affairs a much wiser thing to say. Then he carefully took everything out of the portmanteau again and replaced things as they had lain before in his room, lest perchance Susan, the housemaid, should detect what had passed through his mind on the previous evening and should tell Mrs. Ambrose. And from all this it appears that John was exceedingly young, as indeed he was, in spite of his being nearly one and twenty years of age.