John, however, did not moralise upon his situation. The weather was again fine and as he dressed his spirits rose. He became magnanimous and resolved to forget yesterday and make the most of today. He would see Mrs. Goddard of course; perhaps he would show her a little coldness at first, giving her to understand that she had not treated him well on the previous afternoon; then he would interest her by his talk—he would repeat to her one of those unlucky odes and translate it for her benefit, making use of the freedom he would thus get in order to make her an unlimited number of graceful compliments. Perhaps, too, he ought to pay more attention to Nellie, if he wished to conciliate her mother. Women, he reflected, have such strange prejudices!
He wondered whether it would be proper for him to call upon Mrs. Goddard. He was not quite sure about it, and he was rather ashamed of having so little knowledge of the world; but he believed that in Billingsfield he might run the risk. There had been talk of skating again that morning, and so, about ten o’clock, John told Mr. Ambrose he would go for a short walk and then join them all at the pond in the park. The project seemed good, and he put it into execution. As he walked up the frozen road, he industriously repeated in his mind the Greek verses he was going to translate to Mrs. Goddard; he had no copy of them but his memory was very good. He met half a dozen labourers, strolling about with their pipes until it was time to go and have a pint of beer, as is their manner upon holidays; they touched their hats to him, remembering his face well, and he smiled happily at the rough fellows, contrasting his situation with theirs, who from the misfortune of social prejudice were not permitted to go and call upon Mrs. Goddard. His heart beat rather fast as he went up to the door of the cottage, and for one unpleasant moment he again doubted whether it was proper for him to make such an early visit. But being bent on romantic adventure he rang boldly and inquired for Mrs. Goddard.
She was surprised to see John at that hour and alone; but it did not enter her head to refuse him admittance. Indeed as he stood in the little passage he heard the words which passed between her and Martha.
“What is it, Martha?”
“It’s a young gentleman, mam. I rather think, mam, it’s the young gentleman that’s stopping at the vicarage.”
“Oh—ask him to come in.”
“In ’ere, mam?”