They walked on for some minutes in silence. John reflected that he had witnessed a phase of Mrs. Goddard’s character of which he had been very far from suspecting the existence. He had not hitherto imagined her to be a woman of quick temper or sharp speech. His idea of her was formed chiefly upon her appearance. Her sad face, with its pathetic expression, suggested a melancholy humour delighting in subdued and tranquil thoughts, inclined naturally to the romantic view, or to what in the eyes of youths of twenty appears to be the romantic view of life. He had suddenly found her answering him with a sharpness which, while it roused his wits, startled his sensibilities. But he was flattered as well. His instinct and his observation of Mrs. Goddard when in the society of others led him to believe that with Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose, or even with Mr. Juxon, she was not in the habit of talking as she talked with him. He was therefore inwardly pleased, so soon as his passing annoyance had subsided, to feel that she made a difference between him and others.
It was quite true that she made a distinction, though she did so almost unconsciously. It was perfectly natural, too. She was young in heart, in spite of her thirty years and her troubles; she had an elastic temperament; to a physiognomist her face would have shown a delicate sensitiveness to impressions rather than any inborn tendency to sadness. In spite of everything she was still young, and for two years and a half she had been in the society of persons much older than herself, persons she respected and regarded as friends, but persons in whom her youth found no sympathy. It was natural, therefore, that when time to some extent had healed the wound she had suffered and she suddenly found herself in the society of a young and enthusiastic man, something of the enforced soberness of her manner should unbend, showing her character in a new light. She herself enjoyed the change, hardly knowing why; she enjoyed a little passage of arms with John, and it amused her more than she could have expected to be young again, to annoy him, to break the peace and heal it again in five minutes. But what happened entirely failed to amuse the squire, who did not regard such diversions as harmless; and moreover she was far from expecting the effect which her treatment of John Short produced upon his scholarly but enthusiastic temper.
The squire had remarked that John Short seemed to have a peculiar temper, and Mrs. Goddard had observed the same thing. What has gone before sufficiently explains the change in John’s manner, and the difference in his behaviour was plainly apparent even to Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose. The vicar indeed was wise enough to see that John was very much attracted by Mrs. Goddard, but he was also wise enough to say nothing about it. His wife, however, who had witnessed no love-making for nearly thirty years,