“Have you got into any trouble at Trinity, John?” he asked severely.
“Oh no—no indeed,” said John. Nothing was further from his thoughts than his college at that moment. “I want to ask you a question, which no one else can answer. Is—do you think that—that Mr. Juxon has any idea of marrying Mrs. Goddard?”
The vicar started in astonishment and laid both hands upon the arms of his chair.
“What—in the world—put that—into your head?” he asked very slowly, emphasising every word of his question. John was prepared to see his old tutor astonished but was rather taken aback at the vicar’s tone.
“Do you think it is likely, sir?” he insisted.
“Certainly not,” answered the vicar, still eyeing him suspiciously. “Certainly not. I have positive reasons to prove the contrary. But, my dear John, why, in the name of all that is sensible, do you ask me such a question? You don’t seriously think of proposing—”
“I don’t see why I should not,” said John doggedly, seeing that he was found out.
“You don’t see why you should not? Why the thing is perfectly absurd, not to say utterly impossible! John, you are certainly mad.”
“I don’t see why,” repeated John. “I am a grown man. I have good prospects—”
“Good prospects!” ejaculated the vicar in horror. “Good prospects! Why, you are only an undergraduate at Cambridge.”
“I may be senior classic in a few months,” objected John. “That is not such a bad prospect, it seems to me.”
“It means that you may get a fellowship, probably will—in the course of a few years. But you lose it if you marry. Besides—do you know that Mrs. Goddard is ten years older than you, and more?”
“Impossible,” said John in a tone of conviction.
“I know that she is. She will be two and thirty on her next birthday, and you are not yet one and twenty.”
“I shall be next month,” argued John, who was somewhat taken aback, however, by the alarming news of Mrs. Goddard’s age. “Besides, I can go into the church, before I get a fellowship—”
“No, you can’t,” said the vicar energetically. “You won’t be able to manage it. If you do, you will have to put up with a poor living.”
“That would not matter. Mrs. Goddard has something—”
“An honourable prospect!” exclaimed Mr. Ambrose, growing more and more excited. “To marry a woman ten years older than yourself because she has a little money of her own! You! I would not have thought it of you, John—indeed I would not!”
Indeed no one was more surprised than John Short himself, when he found himself arguing the possibilities of his marriage with his old tutor. But he was an obstinate young fellow enough and was not inclined to give up the fight easily.
“Really,” he objected, “I cannot see anything so very terrible in the idea. I shall certainly make my way in the world. You know that it is not for the sake of her money. Many men have married women ten years older than themselves, and not half so beautiful and charming, I am sure.”