“I don’t believe it,” said the vicar, “and if they have, why it has been very different, that is all. Besides, you have not known Mrs. Goddard a week—positively not more than five days—why, it is madness! Do you mean to tell me that at the end of five days you believe you are seriously attached to a lady you never saw in your life before?”
“I saw her once,” said John. “That day when I waked Muggins—”
“Once! Nearly three years ago! I have no patience with you, John! That a young fellow of your capabilities should give way to such a boyish fancy! It is absolutely amazing! I thought you were growing to like her society very much, but I did not believe it would, come to this!”
“It is nothing to be ashamed of,” said John stoutly.
“It is something to be afraid of,” answered the vicar.
“Oh, do not be alarmed,” retorted John. “I will do nothing rash. You have set my mind at rest in assuring me that she will not marry Mr. Juxon. I shall not think of offering myself to Mrs. Goddard until after the Tripos.”
“Offering myself”—how deliciously important the expression sounded to John’s own ears! It conveyed such a delightful sense of the possibilities of life when at last he should feel that he was in a position to offer himself to any woman, especially to Mrs. Goddard.
“I have a great mind not to ask you to come down, even if you do turn out senior classic,” said the vicar, still fuming with excitement. “But if you put off your rash action until then, you will probably have changed your mind.”
“I will never change my mind,” said John confidently. It was evident, nevertheless, that if the romance of his life were left to the tender mercies of the Reverend Augustin Ambrose, it was likely to come to an abrupt termination. When the two returned to the society of Mrs. Ambrose, the vicar was still very much agitated and John was plunged in a gloomy melancholy.
The vicar’s suspicions were more than realized and he passed an uncomfortable day after his interview with John, in debating what he ought to do, whether he ought to do anything at all, or whether he should merely hasten his old pupil’s departure and leave matters to take care of themselves. He was a very conscientious man, and he felt that he was responsible for John’s conduct towards Mrs. Goddard, seeing that she had put herself under his protection, and that John was almost like one of his family. His first impulse was to ask counsel of his wife, but he rejected the plan, reflecting with great justice that she was very fond of John and had at first not been sure of liking Mrs. Goddard; she would be capable of thinking that the latter had “led Short on,” as she would probably say. The vicar did not believe this, and was therefore loath that any one else should. He felt that circumstances had made him Mrs. Goddard’s protector, and he was moreover