After breakfast John went out, on pretence of walking in the garden, and Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose were left alone. The latter, as usual after the morning meal, busied herself about the room, searching out those secret corners which she suspected Susan of having forgotten to dust. The vicar stood looking out of the window. The weather was grey and it seemed likely that there would be a thaw which would spoil the skating.
“I think,” said Mrs. Ambrose, “that John is far from well.”
“What makes you say that?” inquired the vicar, who was thinking of him at that very moment.
“Anybody might see it. He has no appetite—he ate nothing at breakfast this morning. He looks pale. My dear, that boy will certainly break down.”
“I don’t believe it,” answered Mr. Ambrose still looking out of the window. His hands were in his pockets, thrusting the skirts of his clerical coat to right and left; he slowly raised himself upon his toes and let himself down again, repeating the operation as though it helped him to think.
“That is the way you spoil all your coats, Augustin,” said his wife looking at him from behind. “I assure you, my dear, that boy is not well. Poor fellow, all alone at college with nobody to look after him—”
“We have all had to go through that. I do not think it hurts him a bit,” said the vicar, slowly removing his hands from his pockets in deference to his wife’s suggestion.
“Then what is it, I would like to know? There is certainly something the matter. Now I ask you whether he looks like himself?”
“Perhaps he does look a little tired.”
“Tired! There is something on his mind, Augustin. I am positively certain there is something on his mind. Why won’t you tell me?”
“My dear—” began the vicar, and then stopped short. He was a very truthful man, and as he knew very well what was the matter with John he was embarrassed to find an answer. “My dear,” he repeated, “I do not think he is ill.”