Reflecting calmly upon his last interview with Mrs. Goddard, he was surprised to find that his memory failed him. He could not recall anything which could satisfactorily account for the terrible disappointment and distress he had felt. She had only said that she was thirty-one years old, precisely as the vicar had stated on the previous evening, and she had advised him not to marry for some years to come. But she had laughed, and his feelings had been deeply wounded—he could not tell precisely at what point in the conversation, but he was quite certain that she had laughed, and oh! that terrible Nellie! It was very bitter, and John felt that the best part of his life was lived out. He went back to his books with a dark and melancholy tenacity of purpose, flavoured by a hope that he might come to some sudden and awful end in the course of the next fortnight, thereby causing untold grief and consternation to the hard-hearted woman he had loved. But before the fortnight had expired he found to his surprise that he was intensely interested in his work, and once or twice he caught himself wondering how Mrs. Goddard would look when he went back to Billingsfield and told her he had come out at the head of the classical Tripos—though, of course, he had no intention of going there, nor of ever seeing her again.
Mr. Juxon was relieved to hear that John Short had suddenly gone back to Cambridge. He had indeed meant to like him from the first and had behaved towards him with kindness and hospitality; but while ready to admire his good qualities and to take a proper amount of interest in his approaching contest for honours, he had found him a troublesome person to deal with and, in his own words, a nuisance. Matters had come to a climax after the tea at the cottage, when the squire had so completely vanquished him, but since that evening the two had not met.
The opposition which John brought to bear against Mr. Juxon was not, however, without its effect. The squire was in that state of mind in which a little additional pressure sufficed to sway his resolutions. It has been seen that he had for some time regarded Mrs. Goddard’s society as an indispensable element in his daily life; he had been so much astonished at discovering this that he had absented himself for several days and had finally returned ready to submit to his fate, in so far as his fate required that he should see Mrs. Goddard every day. Shortly afterwards John had appeared and by his persistent attempts to monopolise Mrs. Goddard’s conversation had again caused an interruption in the squire’s habits, which the latter had resented with characteristic firmness. The very fact of having resisted John had strengthened and given a new tone to Mr. Juxon’s feelings towards his tenant. He began to watch the hands of the clock with more impatience than formerly when, after breakfast, he sat reading the papers before