When Nellie came home from the vicarage she found her mother looking very ill. There were dark rings under her eyes, and her features were drawn and tear-stained, while the beautiful waves of her brown hair had lost their habitual neatness and symmetry. The child noticed these things, with a child’s quickness, but explained them on the ground that her mother’s headache was probably much worse. Mrs. Goddard accepted the explanation and on the following day Nellie had forgotten all about it; but her mother remembered it long, and it was many days before she recovered entirely from the shock of her interview with the squire. The latter did not come to see her as usual, but on the morning after his visit he sent her down a package of books and some orchids from his hothouses. He thought it best to leave her to herself for a little while; the very sight of him, he argued, would be painful to her, and any meeting with her would be painful to himself. He did not go out of the house, but spent the whole day in his library among his books, not indeed reading, but pretending to himself that he was very busy. Being a strong and sensible man he did not waste time in bemoaning his sorrows, but he thought about them long and earnestly. The more he thought, the more it appeared to him that Mrs. Goddard was the person who deserved pity rather than he himself. His mind dwelt on the terrors of her position in case her husband should return and claim his wife and daughter when the twelve years were over, and he thought with horror of Nellie’s humiliation, if at the age of twenty she should discover that her father during all these years had not been honourably dead and buried, but had been suffering the punishment of a felon in Portland. That the only attempt he had ever made to enter the matrimonial state should have been so singularly unfortunate was indeed a matter which caused him sincere sorrow; he had thought too often of being married to Mary Goddard to be able to give up the idea without a sigh. But it is due to him to say that in the midst of his own disappointment he thought much more of her sorrows than of his own, a state of mind most probably due to his temperament.
He saw also how impossible it was to console Mrs. Goddard or even to alleviate the distress of mind which she must constantly feel. Her destiny was accomplished in part, and the remainder seemed absolutely inevitable. No one could prevent her husband from leaving his prison when his crime was expiated; and no one could then prevent him from joining his wife and ending his life under her roof. At least so it seemed. Endless complications would follow. Mrs. Goddard would certainly have to leave Billingsfield—no one could expect the Ambroses or the squire himself to associate with a convict forger. Mr. Juxon vaguely wondered whether he should live another nine years to see the end of all this, and he inwardly