Part 6 out of 11
Poor Mrs. Quiverful was ready enough with her own tongue in accusing
her husband to his face of being soft, and perhaps did not always
speak of him to her children quite so respectfully as she might have
done. But she did not at all like to hear him abused by others and
began to vindicate him and to explain that of course he had taken Mr.
Slope to be an emissary from Mrs. Proudie herself; that Mr. Slope was
thought to be peculiarly her friend; and that, therefore, Mr.
Quiverful would have been failing in respect to her had he assumed to
doubt what Mr. Slope had said.
Thus mollified, Mrs. Proudie again declared that she "would not have
it done," and at last sent Mrs. Quiverful home with an assurance
that, to the furthest stretch of her power and influence in the
palace, the appointment of Mr. Quiverful should be insisted on. As
she repeated the word "insisted," she thought of the bishop in his
night-cap and, with compressed lips, slightly shook her head. Oh, my
aspiring pastors, divines to whose ears nolo episcopari are the
sweetest of words, which of you would be a bishop on such terms as
Mrs. Quiverful got home in the farmer's cart, not indeed with a light
heart, but satisfied that she had done right in making her visit.
A Love Scene
Mr. Slope, as we have said, left the palace with a feeling of
considerable triumph. Not that he thought that his difficulties were
all over--he did not so deceive himself--but he felt that he had
played his first move well, as well as the pieces on the board would
allow, and that he had nothing with which to reproach himself. He
first of all posted the letter to the archbishop and, having made
that sure, proceeded to push the advantage which he had gained. Had
Mrs. Bold been at home, he would have called on her, but he knew that
she was at Plumstead, so he wrote the following note. It was the
beginning of what, he trusted, might be a long and tender series of
MY DEAR MRS. BOLD,
You will understand perfectly that I cannot at present correspond
with your father. I heartily wish that I could and hope the day may
be not long distant when mists shall have been cleared away and we
may know each other. But I cannot preclude myself from the pleasure
of sending you these few lines to say that Mr. Q. has to-day, in my
presence, resigned any title that he ever had to the wardenship of
the hospital, and that the bishop has assured me that it is his
intention to offer it to your esteemed father.
Will you, with my respectful compliments, ask him, who I believe is
now a fellow-visitor with you, to call on the bishop either on
Wednesday or Thursday, between ten and one. This is by the bishop's
desire. If you will so far oblige me as to let me have a line naming
either day, and the hour which will suit Mr. Harding, I will take
care that the servants shall have orders to show him in without
delay. Perhaps I should say no more--but still I wish you could make
your father understand that no subject will be mooted between his
lordship and him which will refer at all to the method in which he
may choose to perform his duty. I for one am persuaded that no
clergyman could perform it more satisfactorily than he did, or than
he will do again.
On a former occasion I was indiscreet and much too impatient,
considering your father's age and my own. I hope he will not now
refuse my apology. I still hope also that with your aid and sweet
pious labours we may live to attach such a Sabbath-school to the old
endowment as may, by God's grace and furtherance, be a blessing to
the poor of this city.
You will see at once that this letter is confidential. The subject,
of course, makes it so. But, equally, of course, it is for your
parent's eye as well as for your own, should you think proper to show
it to him.
I hope my darling little friend Johnny is as strong as ever--dear
little fellow. Does he still continue his rude assaults on those
beautiful long silken tresses?
I can assure you your friends miss you from Barchester sorely, but it
would be cruel to begrudge you your sojourn among flowers and fields
during this truly sultry weather.
Pray believe me, my dear Mrs. Bold,
Yours most sincerely,
Now this letter, taken as a whole, and with the consideration that
Mr. Slope wished to assume a great degree of intimacy with Eleanor,
would not have been bad but for the allusion to the tresses.
Gentlemen do not write to ladies about their tresses unless they are
on very intimate terms indeed. But Mr. Slope could not be expected
to be aware of this. He longed to put a little affection into his
epistle, and yet he thought it injudicious, as the letter would, he
knew, be shown to Mr. Harding. He would have insisted that the
letter should be strictly private and seen by no eyes but Eleanor's
own, had he not felt that such an injunction would have been
disobeyed. He therefore restrained his passion, did not sign himself
"yours affectionately," and contented himself instead with the
compliment to the tresses.
Having finished his letter, he took it to Mrs. Bold's house and,
learning there, from the servant, that things were to be sent out to
Plumstead that afternoon, left it, with many injunctions, in her
We will now follow Mr. Slope so as to complete the day with him and
then return to his letter and its momentous fate in the next chapter.
There is an old song which gives us some very good advice about
It's gude to be off with the auld luve
Before ye be on wi' the new.
Of the wisdom of this maxim Mr. Slope was ignorant, and accordingly,
having written his letter to Mrs. Bold, he proceeded to call upon the
Signora Neroni. Indeed, it was hard to say which was the old love
and which the new, Mr. Slope having been smitten with both so nearly
at the same time. Perhaps he thought it not amiss to have two
strings to his bow. But two strings to Cupid's bow are always
dangerous to him on whose behalf they are to be used. A man should
remember that between two stools he may fall to the ground.
But in sooth Mr. Slope was pursuing Mrs. Bold in obedience to his
better instincts, and the signora in obedience to his worser. Had he
won the widow and worn her, no one, could have blamed him. You,
O reader, and I and Eleanor's other friends would have received the
story of such a winning with much disgust and disappointment, but we
should have been angry with Eleanor, not with Mr. Slope. Bishop,
male and female, dean and chapter and diocesan clergy in full
congress could have found nothing to disapprove of in such an
alliance. Convocation itself, that mysterious and mighty synod,
could in no wise have fallen foul of it. The possession of £1000 a
year and a beautiful wife would not at all have hurt the voice of the
pulpit charmer, or lessened the grace and piety of the exemplary
But not of such a nature were likely to be his dealings with the
Signora Neroni. In the first place he knew that her husband was
living, and therefore he could not woo her honestly. Then again she
had nothing to recommend her to his honest wooing had such been
possible. She was not only portionless, but also from misfortune
unfitted to be chosen as the wife of any man who wanted a useful
mate. Mr. Slope was aware that she was a helpless, hopeless cripple.
But Mr. Slope could not help himself. He knew that he was wrong in
devoting his time to the back drawing-room in Dr. Stanhope's house.
He knew that what took place there would, if divulged, utterly ruin
him with Mrs. Bold. He knew that scandal would soon come upon his
heels and spread abroad among the black coats of Barchester some
tidings, exaggerated tidings, of the sighs which he poured into the
lady's ears. He knew that he was acting against the recognized
principles of his life, against those laws of conduct by which he
hoped to achieve much higher success. But, as we have said, he could
not help himself. Passion, for the first time in his life, passion
was too strong for him.
As for the signora, no such plea can be put forward for her, for in
truth she cared no more for Mr. Slope than she did for twenty others
who had been at her feet before him. She willingly, nay greedily,
accepted his homage. He was the finest fly that Barchester had
hitherto afforded to her web, and the signora was a powerful spider
that made wondrous webs and could in no way live without catching
flies. Her taste in this respect was abominable, for she had no use
for the victims when caught. She could not eat them matrimonially,
as young lady flies do whose webs are most frequently of their
mothers' weaving. Nor could she devour them by any escapade of a
less legitimate description. Her unfortunate affliction precluded
her from all hope of levanting with a lover. It would be impossible
to run away with a lady who required three servants to move her from
The signora was subdued by no passion. Her time for love was gone.
She had lived out her heart, such heart as she had ever had, in her
early years, at an age when Mr. Slope was thinking of the second book
of Euclid and his unpaid bill at the buttery hatch. In age the lady
was younger than the gentleman, but in feelings, in knowledge of the
affairs of love, in intrigue, he was immeasurably her junior. It was
necessary to her to have some man at her feet. It was the one
customary excitement of her life. She delighted in the exercise of
power which this gave her; it was now nearly the only food for her
ambition; she would boast to her sister that she could make a fool of
any man, and the sister, as little imbued with feminine delicacy as
herself, good-naturedly thought it but fair that such amusement
should be afforded to a poor invalid who was debarred from the
ordinary pleasures of life.
Mr. Slope was madly in love but hardly knew it. The Signora spitted
him, as a boy does a cockchafer on a cork, that she might enjoy the
energetic agony of his gyrations. And she knew very well what she
Mr. Slope having added to his person all such adornments as are
possible to a clergyman making a morning visit--such as a clean
necktie, clean handkerchief, new gloves, and a soupçon of not
unnecessary scent--called about three o'clock at the doctor's door.
At about this hour the signora was almost always alone in the back
drawing-room. The mother had not come down. The doctor was out or
in his own room. Bertie was out, and Charlotte at any rate left the
room if anyone called whose object was specially with her sister.
Such was her idea of being charitable and sisterly.
Mr: Slope, as was his custom, asked for Mr. Stanhope, and was told,
as was the servant's custom, that the signora was in the drawing-
room. Upstairs he accordingly went. He found her, as he always did,
lying on her sofa with a French volume before her and a beautiful
little inlaid writing-case open on her table. At the moment of his
entrance she was in the act of writing.
"Ah, my friend," said she, putting out her left hand to him across
her desk, "I did not expect you today and was this very instant
writing to you--"
Mr. Slope, taking the soft, fair, delicate hand in his--and very soft
and fair and delicate it was--bowed over it his huge red head and
kissed it. It was a sight to see, a deed to record if the author
could fitly do it, a picture to put on canvas. Mr. Slope was big,
awkward, cumbrous, and, having his heart in his pursuit, was ill at
ease. The lady was fair, as we have said, and delicate; everything
about her was fine and refined; her hand in his looked like a rose
lying among carrots, and when he kissed it, he looked as a cow might
do on finding such a flower among her food. She was graceful as a
couchant goddess and, moreover, as self-possessed as Venus must have
been when courting Adonis.
Oh, that such grace and such beauty should have condescended to waste
itself on such a pursuit!
"I was in the act of writing to you," said she, "but now my scrawl
may go into the basket;" and she raised the sheet of gilded note-
paper from off her desk as though to tear it.
"Indeed it shall not," said he, laying the embargo of half a stone
weight of human flesh and blood upon the devoted paper. "Nothing
that you write for my eyes, signora, shall be so desecrated," and he
took up the letter, put that also among the carrots and fed on it,
and then proceeded to read it.
"Gracious me! Mr. Slope," said she, "I hope you don't mean to say
you keep all the trash I write to you. Half my time I don't know
what I write, and when I do, I know it is only fit for the back of
the fire. I hope you have not that ugly trick of keeping letters."
"At any rate, I don't throw them into a waste-paper basket. If
destruction is their doomed lot, they perish worthily, and are burnt
on a pyre, as Dido was of old."
"With a steel pen stuck through them, of course," said she, 'to make
the simile more complete. Of all the ladies of my acquaintance I
think Lady Dido was the most absurd. Why did she not do as Cleopatra
did? Why did she not take out her ships and insist on going with
him? She could not bear to lose the land she had got by a swindle,
and then she could not bear the loss of her lover. So she fell
between two stools. Mr. Slope, whatever you do, never mingle love
Mr. Slope blushed up to his eyes and over his mottled forehead to the
very roots of his hair. He felt sure that the signora knew all about
his intentions with reference to Mrs Bold. His conscience told him
that he was detected. His doom was to be spoken; he was to be
punished for his duplicity and rejected by the beautiful creature
before him. Poor man. He little dreamt that had all his intentions
with reference to Mrs. Bold been known to the signora, it would only
have added zest to that lady's amusement. It was all very well to
have Mr. Slope at her feet, to show her power by making an utter fool
of a clergyman, to gratify her own infidelity by thus proving the
little strength which religion had in controlling the passions even
of a religious man, but it would be an increased gratification if she
could be made to understand that she was at the same time alluring
her victim away from another, whose love if secured would be in every
way beneficent and salutary.
The Signora had indeed discovered, with the keen instinct of such a
woman, that Mr. Slope was bent on matrimony with Mrs. Bold, but in
alluding to Dido she had not thought of it. She instantly perceived,
however, from her lover's blushes, what was on his mind and was not
slow in taking advantage of it.
She looked him full in the face, not angrily, nor yet with a smile,
but with an intense and overpowering gaze; then, holding up her
forefinger and slightly shaking her head, she said:
"Whatever you do, my friend, do not mingle love and business. Either
stick to your treasure and your city of wealth, or else follow your
love like a true man. But never attempt both. If you do, you'll
have to die with a broken heart as did poor Dido. Which is it to be
with you, Mr. Slope, love or money?"
Mr. Slope was not so ready with a pathetic answer as he usually was
with touching episodes in his extempore sermons. He felt that he
ought to say something pretty, something also that should remove the
impression on the mind of his lady-love. But he was rather put about
how to do it.
"Love," said he, "true overpowering love, must be the strongest
passion a man can feel; it must control every other wish and put
aside every other pursuit. But with me love will never act in that
way unless it be returned;" and he threw upon the signora a look of
tenderness which was intended to make up for all the deficiencies of
"Take my advice," said she. "Never mind love. After all, what is
it? The dream of a few weeks. That is all its joy. The
disappointment of a life is its Nemesis. Who was ever successful in
true love? Success in love argues that the love is false. True love
is always despondent or tragical. Juliet loved, Haidee loved, Dido
loved, and what came of it? Troilus loved and ceased to be a man."
"Troilus loved and was fooled," said the more manly chaplain. "A man
may love and yet not be a Troilus. All women are not Cressidas."
"No, all women are not Cressidas. The falsehood is not always on the
woman's side. Imogen was true, but how was she rewarded? Her lord
believed her to be the paramour of the first he who came near her in
his absence. Desdemona was true and was smothered. Ophelia was true
and went mad. There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an
English novel. But in wealth, money, houses, lands, goods, and
chattels, in the good things of this world, yes, in them there is
something tangible, something that can be retained and enjoyed."
"Oh, no," said Mr. Slope, feeling himself bound to enter some protest
against so very unorthodox a doctrine, "this world's wealth will make
no one happy."
"And what will make you happy--you--you?" said she, raising herself
up and speaking to him with energy across the table. "From what
source do you look for happiness? Do not say that you look for none.
I shall not believe you. It is a search in which every human being
spends an existence."
"And the search is always in vain," said Mr. Slope. "We look for
happiness on earth, while we ought to be content to hope for it in
"Pshaw! You preach a doctrine which you know you don't believe.
It is the way with you all. If you know that there is no earthly
happiness, why do you long to be a bishop or a dean? Why do you
want lands and income?"
"I have the natural ambition of a man," said he.
"Of course you have, and the natural passions, and therefore I say
that you don't believe the doctrine you preach. St Paul was an
enthusiast. He believed so that his ambition and passions did not
war against his creed. So does the Eastern fanatic who passes half
his life erect upon a pillar. As for me, I will believe in no belief
that does not make itself manifest by outward signs. I will think no
preaching sincere that is not recommended by the practice of the
Mr. Slope was startled and horrified, but he felt that he could not
answer. How could he stand up and preach the lessons of his Master,
being there, as he was, on the devil's business? He was a true
believer, otherwise this would have been nothing to him. He had
audacity for most things, but he had not audacity to make a plaything
of the Lord's word. All this the signora understood, and felt much
interest as she saw her cockchafer whirl round upon her pin.
"Your wit delights in such arguments," said he, "but your heart and
your reason do not go along with them."
"My heart!" said she; "you quite mistake the principles of my
composition if you imagine that there is such a thing about me."
After all, there was very little that was false in anything that the
signora said. If Mr. Slope allowed himself to be deceived, it was
his own fault. Nothing could have been more open than her
declarations about herself.
The little writing-table with her desk was still standing before her,
a barrier, as it were, against the enemy. She was sitting as nearly
upright as she ever did, and he had brought a chair close to the
sofa, so that there was only the corner of the table between him and
her. It so happened that as she spoke her hand lay upon the table,
and as Mr. Slope answered her he put his hand upon hers.
"No heart!" said he. "That is a heavy charge which you bring against
yourself, and one of which I cannot find you guilty--
She withdrew her hand, not quickly and angrily, as though insulted by
his touch, but gently and slowly.
"You are in no condition to give a verdict on the matter," said she,
"as you have not tried me. No, don't say that you intend doing so,
for you know you have no intention of the kind; nor indeed have I,
either. As for you, you will take your vows where they will result
in something more substantial than the pursuit of such a ghostlike,
ghastly love as mine--"
"Your love should be sufficient to satisfy the dream of a monarch,"
said Mr. Slope, not quite clear as to the meaning of his words.
"Say an archbishop, Mr. Slope," said she. Poor fellow! She was very
cruel to him. He went round again upon his cork on this allusion to
his profession. He tried, however, to smile and gently accused her
of joking on a matter, which was, he said, to him of such vital
"Why--what gulls do you men make of us," she replied. "How you fool
us to the top of our bent; and of all men you clergymen are the most
fluent of your honeyed, caressing words. Now look me in the face,
Mr. Slope, boldly and openly."
Mr; Slope did look at her with a languishing loving eye, and as he
did so he again put forth his hand to get hold of hers.
"I told you to look at me boldly, Mr. Slope, but confine your
boldness to your eyes."
"Oh, Madeline!" he sighed.
"Well, my name is Madeline," said she, "but none except my own family
usually call me so. Now look me in the face, Mr. Slope. Am I to
understand that you say you love me?"
Mr. Slope never had said so. If he had come there with any formed
plan at all, his intention was to make love to the lady without
uttering any such declaration. It was, however, quite impossible
that he should now deny his love. He had, therefore, nothing for it
but to go down on his knees distractedly against the sofa and swear
that he did love her with a love passing the love of man.
The signora received the assurance with very little palpitation or
appearance of surprise. "And now answer me another question," said
she. "When are you to be married to my dear friend Eleanor Bold?"
Poor Mr. Slope went round and round in mortal agony. In such a
condition as his it was really very hard for him to know what answer
to give. And yet no answer would be his surest condemnation. He
might as well at once plead guilty to the charge brought against him.
"And why do you accuse me of such dissimulation?" said he.
"Dissimulation! I said nothing of dissimulation. I made no charge
against you, and make none. Pray don't defend yourself to me. You
swear that you are devoted to my beauty and yet you are on the eve of
matrimony with another. I feel this to be rather a compliment. It
is to Mrs. Bold that you must defend yourself. That you may find
difficult; unless, indeed, you can keep her in the dark. You
clergymen are cleverer than other men."
"Signora, I have told you that I loved you, and now you rail at me."
"Rail at you. God bless the man, what would he have? Come, answer
me this at your leisure--not without thinking now, but leisurely and
with consideration--are you not going to be married to Mrs. Bold?"
"I am not," said he. And as he said it he almost hated, with an
exquisite hatred, the woman whom he could not help loving with an
"But surely you are a worshipper of hers?"
"I am not," said Mr. Slope, to whom the word worshipper was
peculiarly distasteful. The signora had conceived that it would be
"I wonder at that," said she. "Do you not admire her? To my eye she
is the perfection of English beauty. And then she is rich, too. I
should have thought she was just the person to attract you. Come,
Mr. Slope, let me give you advice on this matter. Marry the charming
widow; she will be a good mother to your children and an excellent
mistress of a clergyman's household."
"Oh, signora, how can you be so cruel?"
"Cruel," said she, changing the voice of banter which she had been
using for one which was expressively earnest in its tone; "is that
"How can I love another while my heart is entirely your own?"
"If that were cruelty, Mr. Slope, what might you say of me if I were
to declare that I returned your passion? What would you think if I
bound you even by a lover's oath to do daily penance at this couch of
mine? What can I give in return for a man's love? Ah, dear friend,
you have not realized the conditions of my fate."
Mr. Slope was not on his knees all this time. After his declaration
of love, he had risen from them as quickly as he thought consistent
with the new position which he now filled, and as he stood was
leaning on the back of his chair. This outburst of tenderness on the
signora's part quite overcame him and made him feel for the moment
that he could sacrifice everything to be assured of the love of the
beautiful creature before him, maimed, lame, and already married as
"And can I not sympathize with your lot?" said he, now seating
himself on her sofa and pushing away the table with his foot.
"Sympathy is so near to pity!" said she. "If you pity me, cripple as
I am, I shall spurn you from me."
"Oh, Madeline, I will only love you," and again he caught her hand
and devoured it with kisses. Now she did not draw it from him, but
sat there as he kissed it, looking at him with her great eyes, just
as a great spider would look at a great fly that was quite securely
"Suppose Signor Neroni were to come to Barchester," said she. "Would
you make his acquaintance?"
"Signor Neroni!" said he.
"Would you introduce him to the bishop, and Mrs. Proudie, and the
young ladies?" said she, again having recourse to that horrid
quizzing voice which Mr. Slope so particularly hated.
'Why do you ask such a question?" said he.
"Because it is necessary that you should know that there is a Signor
Neroni. I think you had forgotten it."
"If I thought that you retained for that wretch one particle of the
love of which he was never worthy, I would die before I would
distract you by telling you what I feel. No! Were your husband the
master of your heart, I might perhaps love you, but you should never
"My heart again! How you talk. And you consider then that if a
husband be not master of his wife's heart, he has no right to her
fealty; if a wife ceases to love, she may cease to be true. Is that
your doctrine on this matter, as a minister of the Church of
Mr. Slope tried hard within himself to cast off the pollution with
which he felt that he was defiling his soul. He strove to tear
himself away from the noxious siren that had bewitched him. But he
could not do it. He could not be again heart free. He had looked
for rapturous joy in loving this lovely creature, and he already
found that he met with little but disappointment and self-rebuke. He
had come across the fruit of the Dead Sea, so sweet and delicious to
the eye, so bitter and nauseous to the taste. He had put the apple
to his mouth, and it had turned to ashes between his teeth. Yet he
could not tear himself away. He knew, he could not but know, that
she jeered at him, ridiculed his love, and insulted the weakness of
his religion. But she half-permitted his adoration, and that half-
permission added such fuel to his fire that all the fountain of his
piety could not quench it. He began to feel savage, irritated, and
revengeful. He meditated some severity of speech, some taunt that
should cut her, as her taunts cut him. He reflected as he stood
there for a moment, silent before her, that if he desired to quell
her proud spirit, he should do so by being prouder even than herself;
that if he wished to have her at his feet suppliant for his love, it
behoved him to conquer her by indifference. All this passed through
his mind. As far as dead knowledge went, he knew, or thought he
knew, how a woman should be tamed. But when he essayed to bring his
tactics to bear, he failed like a child. What chance has dead
knowledge with experience in any of the transactions between man and
man? What possible chance between man and woman? Mr. Slope loved
furiously, insanely and truly, but he had never played the game of
love. The signora did not love at all, but she was up to every move
of the board. It was Philidor pitted against a schoolboy.
And so she continued to insult him, and he continued to bear it.
Sacrifice the world for love!" she said in answer to some renewed
vapid declaration of his passion. "How often has the same thing been
said, and how invariably with the same falsehood!"
"Falsehood," said he. "Do you say that I am false to you? Do you
say that my love is not real?"
"False? Of course it is false, false as the father of falsehood--if
indeed falsehoods need a sire and are not self-begotten since the
world began. You are ready to sacrifice the world for love? Come
let us see what you will sacrifice. I care nothing for nuptial vows.
The wretch, I think you were kind enough to call him so, whom I swore
to love and obey is so base that he can only be thought of with
repulsive disgust. In the council chamber of my heart I have
divorced him. To me that is as good as though aged lords had gloated
for months over the details of his licentious life. I care nothing
for what the world can say. Will you be as frank? Will you take me
to your home as your wife? Will you call me Mrs. Slope before
bishop, dean, and prebendaries?" The poor tortured wretch stood
silent, not knowing what to say. "What! You won't do that. Tell
me, then, what part of the world is it that you will sacrifice for my
"Were you free to marry, I would take you to my house tomorrow and
wish no higher privilege."
"I am free," said she, almost starting up in her energy. For though
there was no truth in her pretended regard for her clerical admirer,
there was a mixture of real feeling in the scorn and satire with
which she spoke of love and marriage generally. "I am free--free as
the winds. Come, will you take me as I am? Have your wish;
sacrifice the world, and prove yourself a true man."
Mr. Slope should have taken her at her word. She would have drawn
back, and he would have had the full advantage of the offer. But he
did not. Instead of doing so, he stood wrapt in astonishment,
passing his fingers through his lank red hair and thinking, as he
stared upon her animated countenance, that her wondrous beauty grew
more wonderful as he gazed on it. "Ha! ha! ha!" she laughed out
loud. "Come, Mr. Slope, don't talk of sacrificing the world again.
People beyond one-and-twenty should never dream of such a thing. You
and I, if we have the dregs of any love left in us, if we have the
remnants of a passion remaining in our hearts, should husband our
resources better. We are not in our première jeunesse. The world is
a very nice place. Your world, at any rate, is so. You have all
manner of fat rectories to get and possible bishoprics to enjoy.
Come, confess; on second thoughts you would not sacrifice such things
for the smiles of a lame lady?"
It was impossible for him to answer this. In order to be in any way
dignified, he felt that he must be silent.
"Come," said she, "don't boody with me: don't be angry because I
speak out some home truths. Alas, the world, as I have found it, has
taught me bitter truths. Come, tell me that I am forgiven. Are we
not to be friends?" and she again put out her hand to him.
He sat himself down in the chair beside her, took her proffered hand,
and leant over her.
"There," said she with her sweetest, softest smile--a smile to
withstand which a man should be cased in triple steel, "there; seal
your forgiveness on it," and she raised it towards his face. He
kissed it again and again and stretched over her as though desirous
of extending the charity of his pardon beyond the hand that was
offered to him. She managed, however, to check his ardour. For one
so easily allured as this poor chaplain, her hand was surely enough.
"Oh, Madeline!" said he, "tell me that you love me--do you--do you
"Hush," said she. "There is my mother's step. Our tête-à-tête has
been of monstrous length. Now you had better go. But we shall see
you soon again, shall we not?"
Mr. Slope promised that he would call again on the following day.
"And, Mr. Slope," she continued, "pray answer my note. You have it
in your hand, though I declare during these two hours you have not
been gracious enough to read it. It is about the Sabbath-school and
the children. You know how anxious I am to have them here. I have
been learning the catechism myself, on purpose. You must manage it
for me next week. I will teach them, at any rate, to submit
themselves to their spiritual pastors and masters."
Mr. Slope said but little on the subject of Sabbath-schools, but he
made his adieu and betook himself home with a sad heart, troubled
mind, and uneasy conscience.
Mrs. Bold is Entertained by Dr. and Mrs. Grantly at Plumstead
It will be remembered that Mr. Slope, when leaving his billet-doux at
the house of Mrs. Bold, had been informed that it would be sent out
to her at Plumstead that afternoon. The archdeacon and Mr. Harding
had in fact come into town together in the brougham, and it had been
arranged that they should call for Eleanor's parcels as they left on
their way home. Accordingly they did so call, and the maid, as she
handed to the coachman a small basket and large bundle carefully and
neatly packed, gave in at the carriage window Mr. Slope's epistle.
The archdeacon, who was sitting next to the window, took it and
immediately recognized the hand-writing of his enemy.
"Who left this?" said he.
"Mr. Slope called with it himself, your Reverence," said the girl,
"and was very anxious that Missus should have it today."
So the brougham drove off, and the letter was left in the
archdeacon's hand. He looked at it as though he held a basket of
adders. He could not have thought worse of the document had he read
it and discovered it to be licentious and atheistical. He did,
moreover, what so many wise people are accustomed to do in similar
circumstances; he immediately condemned the person to whom the letter
was written, as though she were necessarily a particeps criminis.
Poor Mr. Harding, though by no means inclined to forward Mr. Slope's
intimacy with his daughter, would have given anything to have kept
the letter from his son-in-law. But that was now impossible. There
it was in his hand, and he looked as thoroughly disgusted as though
he were quite sure that it contained all the rhapsodies of a favoured
"It's very hard on me," said he after awhile, "that this should go on
under my roof."
Now here the archdeacon was certainly most unreasonable. Having
invited his sister-in-law to his house, it was a natural consequence
that she should receive her letters there. And if Mr. Slope chose to
write to her, his letter would, as a matter of course, be sent after
her. Moreover, the very fact of an invitation to one's house implies
confidence on the part of the inviter. He had shown that he thought
Mrs. Bold to be a fit person to stay with him by his asking her to do
so, and it was most cruel to her that he should complain of her
violating the sanctity of his roof-tree, when the laches committed
were none of her committing.
Mr. Harding felt this and felt also that when the archdeacon talked
thus about his roof, what he said was most offensive to himself as
Eleanor's father. If Eleanor did receive a letter from Mr. Slope,
what was there in that to pollute the purity of Dr. Grantly's
household? He was indignant that his daughter should be so judged
and so spoken of, and he made up his mind that even as Mrs. Slope she
must be dearer to him than any other creature on God's earth. He
almost broke out and said as much, but for the moment he restrained
"Here," said the archdeacon, handing the offensive missile to his
father-in-law, "I am not going to be the bearer of his love-letters.
You are her father and may do as you think fit with it."
By doing as he thought fit with it, the archdeacon certainly meant
that Mr. Harding would be justified in opening and reading the letter
and taking any steps which might in consequence be necessary. To
tell the truth, Dr. Grantly did feel rather a stronger curiosity than
was justified by his outraged virtue to see the contents of the
letter. Of course he could not open it himself, but he wished to
make Mr. Harding understand that he, as Eleanor's father, would be
fully justified in doing so. The idea of such a proceeding never
occurred to Mr. Harding. His authority over Eleanor ceased when she
became the wife of John Bold. He had not the slightest wish to pry
into her correspondence. He consequently put the letter into his
pocket and only wished that he had been able to do so without the
archdeacon's knowledge. They both sat silent during half the journey
home, and then Dr. Grantly said, "Perhaps Susan had better give it to
her. She can explain to her sister better than either you or I can
do how deep is the disgrace of such an acquaintance."
"I think you are very hard upon Eleanor," replied Mr. Harding. "I
will not allow that she has disgraced herself, nor do I think it
likely that she will do so. She has a right to correspond with whom
she pleases, and I shall not take upon myself to blame her because
she gets a letter from Mr. Slope."
"I suppose," said Dr. Grantly, "you don't wish her to marry the man.
I suppose you'll admit that she would disgrace herself if she did do
"I do not wish her to marry him," said the perplexed father. "I do
not like him and do not think he would make a good husband. But if
Eleanor chooses to do so, I shall certainly not think that she
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Dr. Grantly and threw himself back into the
corner of his brougham. Mr. Harding said nothing more but commenced
playing a dirge with an imaginary fiddle bow upon an imaginary
violoncello, for which there did not appear to be quite room enough
in the carriage; he continued the tune, with sundry variations, till
he arrived at the rectory door.
The archdeacon had been meditating sad things in his mind. Hitherto
he had always looked on his father-in-law as a true partisan, though
he knew him to be a man devoid of all the combative qualifications
for that character. He had felt no fear that Mr. Harding would go
over to the enemy, though he had never counted much on the
ex-warden's prowess in breaking the hostile ranks. Now, however, it
seemed that Eleanor, with her wiles, had completely trepanned and
bewildered her father, cheated him out of his judgement, robbed him
of the predilections and tastes of his life, and caused him to be
tolerant of a man whose arrogance and vulgarity would, a few years
since, have been unendurable to him. That the whole thing was as
good as arranged between Eleanor and Mr. Slope there was no longer
any room to doubt. That Mr. Harding knew that such was the case,
even this could hardly be doubted. It was too manifest that he at
any rate suspected it and was prepared to sanction it.
And to tell the truth, such was the case. Mr. Harding disliked Mr.
Slope as much as it was in his nature to dislike any man. Had his
daughter wished to do her worst to displease him by a second
marriage, she could hardly have succeeded better than by marrying Mr.
Slope. But, as he said to himself now very often, what right had he
to condemn her if she did nothing that was really wrong? If she
liked Mr. Slope, it was her affair. It was indeed miraculous to him
that a woman with such a mind, so educated, so refined, so nice in
her tastes, should like such a man. Then he asked himself whether it
was possible that she did so.
Ah, thou weak man; most charitable, most Christian, but weakest of
men! Why couldn't thou not have asked herself? Was she not the
daughter of thy loins, the child of thy heart, the best beloved to
thee of all humanity? Had she not proved to thee, by years of
closest affection, her truth and goodness and filial obedience? And
yet, knowing and feeling all this, thou couldst endure to go groping
in darkness, hearing her named in strains which wounded thy loving
heart and being unable to defend her as thou shouldst have done!
Mr. Harding had not believed, did not believe, that his daughter
meant to marry this man, but he feared to commit himself to such an
opinion. If she did do it there would be then no means of retreat.
The wishes of his heart were: first, that there should be no truth in
the archdeacon's surmises; and in this wish he would have fain
trusted entirely, had he dared so to do; secondly, that the match
might be prevented, if unfortunately, it had been contemplated by
Eleanor; thirdly, that should she be so infatuated as to marry this
man, he might justify his conduct and declare that no cause existed
for his separating himself from her.
He wanted to believe her incapable of such a marriage; he wanted to
show that he so believed of her; but he wanted also to be able to say
hereafter that she had done nothing amiss, if she should
unfortunately prove herself to be different from what he thought her
Nothing but affection could justify such fickleness, but affection
did justify it. There was but little of the Roman about Mr. Harding.
He could not sacrifice his Lucretia even though she should be
polluted by the accepted addresses of the clerical Tarquin at the
palace. If Tarquin could be prevented, well and good, but if not,
the father would still open his heart to his daughter and accept her
as she presented herself, Tarquin and all.
Dr. Grantly's mind was of a stronger calibre, and he was by no means
deficient in heart. He loved with an honest genuine love his wife
and children and friends. He loved his father-in-law, and was quite
prepared to love Eleanor too, if she would be one of his party, if
she would be on his side, if she would regard the Slopes and the
Proudies as the enemies of mankind and acknowledge and feel the
comfortable merits of the Gwynnes and Arabins. He wished to be what
he called "safe" with all those whom he had admitted to the
penetralia of his house and heart. He could luxuriate in no society
that was deficient in a certain feeling of faithful, staunch High
Churchism, which to him was tantamount to freemasonry. He was not
strict in his lines of definition. He endured without impatience
many different shades of Anglo-church conservatism, but with the
Slopes and Proudies he could not go on all fours.
He was wanting in, moreover, or perhaps it would be more correct to
say, he was not troubled by that womanly tenderness which was so
peculiar to Mr. Harding. His feelings towards his friends were that
while they stuck to him, he would stick to them; that he would work
with them shoulder and shoulder; that he would be faithful to the
faithful. He knew nothing of that beautiful love which can be true
to a false friend.
And thus these two men, each miserable enough in his own way,
returned to Plumstead.
It was getting late when they arrived there, and the ladies had
already gone up to dress. Nothing more was said as the two parted in
the hall. As Mr. Harding passed to his own room he knocked at
Eleanor's door and handed in the letter. The archdeacon hurried to
his own territory, there to unburden his heart to his faithful
What colloquy took place between the marital chamber and the
adjoining dressing-room shall not be detailed. The reader, now
intimate with the persons concerned, can well imagine it. The whole
tenor of it also might be read in Mrs. Grantly's brow as she came
down to dinner.
Eleanor, when she received the letter from her father's hand, had no
idea from whom it came. She had never seen Mr. Slope's handwriting,
or if so had forgotten it, and did not think of him as she twisted
the letter as people do twist letters when they do not immediately
recognize their correspondents either by the writing or the seal.
She was sitting at her glass, brushing her hair and rising every
other minute to play with her boy, who was sprawling on the bed and
who engaged pretty nearly the whole attention of the maid as well as
of his mother.
At last, sitting before her toilet-table, she broke the seal and,
turning over the leaf, saw Mr. Slope's name. She first felt
surprised, and then annoyed, and then anxious. As she read it she
became interested. She was so delighted to find that all obstacles
to her father's return to the hospital were apparently removed that
she did not observe the fulsome language in which the tidings were
conveyed. She merely perceived that she was commissioned to tell her
father that such was the case, and she did not realize the fact that
such a communication should not have been made, in the first
instance, to her by an unmarried young clergyman. She felt, on the
whole, grateful to Mr. Slope and anxious to get on her dress that she
might run with the news to her father. Then she came to the allusion
to her own pious labours, and she said in her heart that Mr. Slope
was an affected ass. Then she went on again and was offended by her
boy being called Mr. Slope's darling--he was nobody's darling but her
own, or at any rate not the darling of a disagreeable stranger like
Mr. Slope. Lastly she arrived at the tresses and felt a qualm of
disgust. She looked up in the glass, and there they were before her,
long and silken, certainly, and very beautiful. I will not say but
that she knew them to be so, but she felt angry with them and brushed
them roughly and carelessly. She crumpled the letter up with angry
violence and resolved, almost without thinking of it, that she would
not show it to her father. She would merely tell him the contents of
it. She then comforted herself again with her boy, had her dress
fastened, and went down to dinner.
As she tripped down the stairs she began to ascertain that there was
some difficulty in her situation. She could not keep from her father
the news about the hospital, nor could she comfortably confess the
letter from Mr. Slope before the Grantlys. Her father had already
gone down. She had heard his step upon the lobby. She resolved
therefore to take him aside and tell him her little bit of news.
Poor girl! She had no idea how severely the unfortunate letter had
already been discussed.
When she entered the drawing-room, the whole party were there,
including Mr. Arabin, and the whole party looked glum and sour.
The two girls sat silent and apart as though they were aware that
something was wrong. Even Mr. Arabin was solemn and silent. Eleanor
had not seen him since breakfast. He had been the whole day at St.
Ewold's, and such having been the case, it was natural that he should
tell how matters were going on there. He did nothing of the kind,
however, but remained solemn and silent. They were all solemn and
silent. Eleanor knew in her heart that they had been talking about
her, and her heart misgave her as she thought of Mr. Slope and his
letter. At any rate she felt it to be quite impossible to speak to
her father alone while matters were in this state.
Dinner was soon announced, and Dr. Grantly, as was his wont, gave
Eleanor his arm. But he did so as though the doing it were an
outrage on his feelings rendered necessary by sternest necessity.
With quick sympathy Eleanor felt this , and hardly put her fingers on
his coat-sleeve. It may be guessed in what way the dinner-hour was
passed. Dr. Grantly said a few words to Mr. Arabin, Mr. Arabin said
a few words to Mrs. Grantly, she said a few words to her father, and
he tried to say a few words to Eleanor. She felt that she had been
tried and found guilty of something, though she knew not what. She
longed to say out to them all, "Well, what is it that I have done;
out with it, and let me know my crime; for heaven's sake let me hear
the worst of it;" but she could not. She could say nothing, but sat
there silent, half-feeling that she was guilty and trying in vain to
pretend even to eat her dinner.
At last the cloth was drawn, and the ladies were not long following
it. When they were gone, the gentlemen were somewhat more sociable
but not much so. They could not of course talk over Eleanor's sins.
The archdeacon had indeed so far betrayed his sister-in-law as to
whisper into Mr. Arabin's ear in the study, as they met there before
dinner, a hint of what he feared. He did so with the gravest and
saddest of fears, and Mr. Arabin became grave and apparently sad
enough as he heard it. He opened his eyes, and his mouth and said in
a sort of whisper "Mr. Slope!" in the same way as he might have said
"The Cholera!" had his friend told him that that horrid disease was
in his nursery. "I fear so, I fear so," said the archdeacon, and
then together they left the room.
We will not accurately analyse Mr. Arabin's feelings on receipt of
such astounding tidings. It will suffice to say that he was
surprised, vexed, sorrowful, and ill at ease. He had not perhaps
thought very much about Eleanor, but he had appreciated her influence
and had felt that close intimacy with her in a country-house was
pleasant to him and also beneficial. He had spoken highly of her
intelligence to the archdeacon and had walked about the shrubberies
with her carrying her boy on his back. When Mr. Arabin had called
Johnny his darling, Eleanor was not angry.
Thus the three men sat over their wine, all thinking of the same
subject but unable to speak of it to each other. So we will leave
them and follow the ladies into the drawing-room.
Mrs. Grantly had received a commission from her husband and had
undertaken it with some unwillingness. He had desired her to speak
gravely to Eleanor and to tell her that, if she persisted in her
adherence to Mr. Slope, she could no longer look for the countenance
of her present friends. Mrs. Grantly probably knew her sister better
than the doctor did and assured him that it would be in vain to talk
to her. The only course likely to be of any service in her opinion
was to keep Eleanor away from Barchester. Perhaps she might have
added, for she had a very keen eye in such things, that there might
also be ground for hope in keeping Eleanor near Mr. Arabin. Of this,
however, she said nothing. But the archdeacon would not be talked
over; he spoke much of his conscience and declared that, if Mrs.
Grantly would not do it, he would. So instigated, the lady undertook
the task, stating, however, her full conviction that her interference
would be worse than useless. And so it proved.
As soon as they were in the drawing-room Mrs. Grantly found some
excuse for sending her girls away, and then began her task. She knew
well that she could exercise but very slight authority over her
sister. Their various modes of life, and the distance between their
residences, had prevented any very close confidence. They had hardly
lived together since Eleanor was a child. Eleanor had, moreover,
especially in latter years, resented in a quiet sort of way the
dictatorial authority which the archdeacon seemed to exercise over
her father, and on this account had been unwilling to allow the
archdeacon's wife to exercise authority over herself.
"You got a note just before dinner, I believe," began the eldest
Eleanor acknowledged that she had done so and felt that she turned
red as she acknowledged it. She would have given anything to have
kept her colour, but the more she tried to do so the more signally
"Was it not from Mr. Slope?"
Eleanor said that the letter was from Mr. Slope.
"Is he a regular correspondent of yours, Eleanor?"
"Not exactly," said she, already beginning to feel angry at the
cross-examination. She determined, and why it would be difficult to
say, that nothing should induce her to tell her sister Susan what was
the subject of the letter. Mrs. Grantly, she knew, was instigated by
the archdeacon, and she would not plead to any arraignment made
against her by him.
"But, Eleanor dear, why do you get letters from Mr. Slope at all,
knowing, as you do, he is a person so distasteful to Papa, and to the
archdeacon, and indeed to all your friends?"
"In the first place, Susan, I don't get letters from him; and in the
next place, as Mr. Slope wrote the one letter which I have got, and
as I only received it, which I could not very well help doing, as
Papa handed it to me, I think you had better ask Mr. Slope instead of
"What was his letter about, Eleanor?"
"I cannot tell you," said she, "because it was confidential. It was
on business respecting a third person."
"It was in no way personal to yourself then?"
"I won't exactly say that, Susan," said she, getting more and more
angry at her sister's questions.
"Well, I must say it's rather singular," said Mrs. Grantly, affecting
to laugh, "that a young lady in your position should receive a letter
from an unmarried gentleman of which she will not tell the contents
and which she is ashamed to show to her sister."
"I am not ashamed," said Eleanor, blazing up. "I am not ashamed of
anything in the matter; only I do not choose to be cross-examined as
to my letters by anyone."
"Well, dear," said the other, "I cannot but tell you that I do not
think Mr. Slope a proper correspondent for you."
"If he be ever so improper, how can I help his having written to me?
But you are all prejudiced against him to such an extent that that
which would be kind and generous in another man is odious and
impudent in him. I hate a religion that teaches one to be so one-
sided in one's charity."
"I am sorry, Eleanor, that you hate the religion you find here, but
surely you should remember that in such matters the archdeacon must
know more of the world than you do. I don't ask you to respect or
comply with me, although I am, unfortunately, so many years your
senior, but surely, in such a matter as this, you might consent to be
guided by the archdeacon. He is most anxious to be your friend, if
you will let him."
"In such a matter as what?' said Eleanor very testily. "Upon my word
I don't know what this is all about."
"We all want you to drop Mr. Slope."
"You all want me to be as illiberal as yourselves. That I shall
never be. I see no harm in Mr. Slope's acquaintance, and I shall not
insult the man by telling him that I do. He has thought it necessary
to write to me, and I do not want the archdeacon's advice about the
letter. If I did, I would ask it."
"Then, Eleanor, it is my duty to tell you," and now she spoke with a
tremendous gravity, "that the archdeacon thinks that such a
correspondence is disgraceful and that he cannot allow it to go on in
Eleanor's eyes flashed fire as she answered her sister, jumping up
from her seat as she did so. "You may tell the archdeacon that
wherever I am I shall receive what letters I please and from whom I
please. And as for the word 'disgraceful,' if Dr. Grantly has used
it of me, he has been unmanly and inhospitable," and she walked off
to the door. "When Papa comes from the dining-room I will thank you
to ask him to step up to my bedroom. I will show him Mr. Slope's
letter, but I will show it to no one else." And so saying, she
retreated to her baby.
She had no conception of the crime with which she was charged. The
idea that she could be thought by her friends to regard Mr. Slope as
a lover had never flashed upon her. She conceived that they were all
prejudiced and illiberal in their persecution of him, and therefore
she would not join in the persecution, even though she greatly
disliked the man.
Eleanor was very angry as she seated herself in a low chair by her
open window at the foot of her child's bed. "To dare to say I have
disgraced myself," she repeated to herself more than once. "How Papa
can put up with that man's arrogance! I will certainly not sit down
to dinner in his house again unless he begs my pardon for that word."
And then a thought struck her that Mr. Arabin might perchance hear of
her "disgraceful" correspondence with Mr. Slope, and she turned
crimson with pure vexation. Oh, if she had known the truth! If she
could have conceived that Mr. Arabin had been informed as a fact that
she was going to marry Mr. Slope!
She had not been long in her room before her father joined her. As
he left the drawing-room Mrs. Grantly took her husband into the
recess of the window and told him how signally she had failed.
"I will speak to her myself before I go to bed," said the archdeacon.
"Pray do no such thing," said she; "you can do no good and will only
make an unseemly quarrel in the house. You have no idea how
headstrong she can be."
The archdeacon declared that as to that he was quite indifferent. He
knew his duty and would do it. Mr. Harding was weak in the extreme
in such matters. He would not have it hereafter on his conscience
that he had not done all that in him lay to prevent so disgraceful an
alliance. It was in vain that Mrs. Grantly assured him that speaking
to Eleanor angrily would only hasten such a crisis and render it
certain, if at present there were any doubt. He was angry, self-
willed, and sore. The fact that a lady of his household had received
a letter from Mr. Slope had wounded his pride in the sorest place,
and nothing could control him.
Mr. Harding looked worn and woe-begone as he entered his daughter's
room. These sorrows worried him sadly. He felt that if they were
continued, he must go to the wall in the manner so kindly prophesied
to him by the chaplain. He knocked gently at his daughter's door,
waited till he was distinctly bade to enter, and then appeared as
though he and not she were the suspected criminal.
Eleanor's arm was soon within his, and she had soon kissed his
forehead and caressed him, not with joyous but with eager love. "Oh,
Papa," she said, "I do so want to speak to you. They have been
talking about me downstairs tonight--don't you know they have, Papa?"
Mr. Harding confessed with a sort of murmur that the archdeacon had
been speaking of her.
"I shall hate Dr. Grantly soon--"
"Oh, my dear!"
"Well, I shall. I cannot help it. He is so uncharitable, so unkind,
so suspicious of everyone that does not worship himself: and then he
is so monstrously arrogant to other people who have a right to their
opinions as well as he has to his own."
"He is an earnest, eager man, my dear, but he never means to be
"He is unkind, Papa, most unkind. There, I got that letter from Mr.
Slope before dinner. It was you yourself who gave it to me. There,
pray read it. It is all for you. It should have been addressed to
you. You know how they have been talking about it downstairs. You
know how they behaved to me at dinner. And since dinner Susan has
been preaching to me, till I could not remain in the room with her.
Read it, Papa, and then say whether that is a letter that need make
Dr. Grantly so outrageous."
Mr. Harding took his arm from his daughter's waist and slowly read
the letter. She expected to see his countenance lit with joy as he
learnt that his path back to the hospital was made so smooth, but she
was doomed to disappointment, as had once been the case before on a
somewhat similar occasion. His first feeling was one of unmitigated
disgust that Mr. Slope should have chosen to interfere in his behalf.
He had been anxious to get back to the hospital, but he would have
infinitely sooner resigned all pretensions to the place than have
owed it in any manner to Mr. Slope's influence in his favour. Then
he thoroughly disliked the tone of Mr. Slope's letter; it was
unctuous, false, and unwholesome, like the man. He saw, which
Eleanor had failed to see, that much more had been intended than was
expressed. The appeal to Eleanor's pious labours as separate from
his own grated sadly against his feelings as a father. And then,
when he came to the "darling boy" and the "silken tresses," he slowly
closed and folded the letter in despair. It was impossible that Mr.
Slope should so write unless he had been encouraged. It was
impossible Eleanor should have received such a letter, and have
received it without annoyance, unless she were willing to encourage
him. So at least Mr. Harding argued to himself.
How hard it is to judge accurately of the feelings of others. Mr.
Harding, as he came to the close of the letter, in his heart
condemned his daughter for indelicacy, and it made him miserable to
do so. She was not responsible for what Mr. Slope might write.
True. But then she expressed no disgust at it. She had rather
expressed approval of the letter as a whole. She had given it to him
to read, as a vindication for herself and also for him. The father's
spirits sank within him as he felt that he could not acquit her.
And yet it was the true feminine delicacy of Eleanor's mind which
brought on her this condemnation. Listen to me, ladies, and I
beseech you to acquit her. She thought of this man, this lover of
whom she was so unconscious, exactly as her father did, exactly as
the Grantlys did. At least she esteemed him personally as they did.
But she believed him to be in the main an honest man and one truly
inclined to assist her father. She felt herself bound, after what
had passed, to show this letter to Mr. Harding. She thought it
necessary that he should know what Mr. Slope had to say. But she did
not think it necessary to apologize for, or condemn, or even allude
to the vulgarity of the man's tone, which arose, as does all
vulgarity, from ignorance. It was nauseous to her to have a man like
Mr. Slope commenting on her personal attractions, and she did not
think it necessary to dilate with her father upon what was nauseous.
She never supposed they could disagree on such a subject. It would
have been painful for her to point it out, painful for her to speak
strongly against a man of whom, on the whole, she was anxious to
think and speak well. In encountering such a man she had encountered
what was disagreeable, as she might do in walking the streets. But
in such encounters she never thought it necessary to dwell on what
And he, foolish, weak, loving man, would not say one word, though one
word would have cleared up everything. There would have been a
deluge of tears, and in ten minutes everyone in the house would have
understood how matters really were. The father would have been
delighted. The sister would have kissed her sister and begged a
thousand pardons. The archdeacon would have apologized and wondered,
and raised his eyebrows, and gone to bed a happy man. And Mr.
Arabin--Mr. Arabin would have dreamt of Eleanor, have awoke in the
morning with ideas of love, and retired to rest the next evening with
schemes of marriage. But, alas, all this was not to be.
Mr. Harding slowly folded the letter, handed it back to her, kissed
her forehead, and bade God bless her. He then crept slowly away to
his own room.
As soon as he had left the passage, another knock was given at
Eleanor's door, and Mrs. Grantly's very demure own maid, entering on
tiptoe, wanted to know would Mrs. Bold be so kind as to speak to the
archdeacon for two minutes in the archdeacon's study, if not
disagreeable. The archdeacon's compliments, and he wouldn't detain
her two minutes.
Eleanor thought it was very disagreeable; she was tired and fagged
and sick at heart; her present feelings towards Dr. Grantly were
anything but those of affection. She was, however, no coward, and
therefore promised to be in the study in five minutes. So she
arranged her hair, tied on her cap, and went down with a palpitating
A Serious Interview
There are people who delight in serious interviews, especially when
to them appertains the part of offering advice or administering
rebuke, and perhaps the archdeacon was one of these. Yet on this
occasion he did not prepare himself for the coming conversation with
much anticipation of pleasure. Whatever might be his faults he was
not an inhospitable man, and he almost felt that he was sinning
against hospitality in upbraiding Eleanor in his own house. Then,
also, he was not quite sure that he would get the best of it. His
wife had told him that he decidedly would not, and he usually gave
credit to what his wife said. He was, however, so convinced of what
he considered to be the impropriety of Eleanor's conduct and so
assured also of his own duty in trying to check it that his
conscience would not allow him to take his wife's advice and go to
Eleanor's face as she entered the room was not such as to reassure
him. As a rule she was always mild in manner and gentle in conduct,
but there was that in her eye which made it not an easy task to scold
her. In truth she had been little used to scolding. No one since
her childhood had tried it but the archdeacon, and he had generally
failed when he did try it. He had never done so since her marriage,
and now, when he saw her quiet, easy step as she entered his room, he
almost wished that he had taken his wife's advice.
He began by apologizing for the trouble he was giving her. She
begged him not to mention it, assured him that walking downstairs was
no trouble to her at all, and then took a seat and' waited patiently
for him to begin his attack.
"My dear Eleanor," he said, "I hope you believe me when I assure you
that you have no sincerer friend than I am." To this Eleanor
answered nothing, and therefore he proceeded. "If you had a brother
of your own, I should not probably trouble you with what I am going
to say. But as it is I cannot but think that it must be a comfort to
you to know that you have near you one who is as anxious for your
welfare as any brother of your own could be."
"I never had a brother," said she.
"I know you never had, and it is therefore that I speak to you."
"I never had a brother," she repeated, "but I have hardly felt the
want. Papa has been to me both father and brother."
"Your father is the fondest and most affectionate of men. But--"
"He is--the fondest and most affectionate of men and the best of
counsellors. While he lives I can never want advice."
This rather put the archdeacon out. He could not exactly contradict
what his sister-in-law said about her father, and yet he did not at
all agree with her. He wanted her to understand that he tendered his
assistance because her father was a soft, good-natured gentleman not
sufficiently knowing in the ways of the world, but he could not say
this to her. So he had to rush into the subject-matter of his
proffered counsel without any acknowledgement on her part that she
could need it, or would be grateful for it.
"Susan tells me that you received a letter this evening from Mr.
"Yes; Papa brought it in the brougham. Did he not tell you?"
"And Susan says that you objected to let her know what it was about."
"I don't think she asked me. But had she done so, I should not have
told her. I don't think it nice to be asked about one's letters. If
one wishes to show them, one does so without being asked."
"True. Quite so. What you say is quite true. But is not the fact
of your receiving letters from Mr. Slope, which you do not wish to
show to your friends, a circumstance which must excite some--some
"Suspicion!" said she, not speaking above her usual voice, speaking
still in a soft, womanly tone but yet with indignation. "Suspicion!
And who suspects me, and of what?" And then there was a pause, for
the archdeacon was not quite ready to explain the ground of his
suspicion. "No, Dr. Grantly, I did not choose to show Mr. Slope's
letter to Susan. I could not show it to anyone till Papa had seen
it. If you have any wish to read it now, you can do so," and she
handed the letter to him over the table.
This was an amount of compliance which he had not at all expected and
which rather upset him in his tactics. However, he took the letter,
perused it carefully, and then refolding it, kept it on the table
under his hand. To him it appeared to be in almost every respect the
letter of a declared lover; it seemed to corroborate his worst
suspicions; and the fact of Eleanor's showing it to him was all but
tantamount to a declaration on her part that it was her pleasure to
receive love-letters from Mr. Slope. He almost entirely overlooked
the real subject-matter of the epistle, so intent was he on the
forthcoming courtship and marriage.
"I'll thank you to give it me back, if you please, Dr. Grantly."
He took it in his hand and held it up, but made no immediate overture
to return it. "And Mr. Harding has seen this?" said he.
"Of course he has," said she; "it was written that he might see it.
It refers solely to his business--of course I showed it to him."
"And, Eleanor, do you think that that is a proper letter for you--for
a person in your condition--to receive from Mr. Slope?"
"Quite a proper letter," said she, speaking, perhaps, a little out of
obstinacy, probably forgetting at the moment the objectionable
mention of her silken curls.
"Then, Eleanor, it is my duty to tell you that I wholly differ from
"So I suppose," said she, instigated now by sheer opposition and
determination not to succumb. 'You think Mr. Slope is a messenger
direct from Satan. I think he is an industrious, well-meaning
clergyman. It's a pity that we differ as we do. But, as we do
differ, we had probably better not talk about it."
Here Eleanor undoubtedly put herself in the wrong. She might
probably have refused to talk to Dr. Grantly on the matter in dispute
without any impropriety, but, having consented to listen to him, she
had no business to tell him that he regarded Mr. Slope as an emissary
from the evil one; nor was she justified in praising Mr. Slope,
seeing that in her heart of hearts she did not think well of him.
She was, however, wounded in spirit, and angry, and bitter. She had
been subjected to contumely and cross-questioning and ill-usage
through the whole evening. No one, not even Mr. Arabin, not even her
father, had been kind to her. All this she attributed to the
prejudice and conceit of the archdeacon, and therefore she resolved
to set no bounds to her antagonism to him. She would neither give
nor take quarter. He had greatly presumed in daring to question her
about her correspondence, and she was determined to show that she
"Eleanor, you are forgetting yourself," said he, looking very sternly
at her. "Otherwise you would never tell me that I conceive any man
to be a messenger from Satan."
"But you do," said she. "Nothing is too bad for him. Give me that
letter, if you please;" and she stretched out her hand and took it
from him. "He has been doing his best to serve Papa, doing more than
any of Papa's friends could do; and yet, because he is the chaplain
of a bishop whom you don't like, you speak of him as though he had no
right to the usage of a gentleman."
"He has done nothing for your father."
"I believe that he has done a great deal; and, as far as I am
concerned, I am grateful to him. Nothing that you can say can
prevent my being so. I judge people by their acts, and his, as far
as I can see them, are good." She then paused for a moment. "If you
have nothing further to say, I shall be obliged by being permitted to
say good night--I am very tired."
Dr. Grantly had, as he thought, done his best to be gracious to his
sister-in-law. He had endeavoured not to be harsh to her and had
striven to pluck the sting from his rebuke. But he did not intend
that she should leave him without hearing him.
"I have something to say, Eleanor, and I fear I must trouble you to
hear it. You profess that it is quite proper that you should receive
from Mr. Slope such letters as that you have in your hand. Susan and
I think very differently. You are, of course, your own mistress, and
much as we both must grieve should anything separate you from us, we
have no power to prevent you from taking steps which may lead to such
a separation. If you are so wilful as to reject the counsel of your
friends, you must be allowed to cater for yourself. But, Eleanor, I
may at any rate ask you this. Is it worth your while to break away
from all those you have loved--from all who love you--for the sake of
"I don't know what you mean, Dr. Grantly; I don't know what you're
talking about. I don't want to break away from anybody."
"But you will do so if you connect yourself with Mr. Slope. Eleanor,
I must speak out to you. You must choose between your sister and
myself and our friends, and Mr. Slope and his friends. I say nothing
of your father, as you may probably understand his feelings better
than I do."
"What do you mean, Dr. Grantly? What am I to understand? I never
heard such wicked prejudice in my life."
"It is no prejudice, Eleanor. I have known the world longer than you
have done. Mr. Slope is altogether beneath you. You ought to know
and feel that he is so. Pray--pray think of this before it is too
"Or if you will not believe me, ask Susan; you cannot think she is
prejudiced against you. Or even consult your father--he is not
prejudiced against you. Ask Mr. Arabin--"
"You haven't spoken to Mr. Arabin about this!" said she, jumping up
and standing before him.
"Eleanor, all the world in and about Barchester will be speaking of
"But have you spoken to Mr. Arabin about me and Mr. Slope?"
"Certainly I have, and he quite agrees with me."
"Agrees with what?" said she. "I think you are trying to drive me
"He agrees with me and Susan that it is quite impossible you should
be received at Plumstead as Mrs. Slope."
Not being favourites with the tragic muse, we do not dare to attempt
any description of Eleanor's face when she first heard the name of
Mrs. Slope pronounced as that which would or should or might at some
time appertain to herself. The look, such as it was, Dr. Grantly did
not soon forget. For a moment or two she could find no words to
express her deep anger and deep disgust; indeed, at this conjuncture,
words did not come to her very freely.
"How dare you be so impertinent?" at last she said, and then she
hurried out of the room without giving the archdeacon the opportunity
of uttering another word. It was with difficulty she contained
herself till she reached her own room, and then, locking the door,
she threw herself on her bed and sobbed as though her heart would
But even yet she had no conception of the truth. She had no idea
that her father and her sister had for days past conceived in sober
earnest the idea that she was going to marry this man. She did not
even then believe that the archdeacon thought that she would do so.
By some manoeuvre of her brain she attributed the origin of the
accusation to Mr. Arabin, and as she did so her anger against him was
excessive, and the vexation of her spirit almost unendurable. She
could not bring herself to think that the charge was made seriously.
It appeared to her most probable that the archdeacon and Mr. Arabin
had talked over her objectionable acquaintance with Mr. Slope; that
Mr. Arabin in his jeering, sarcastic way had suggested the odious
match as being the severest way of treating with contumely her
acquaintance with his enemy; and that the archdeacon, taking the idea
from him, thought proper to punish her by the allusion. The whole
night she lay awake thinking of what had been said, and this appeared
to be the most probable solution.
But the reflexion that Mr. Arabin should have in any way mentioned
her name in connexion with that of Mr. Slope was overpowering, and
the spiteful ill-nature of the archdeacon in repeating the charge to
her made her wish to leave his house almost before the day had
broken. One thing was certain: nothing should make her stay there
beyond the following morning, and nothing should make her sit down to
breakfast in company with Dr. Grantly. When she thought of the man
whose name had been linked with her own, she cried from sheer
disgust. It was only because she would be thus disgusted, thus
pained and shocked and cut to the quick, that the archdeacon had
spoken the horrid word. He wanted to make her quarrel with Mr.
Slope, and therefore he had outraged her by his abominable vulgarity.
She determined that at any rate he should know that she appreciated
Nor was the archdeacon a bit better satisfied with the result of his
serious interview than was Eleanor. He gathered from it, as indeed
he could hardly fail to do, that she was very angry with him, but he
thought that she was thus angry, not because she was suspected of an
intention to marry Mr. Slope, but because such an intention was
imputed to her as a crime. Dr. Grantly regarded this supposed union
with disgust, but it never occurred to him that Eleanor was outraged
because she looked at it exactly in the same light.
He returned to his wife, vexed and somewhat disconsolate, but
nevertheless confirmed in his wrath against his sister-in-law.
"Her whole behaviour," said he, "has been most objectionable.
She handed me his love-letter to read as though she were proud of it.
And she is proud of it. She is proud of having this slavering,
greedy man at her feet. She will throw herself and John Bold's money
into his lap; she will ruin her boy, disgrace her father and you, and
be a wretched miserable woman."
His spouse, who was sitting at her toilet-table, continued her
avocations, making no answer to all this. She had known that the
archdeacon would gain nothing by interfering, but she was too
charitable to provoke him by saying so while he was in such deep
"This comes of a man making such a will as that of Bold's," he
continued. "Eleanor is no more fitted to be trusted with such an
amount of money in her own hands than is a charity-school girl."
Still Mrs. Grantly made no reply. "But I have done my duty; I can do
nothing further. I have told her plainly that she cannot be allowed
to form a link of connexion between me and that man. From
henceforward it will not be in my power to make her welcome at
Plumstead. I cannot have Mr. Slope's love-letters coming here.
Susan, I think you had better let her understand that, as her mind on
this subject seems to be irrevocably fixed, it will be better for all
parties that she should return to Barchester."
Now Mrs. Grantly was angry with Eleanor--nearly as angry as her
husband--but she had no idea of turning her sister out of the house.
She therefore at length spoke out and explained to the archdeacon in
her own mild, seducing way that he was fuming and fussing and
fretting himself very unnecessarily. She declared that things, if
left alone, would arrange themselves much better than he could
arrange them, and at last succeeded in inducing him to go to bed in a
somewhat less inhospitable state of mind.
On the following morning Eleanor's maid was commissioned to send
word into the dining-room that her mistress was not well enough to
attend prayers and that she would breakfast in her own room. Here
she was visited by her father, and declared to him her intention of
returning immediately to Barchester. He was hardly surprised by the
announcement. All the household seemed to be aware that something
had gone wrong. Everyone walked about with subdued feet, and
people's shoes seemed to creak more than usual. There was a look of
conscious intelligence on the faces of the women, and the men
attempted, but in vain, to converse as though nothing were the
matter. All this had weighed heavily on the heart of Mr. Harding,
and when Eleanor told him that her immediate return to Barchester was
a necessity, he merely sighed piteously and said that he would be
ready to accompany her.
But here she objected strenuously. She had a great wish, she said,
to go alone; a great desire that it might be seen that her father was
not implicated in her quarrel with Dr. Grantly. To this at last he
gave way; but not a word passed between them about Mr. Slope--not a
word was said, not a question asked as to the serious interview on
the preceding evening. There was, indeed, very little confidence
between them, though neither of them knew why it should be so.
Eleanor once asked him whether he would not call upon the bishop, but
he answered rather tartly that he did not know--he did not think he
should, but he could not say just at present. And so they parted.
Each was miserably anxious for some show of affection, for some
return of confidence, for some sign of the feeling that usually bound
them together. But none was given. The father could not bring
himself to question his daughter about her supposed lover, and the
daughter would not sully her mouth by repeating the odious word with
which Dr. Grantly had roused her wrath. And so they parted.
There was some trouble in arranging the method of Eleanor's return.
She begged her father to send for a post-chaise, but when Mrs.
Grantly heard of this, she objected strongly. If Eleanor would go
away in dudgeon with the archdeacon, why should she let all the
servants and all the neighbourhood know that she had done so? So at
last Eleanor consented to make use of the Plumstead carriage, and as
the archdeacon had gone out immediately after breakfast and was not
to return till dinner-time, she also consented to postpone her
journey till after lunch, and to join the family at that time. As to
the subject of the quarrel; not a word was said by anyone. The
affair of the carriage was arranged by Mr. Harding, who acted as
Mercury between the two ladies; they, when they met, kissed each
other very lovingly and then sat down each to her crochet work as
though nothing was amiss in all the world.
Another Love Scene
But there was another visitor at the rectory whose feelings in this
unfortunate matter must be somewhat strictly analysed. Mr. Arabin
had heard from his friend of the probability of Eleanor's marriage
with Mr. Slope with amazement but not with incredulity. It has been
said that he was not in love with Eleanor, and up to this period this
certainly had been true. But as soon as he heard that she loved
someone else, he began to be very fond of her himself. He did not
make up his mind that he wished to have her for his wife; he had
never thought of her, and did not now think of her, in connexion with
himself; but he experienced an inward, indefinable feeling of deep
regret, a gnawing sorrow, an unconquerable depression of spirits, and
also a species of self-abasement that he--he, Mr. Arabin--had not
done something to prevent that other he, that vile he whom he so
thoroughly despised, from carrying off this sweet prize.
Whatever man may have reached the age of forty unmarried without
knowing something of such feelings must have been very successful or
else very cold-hearted.
Mr. Arabin had never thought of trimming the sails of his bark so
that he might sail as convoy to this rich argosy. He had seen that
Mrs. Bold was beautiful, but he had not dreamt of making her beauty
his own. He knew that Mrs. Bold was rich, but he had had no more
idea of appropriating her wealth than that of Dr. Grantly. He had
discovered that Mrs. Bold was intelligent, warm-hearted, agreeable,
sensible, all in fact that a man could wish his wife to be; but the
higher were her attractions, the greater her claims to consideration,
the less had he imagined that he might possibly become the possessor
of them. Such had been his instinct rather than his thoughts, so
humble and so diffident. Now his diffidence was to be rewarded by
his seeing this woman, whose beauty was to his eyes perfect, whose
wealth was such as to have deterred him from thinking of her, whose
widowhood would have silenced him had he not been so deterred, by his
seeing her become the prey of--Obadiah Slope!
On the morning of Mrs. Bold's departure he got on his horse to ride
over to St. Ewold's. As he rode he kept muttering to himself a line
from Van Artevelde,
How little flattering is woman's love.
And then he strove to recall his mind and to think of other affairs--
his parish, his college, his creed--but his thoughts would revert to
Mr. Slope and the Flemish chieftain.
When we think upon it,
How little flattering is woman's love,
Given commonly to whosoe'er is nearest
And propped with most advantage.
It was not that Mrs. Bold should marry anyone but him--he had not put
himself forward as a suitor--but that she should marry Mr. Slope, and
so he repeated over again -
Nor inward light is needful--day by day
Men wanting both are mated with the best
And loftiest of God's feminine creation,
Whose love takes no distinction but of gender,
And ridicules the very name of choice.
And so he went on, troubled much in his mind.
He had but an uneasy ride of it that morning, and little good did he
do at St. Ewold's.
The necessary alterations in his house were being fast completed, and
he walked through the rooms, and went up and down the stairs, and
rambled through the garden, but he could not wake himself to much
interest about them. He stood still at every window to look out and
think upon Mr. Slope. At almost every window he had before stood and
chatted with Eleanor. She and Mrs. Grantly had been there
continually, and while Mrs. Grantly had been giving orders, and
seeing that orders had been complied with, he and Eleanor had
conversed on all things appertaining to a clergyman's profession. He
thought how often he had laid down the law to her and how sweetly she
had borne with his somewhat dictatorial decrees. He remembered her
listening intelligence, her gentle but quick replies, her interest in
all that concerned the church, in all that concerned him; and then he
struck his riding-whip against the window-sill and declared to
himself that it was impossible that Eleanor Bold should marry Mr.
And yet he did not really believe, as he should have done, that it
was impossible. He should have known her well enough to feel that it
was truly impossible. He should have been aware that Eleanor had
that within her which would surely protect her from such degradation.
But he, like so many others, was deficient in confidence in woman.
He said to himself over and over again that it was impossible that
Eleanor Bold should become Mrs. Slope, and yet he believed that she
would do so. And so he rambled about, and could do and think of
nothing. He was thoroughly uncomfortable, thoroughly ill at ease,
cross with himself and everybody else, and feeding in his heart on
animosity towards Mr. Slope. This was not as it should be, as he
knew and felt, but he could not help himself. In truth Mr. Arabin
was now in love with Mrs. Bold, though ignorant of the fact himself.
He was in love and, though forty years old, was in love without being
aware of it. He fumed and fretted and did not know what was the
matter, as a youth might do at one-and-twenty. And so having done no
good at St. Ewold's, he rode back much earlier than was usual with
him, instigated by some inward, unacknowledged hope that he might see
Mrs. Bold before she left.
Eleanor had not passed a pleasant morning. She was irritated with
everyone, and not least with herself. She felt that she had been
hardly used, but she felt also that she had not played her own cards
well. She should have held herself so far above suspicion as to have
received her sister's innuendoes and the archdeacon's lecture with
indifference. She had not done this but had shown herself angry and
sore, and was now ashamed of her own petulance, yet unable to
The greater part of the morning she had spent alone, but after awhile
her father joined her. He had fully made up his mind that, come what
come might, nothing should separate him from his younger daughter.
It was a hard task for him to reconcile himself to the idea of seeing
her at the head of Mr. Slope's table, but he got through it.
Mr. Slope, as he argued to himself, was a respectable man and a
clergyman, and he, as Eleanor's father, had no right even to
endeavour to prevent her from marrying such a one. He longed to tell
her how he had determined to prefer her to all the world, how he was
prepared to admit that she was not wrong, how thoroughly he differed
from Dr. Grantly, but he could not bring himself to mention Mr.
Slope's name. There was yet a chance that they were all wrong in
their surmise, and being thus in doubt, he could not bring himself to
speak openly to her on the subject.
He was sitting with her in the drawing-room, with his arm round her
waist, saying every now and then some little soft words of affection
and working hard with his imaginary fiddle-bow, when Mr. Arabin
entered the room. He immediately got up, and the two made some trite
remarks to each other, neither thinking of what he was saying, while
Eleanor kept her seat on the sofa, mute and moody. Mr. Arabin was
included in the list of those against whom her anger was excited.
He, too, had dared to talk about her acquaintance with Mr. Slope; he,
too, had dared to blame her for not making an enemy of his enemy.
She had not intended to see him before her departure, and was now but
little inclined to be gracious.
There was a feeling through the whole house that something was wrong.
Mr. Arabin, when he saw Eleanor, could not succeed in looking or in
speaking as though he knew nothing of all this. He could not be
cheerful and positive and contradictory with her, as was his wont.
He had not been two minutes in the room before he felt that he had
done wrong to return; and the moment he heard her voice, he
thoroughly wished himself back at St. Ewold's. Why, indeed, should
he have wished to have aught further to say to the future wife of
"I am sorry to hear that you are to leave us so soon," said he,
striving in vain to use his ordinary voice. In answer to this she
muttered something about the necessity of her being in Barchester and
betook herself most industriously to her crochet work.
Then there was a little more trite conversation between Mr. Arabin
and Mr. Harding--trite, and hard, and vapid, and senseless. Neither
of them had anything to say to the other, and yet neither at such a
moment liked to remain silent. At last Mr. Harding, taking advantage
of a pause, escaped out of the room, and Eleanor and Mr. Arabin were
"Your going will be a great break-up to our party," said he.
She again muttered something which was all but inaudible, but kept
her eyes fixed upon her work.
"We have had a very pleasant month here," said he; "at least I have;
and I am sorry it should be so soon over."
"I have already been from home longer than I intended," said she,
"and it is time that I should return."
"Well, pleasant hours and pleasant days must come to an end. It is a
pity that so few of them are pleasant; or perhaps, rather--"
"It is a pity, certainly, that men and women do so much to destroy
the pleasantness of their days," said she, interrupting him. "It is
a pity that there should be so little charity abroad."
"Charity should begin at home," said he, and he was proceeding to
explain that he as a clergyman could not be what she would call
charitable at the expense of those principles which he considered it
his duty to teach when he remembered that it would be worse than vain
to argue on such a matter with the future wife of Mr. Slope. "But
you are just leaving us," he continued, "and I will not weary your
last hour with another lecture. As it is, I fear I have given you
"You should practise as well as preach, Mr. Arabin."
"Undoubtedly I should. So should we all. All of us who presume to
teach are bound to do our utmost towards fulfilling our own lessons.
I thoroughly allow my deficiency in doing so, but I do not quite know
now to what you allude. Have you any special reason for telling me
now that I should practise as well as preach?"
Eleanor made no answer. She longed to let him know the cause of her
anger, to upbraid him for speaking of her disrespectfully, and then
at last to forgive him, and so part friends. She felt that she would
be unhappy to leave him in her present frame of mind, but yet she
could hardly bring herself to speak to him of Mr. Slope. And how
could she allude to the innuendo thrown out by the archdeacon, and
thrown out, as she believed, at the instigation of Mr. Arabin? She
wanted to make him know that he was wrong, to make him aware that he
had ill-treated her, in order that the sweetness of her forgiveness
might be enhanced. She felt that she liked him too well to be
contented to part with him in displeasure, yet she could not get over
her deep displeasure without some explanation, some acknowledgement
on his part, some assurance that he would never again so sin against
"Why do you tell me that I should practise what I preach?" continued
"All men should do so."
"Certainly. That is as it were understood and acknowledged. But you
do not say so to all men, or to all clergymen. The advice, good as
it is, is not given except in allusion to some special deficiency.
If you will tell me my special deficiency, I will endeavour to profit
by the advice."
She paused for awhile and then, looking full in his face, she said,
"You are not bold enough, Mr. Arabin, to speak out to me openly and
plainly, and yet you expect me, a woman, to speak openly to you. Why
did you speak calumny of me to Dr. Grantly behind my back?"
"Calumny!" said he, and his whole face became suffused with blood.
"What calumny? If I have spoken calumny of you, I will beg your
pardon, and his to whom I spoke it, and God's pardon also. But what
calumny have I spoken of you to Dr. Grantly?"
She also blushed deeply. She could not bring herself to ask him
whether he had not spoken of her as another man's wife. "You know
that best yourself," said she. "But I ask you as a man of honour, if
you have not spoken of me as you would not have spoken of your own
sister--or rather I will not ask you," she continued, finding that he
did not immediately answer her. "I will not put you to the necessity
of answering such a question. Dr. Grantly has told me what you
"Dr. Grantly certainly asked me for my advice, and I gave it. He
"I know he did, Mr. Arabin. He asked you whether he would be doing
right to receive me at Plumstead if I continued my acquaintance with
a gentleman who happens to be personally disagreeable to yourself and
"You are mistaken, Mrs. Bold. I have no personal knowledge of Mr.
Slope; I never met him in my life."
"You are not the less individually hostile to him. It is not for me
to question the propriety of your enmity, but I had a right to expect
that my name should not have been mixed up in your hostilities. This
has been done and been done by you in a manner the most injurious and
the most distressing to me as a woman. I must confess, Mr. Arabin,
that from you I expected a different sort of usage."
As she spoke she with difficulty restrained her tears--but she did
restrain them. Had she given way and sobbed aloud, as in such cases
a woman should do, he would have melted at once, implored her pardon,
perhaps knelt at her feet ' and declared his love. Everything would
have been explained, and Eleanor would have gone back to Barchester
with a contented mind. How easily would she have forgiven and
forgotten the archdeacon's suspicions had she but heard the whole
truth from Mr. Arabin. But then where would have been my novel?
She did not cry, and Mr. Arabin did not melt.
"'You do me an injustice," said he. "My advice was asked by Dr.
Grantly, and I was obliged to give it."
"Dr. Grantly has been most officious, most impertinent. I have as
complete a right to form my acquaintance as he has to form his. What
would you have said had I consulted you as to the propriety of my
banishing Dr. Grantly from my house because he knows Lord Tattenham
Corner? I am sure Lord Tattenham is quite as objectionable an
acquaintance for a clergyman as Mr. Slope is for a clergyman's
"I do not know Lord Tattenham Corner."
"No, but Dr. Grantly does. It is nothing to me if he knows all the
young lords on every race-course in England. I shall not interfere
with him, nor shall he with me."
"I am sorry to differ with you, Mrs. Bold, but as you have spoken to
me on this matter, and especially as you blame me for what little I
said on the subject, I must tell you that I do differ from you. Dr.
Grantly's position as a man in the world gives him a right to choose
his own acquaintances, subject to certain influences. If he chooses
them badly, those influences will be used. If he consorts with
persons unsuitable to him, his bishop will interfere. What the
bishop is to Dr. Grantly, Dr. Grantly is to you."
"I deny it. I utterly deny it," said Eleanor, jumping from her seat
and literally flashing before Mr. Arabin, as she stood on the
drawing-room floor. He had never seen her so excited, he had never
seen her look half so beautiful.
"I utterly deny it," said she. "Dr. Grantly has no sort of
jurisdiction over me whatsoever. Do you and he forget that I am not
altogether alone in the world? Do you forget that I have a father?
Dr. Grantly, I believe, always has forgotten it.
"From you, Mr. Arabin," she continued, "I would have listened to
advice because I should have expected it to have been given as one
friend may advise another--not as a schoolmaster gives an order to a
pupil. I might have differed from you--on this matter I should have
done so--but had you spoken to me in your usual manner and with your
usual freedom, I should not have been angry. But now--was it manly
of you, Mr. Arabin, to speak of me in this way--so disrespectful--
so--? I cannot bring myself to repeat what you said. You must
understand what I feel. Was it just of you to speak of me in such a
way and to advise my sister's husband to turn me out of my sister's
house because I chose to know a man of whose doctrine you
"I have no alternative left to me, Mrs. Bold," said he, standing with
his back to the fire-place, looking down intently at the carpet
pattern, and speaking with a slow, measured voice, "but to tell you
plainly what did take place between me and Dr. Grantly."
"Well," said she, finding that he paused for a moment.
"I am afraid that what I may say may pain you."
"It cannot well do so more than what you have already done," said
"Dr. Grantly asked me whether I thought it would be prudent for him
to receive you in his house as the wife of Mr. Slope, and I told him
that I thought it would be imprudent. Believing it to be utterly
impossible that Mr. Slope and--"
"Thank you, Mr. Arabin, that is sufficient. I do not want to know
your reasons," said she, speaking with a terribly calm voice. "I
have shown to this gentleman the commonplace civility of a neighbour;
and because I have done so, because I have not indulged against him
in all the rancour and hatred which you and Dr. Grantly consider due
to all clergymen who do not agree with yourselves, you conclude that
I am to marry him; or rather you do not conclude so--no rational man
could really come to such an outrageous conclusion without better
ground; you have not thought so, but, as I am in a position in which
such an accusation must be peculiarly painful, it is made in order
that I may be terrified into hostility against this enemy of yours."
As she finished speaking, she walked to the drawing-room window and
stepped out into the garden. Mr. Arabin was left in the room, still
occupied in counting the pattern on the carpet. He had, however,
distinctly heard and accurately marked every word that she had
spoken. Was it not clear from what she had said that the archdeacon
had been wrong in imputing to her any attachment to Mr. Slope? Was
it not clear that Eleanor was still free to make another choice? It
may seem strange that he should for a moment have had a doubt, and
yet he did doubt. She had not absolutely denied the charge; she had
not expressly said that it was untrue. Mr. Arabin understood little
of the nature of a woman's feelings, or he would have known how
improbable it was that she should make any clearer declaration than
she had done. Few men do understand the nature of a woman's heart,
till years have robbed such understanding of its value. And it is
well that it should be so, or men would triumph too easily.
Mr. Arabin stood counting the carpet, unhappy, wretchedly unhappy, at
the hard words that had been spoken to him, and yet happy,
exquisitely happy, as he thought that after all the woman whom he so
regarded was not to become the wife of the man whom he so much
disliked. As he stood there he began to be aware that he was himself
in love. Forty years had passed over his head, and as yet woman's
beauty had never given him an uneasy hour. His present hour was very
Not that he remained there for half or a quarter of that time. In
spite of what Eleanor had said Mr. Arabin was, in truth, a manly man.
Having ascertained that he loved this woman, and having now reason to
believe that she was free to receive his love, at least if she
pleased to do so, he followed her into the garden to make such wooing
as he could.
He was not long in finding her. She was walking to and fro beneath
the avenue of elms that stood in the archdeacon's grounds, skirting
the churchyard. What had passed between her and Mr. Arabin had not,
alas, tended to lessen the acerbity of her spirit. She was very
angry--more angry with him than with anyone. How could he have so
misunderstood her? She had been so intimate with him, had allowed
him such latitude in what he had chosen to say to her, had complied
with his ideas, cherished his views, fostered his precepts, cared for
his comforts, made much of him in every way in which a pretty woman
can make much of an unmarried man without committing herself or her
feelings! She had been doing this, and while she had been doing it
he had regarded her as the affianced wife of another man.
As she passed along the avenue, every now and then an unbidden tear
would force itself on her cheek, and as she raised her hand to brush
it away, she stamped with her little foot upon the sward with very
spite to think that she had been so treated.
Mr. Arabin was very near to her when she first saw him, and she
turned short round and retraced her steps down the avenue, trying to
rid her cheeks of all trace of the tell-tale tears. It was a
needless endeavour, for Mr. Arabin was in a state of mind that hardly
allowed him to observe such trifles. He followed her down the walk
and overtook her just as she reached the end of it.
He had not considered how he would address her; he had not thought
what he would say. He had only felt that it was wretchedness to him
to quarrel with her and that it would be happiness to be allowed to
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