The Warden's Tea Party

After much painful doubting, on one thing only could Mr. Harding resolve. He determined that at any rate he would take no offence, and that he would make this question no cause of quarrel either with Bold or with the bedesmen. In furtherance of this resolution, he himself wrote a note to Mr. Bold, the same afternoon, inviting him to meet a few friends and hear some music on an evening named in the next week. Had not this little party been promised to Eleanor, in his present state of mind he would probably have avoided such gaiety; but the promise had been given, the invitations were to be written, and when Eleanor consulted her father on the subject, she was not ill pleased to hear him say, “Oh, I was thinking of Bold, so I took it into my head to write to him myself, but you must write to his sister.”

Mary Bold was older than her brother, and, at the time of our story, was just over thirty. She was not an unattractive young woman, though by no means beautiful. Her great merit was the kindliness of her disposition. She was not very clever, nor very animated, nor had she apparently the energy of her brother; but she was guided by a high principle of right and wrong; her temper was sweet, and her faults were fewer in number than her virtues. Those who casually met Mary Bold thought little of her; but those who knew her well loved her well, and the longer they knew her the more they loved her. Among those who were fondest of her was Eleanor Harding, and though Eleanor had never openly talked to her of her brother, each understood the other’s feelings about him. The brother and sister were sitting together when the two notes were brought in.

“How odd,” said Mary, “that they should send two notes. Well, if Mr. Harding becomes fashionable, the world is going to change.”

Her brother understood immediately the nature and intention of the peace-offering; but it was not so easy for him to behave well in the matter, as it was for Mr. Harding. It is much less difficult for the sufferer to be generous than for the oppressor. John Bold felt that he could not go to the warden’s party: he never loved Eleanor better than he did now; he had never so strongly felt how anxious he was to make her his wife as now, when so many obstacles to his doing so appeared in view. Yet here was her father himself, as it were, clearing away those very obstacles, and still he felt that he could not go to the house any more as an open friend.

As he sat thinking of these things with the note in his hand, his sister was waiting for his decision.

“Well,” said she, “I suppose we must write separate answers, and both say we shall be very happy.”

“You’ll go, of course, Mary,” said he; to which she readily assented. “I cannot,” he continued, looking serious and gloomy; “I wish I could, with all my heart.”

“And why not, John?” said she. She had as yet heard nothing of the new-found abuse which her brother was about to reform; at least nothing which connected it with her brother’s name.

He sat thinking for awhile till he determined that it would be best to tell her at once what it was that he was about: it must be done sooner or later.

“I fear I cannot go to Mr. Harding’s house any more as a friend, just at present.”

“Oh, John! Why not? Ah, you’ve quarrelled with Eleanor!”

“No, indeed,” said he; “I’ve no quarrel with her as yet.”

“What is it, John?” said she, looking at him with an anxious, loving face, for she knew well how much of his heart was there in that house which he said he could no longer enter.

“Why,” said he at last, “I’ve taken up the case of these twelve old men of Hiram’s Hospital, and of course that brings me into contact with Mr. Harding. I may have to oppose him, interfere with him, perhaps injure him.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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