The ex-warden rejoices in his probable return to the hospital

Among the ladies in Barchester who have hitherto acknowledged Mr Slope as their spiritual director, must not be reckoned either the widow Bold, or her sister–in–law. On the first outbreak of the wrath of the denizens of the close, none had been more animated against the intruder than those two ladies. And this was natural. Who could be so proud of the musical distinction of their own cathedral as the favourite daughter of the precentor? Who would be so likely to resent an insult offered to the old choir? And in such matters Miss Bold and her sister–in–law had but one opinion.

This wrath, however, has in some degree been mitigated, and I regret to say that these ladies allowed Mr Slope to be his own apologist. About a fortnight after the sermon had been preached, they were both of them not a little surprised by hearing Mr Slope announced, as the page in buttons opened Mrs Bold’s drawing–room door. Indeed, what living man could, by a mere morning visit, have surprised them more? Here was the great enemy of all that was good in Barchester coming into their own drawing–room, and they had not strong arm, no ready tongue near at hand for their protection. The widow snatched her baby out of its cradle into her lap, and Mary Bold stood up ready to die manfully in that baby’s behalf, should, under any circumstances, such a sacrifice be necessary.

In this manner was Mr Slope received. But when he left, he was allowed by each lady to take her hand, and to make his adieux as gentlemen do who have been graciously entertained! Yes; he shook hands with them, and was curtseyed out courteously, the buttoned page opening the door, as he would have done for the best canon of them all. He had touched the baby’s little hand and blessed him with a fervid blessing; he had spoken to the widow of her early sorrows, and Eleanor’s silent tears had not rebuked him; he had told Mary Bold that her devotion would be rewarded, and Mary Bold had heard the praise without disgust. And how had he done all this? How had he so quickly turned aversion into, at any rate, acquaintance? How had he overcome the enmity with which those ladies had been ready to receive him, and made his peace with them so easily?

My readers will guess from what I have written that I myself do not like Mr Slope; but I am constrained to admit that he is a man of parts. He knows how to say a soft word in the proper place; he knows how to adapt his flattery to the ears of his hearers; he knows the wiles of the serpent and he uses them. Could Mr Slope have adapted his manners to men as well as to women, could he ever have learnt the ways of a gentleman, he might have risen to great things.

He commenced his acquaintance with Eleanor by praising her father. He had, he said, become aware that he had unfortunately offended the feelings of a man of whom he could not speak too highly; he would not now allude to a subject which was probably too serious for drawing–room conversation, but he would say, that it had been very far from him to utter a word in disparagement of a man, of whom all the world, at least the clerical world, spoke of so highly as it did of Mr Harding. And so he went on, unsaying a great deal of his sermon, expressing his highest admiration for the precentor’s musical talents, eulogising the father and the daughter and the sister–in–law, speaking in that low silky whisper which he always had specially prepared for feminine ears, and, ultimately, gaining his object. When he left, he expressed a hope that he might again be allowed to call; and though Eleanor gave no verbal assent to this, she did not express dissent; and so Mr Slope’s right to visit at the widow’s house was established.

The day after this visit Eleanor told her father of it, and expressed an opinion that Mr Slope was not quite so black as he had been painted. Mr Harding opened he eyes rather wider than usual when he heard what had occurred, but he said little; he could not agree in any praise of Mr Slope, and it was not his practice to say much evil of any one. He did not, however, like the visit, and simple–minded as he was, he felt sure that Mr Slope had some deeper motive than the mere pleasure of making soft speeches to two ladies.

Mr Harding, however, had come to see his daughter with other purpose than that of speaking either good or evil of Mr Slope. He had come to tell her that the place of warden in Hiram’s hospital was again to be filled up, and that in all probability he would once more return to his old house and his twelve bedesmen.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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