Mrs Bold is entertained by Dr and Mrs Grantly at Plumstead

It will be remembered that Mr Slope, when leaving his billet doux with 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 packec, gave in at the carriage window Mr Slope’s epistle. The archdeacon, who was sitting next to the window, took it, and immediately recognised 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 to–day.’

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 lover.

‘It’s very hard on me,’ said he, after a while, ‘that this should go on under my roof.’

Now here the archdeacon was certainly the most unreasonable. Having invited his sister–in–law to his house, it was a natural consequence of 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 making 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 himself.

‘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 the journey home, and then Dr Grantly said, ‘Perhaps Susan had better give it to her. She can explain to her sister, better than you or I can do, how deep is the disgrace of such an acquaintance.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.