A Serious Interview

There are people who delight in serious interviews, especially when to them appertain 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 bed quietly.

Eleanor’s face as she entered the room was not much 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 the room, he almost wished he had taken his wife’s advice.

He began by apologising for the trouble he was giving her. She begged him not to mention it, assured him that walking down the stairs 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 Slope.’

‘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.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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