‘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 surprise—some suspicion—’

‘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 any one 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 back, please, Dr Grantly.’

He took 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 you.’

‘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 undoubtedly Eleanor 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 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 very 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 thought so.

‘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

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