She had defended Mr Slope, she had declared herself quite justified in admitting him among her acquaintance, had ridiculed the idea of his considering himself as more than an acquaintance, and had resented the archdeacon’s caution in her behalf: now it was about to be proved to her in a manner sufficiently disagreeable that the archdeacon had been right, and she herself had been entirely wrong.

‘I don’t know what you can have to say to me, Mr Slope, that you could not have said when we were sitting at table just now;’ and she closed her lips, and steadied her eyeballs and looked at him in a manner that ought to have frozen him.

But gentlemen are not easily frozen when they are full of champagne, and it would not at any time have been easy to freeze Mr Slope.

‘There are things, Mrs Bold, which a man cannot well say before a crowd; which perhaps he cannot well say at any time; which indeed he may most fervently desire to get spoken, and which he may yet find it almost impossible to utter. It is such things as these, that I now wish to say to you;’ and then the tender–pious look was repeated, with a little more emphasis even than before.

Eleanor had not found it practicable to stand stock still before the dining–room window, and there receive his offer in full view of Miss Thorne’s guests. She had therefore in self–defence walked on, and Mr Slope had gained his object of walking with her. He now offered her his arm.

‘Thank you, Mr Slope, I am much obliged to you; but for the very short time that I shall remain with you I shall prefer walking alone.’

‘And must it be so short?’ said he; ‘must it be—’

‘Yes,’ said Eleanor, interrupting him; ‘as short as possible, if you please, sir.’

‘I had hoped, Mrs Bold—I had hoped—’ ‘Pray hope nothing, Mr Slope, as far as I am concerned; pray do not; I do not know, and need not know what hope you mean. Our acquaintance is very slight, and will probably remain so. Pray, pray, let that be enough; there is at any rage no necessity for us to quarrel.’

Mrs Bold was certainly treating Mr Slope rather cavalierly, and he felt it so. She was rejecting him before he had offered himself, and informed him at the same time that he was taking a great deal too much on himself to be so familiar. She did not even make an attempt

From such a sharp and waspish word as ’no’
To pluck the string.

He was still determined to be very tender and very pious, seeing that in spite of all Mrs Bold had said to him, he not yet abandoned hope; but he was inclined to be somewhat angry. The widow was bearing herself, as he thought, with too high a hand, was speaking of herself in much too imperious a tone. She had clearly no idea that an honour was being conferred on her. Mr Slope would be tender as long as he could, but he began to think, if that failed, it would not be amiss if he also mounted himself for a while on his high horse. Mr Slope could undoubtedly be very tender, but he could be very savage also, and he knew his own abilities.

‘That is cruel,’ said he, ‘and unchristian too. The worst of us are all still bidden to hope. What have I done that you should pass on me so severe a sentence?’ and then he paused a moment, during which the widow walked steadily on with measured step, saying nothing further.

‘Beautiful woman,’ at last he burst forth, ‘beautiful woman, you cannot pretend to be ignorant that I adore you. Yes, Eleanor, yes, I love you. I love you with the truest affection which man can bear to woman. Next to my hopes of heaven are my hopes of possessing you.’ (Mr Slope’s memory here played him false, or he would not have omitted the deanery) ‘How sweet to walk to heaven with you by my side, with you for my guide, mutual guides. Say, Eleanor, dearest Eleanor, shall we walk that sweet path together?’

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