Mrs Bold confides her sorrow to her friend Miss Stanhope

When Mrs Bold came to the end of the walk and faced the lawn, she began to bethink herself what she should do. Was she to wait there till Mr Slope caught her, or was she to go in among the crowd with tears in her eyes and passion in her face? She might in truth have stood there long enough without any reasonable fear of further immediate persecution from Mr Slope; but we are all inclined to magnify the bugbears which frighten us. In her present state of dread she did not know of what atrocity he might venture to be guilty. Had any one told her a week ago that he would have put his arm around her waist at the party of Miss Thorne’s she would have been utterly incredulous. Had she been informed that he would be seen on the following Sunday walking down the High Street in a scarlet coat and top–boots, she would not have thought such a phenomenon more improbable.

But this improbable iniquity he had committed; and now there was nothing she could not believe of him. In the first place it was quite manifest that he was tipsy; in the next place, it was to be taken as proved that all his religion was sheer hypocrisy; and finally the man was utterly shameless. She therefore stood watching for the sound of his footfall, not without some fear that he might creep out at her suddenly from among the bushes.

As she thus stood, she saw Charlotte Stanhope at a little distance from her walking quickly across the grass. Eleanor’s handkerchief was in her hand, and putting it to her face so as to conceal her tears, she ran across the lawn and joined her friend.

‘Oh, Charlotte,’ she said, almost too much out of breath to speak very plainly; ‘I am so glad I have found you.’

‘Glad you have found me!’ said Charlotte, laughing, ‘that’s a good joke. Why Bertie and I have been looking for you everywhere. He swears that you have gone off with Mr Slope, and is now on the point of hanging himself.’

‘Oh, Charlotte, don’t,’ said Mrs Bold.

‘Why, my child, what on earth is the matter with you!’ said Miss Stanhope, perceiving that Eleanor’s hand trembled on her own arm, and finding also that her companion was still half choked with tears. ‘Goodness heaven! Something has distressed you. What is it? What can I do for you?’

Eleanor answered her only by a sort of spasmodic gurgle in her throat. She was a good deal upset, as people say, and could not at the moment collect herself.

‘Come here, this way, Mrs Bold; come this way, and we shall not be seen. What has happened to vex you so? What can I do for you? Can Bertie do anything?’

‘On, no, no, no, no,’ said Eleanor. ‘There is nothing to be done. Only that horrid man—’

‘What horrid man?’ asked Charlotte.

There are some moments in life in which both men and women feel themselves called on to make a confidence; in which not to do so requires a disagreeable resolution and also a disagreeable suspicion. There are people of both sexes who never make confidences; who are never tempted by momentary circumstances to disclose their secrets. But such are generally dull, close, unimpassioned spirits, ‘gloomy gnomes who live in cold dark mines.’ There was nothing of the gnome about Eleanor; and she therefore resolved to tell Charlotte Stanhope the whole story about Mr Slope.

‘That horrid man; that Mr Slope,’ said she, ‘did you not see that he followed me out of the dining–room?’

‘Of course I did and was sorry enough; but I could not help it. I knew you would be annoyed. But you and Bertie managed it badly between you.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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