Mrs Bold at Home

Poor Mrs Bold, when she got home from Ullathorne on the evening of Miss Thorne’s party, was very unhappy, and moreover very tired. Nothing fatigues the body so much as weariness of spirit, and Eleanor’s spirit was indeed weary.

Dr Stanhope had civilly but not very cordially asked her in to tea, and her manner of refusal convinced the worthy doctor that he need not repeat the invitation. He had not exactly made himself a party to the intrigue which was to convert the late Mr Bold’s patrimony into an income for his hopeful son, but he had been well aware what was going on. And he was thus well aware also, when he perceived that Bertie declined accompanying them home in the carriage, that the affair had gone off.

Eleanor was very much afraid that Charlotte would have darted out upon her, as the prebendary got out at his own door, but Bertie thoughtfully saved her from this, by causing the carriage to go round by her house. This also Dr Stanhope understood, and allowed to pass by without remark.

When she got home, she found Mary Bold in the drawing–room with the child in her lap. She rushed forward, and, throwing herself on her knees, kissed the little fellow till she almost frightened him.

‘Oh, Mary, I am so glad you did not go. It was an odious party.’

Now the question of Mary’s going had been one greatly mooted between them. Mrs Bold, when invited, had been the guest of the Grantlys, and Miss Thorne, who had chiefly known Eleanor at the hospital or at Plumstead rectory, had forgotten all about Mary Bold. Her sister–in–law had implored her to go under her wing, and had offered to write to Miss Thorne, or to call on her. But Miss Bold had declined. In fact, Mr Bold had not been very popular with such people as the Thornes, and his sister would not go among them unless she were specially asked to do so.

‘Well then,’ said Mary cheerfully, ‘I have the less to regret.’

‘You have nothing to regret; but oh! Mary, I have—so much—so much;’—and then she began kissing her boy, whom her caresses had aroused from his slumbers. When she raised her head, Mary saw that the tears were running down her cheeks.

‘Good heavens, Eleanor, what is the matter? What has happened to you?—Eleanor, dearest Eleanor—what is the matter?’ and Mary got up with the boy still in her arms.

‘Give him to me—give him to me,’ said the young mother. ‘Give him to me, Mary,’and she almost tore the child out of her sister’s arms. The poor little fellow murmured somewhat at the disturbance, but nevertheless nestled himself close into his mother’s bosom.

‘Here, Mary, take the cloak from me. My own, own darling, darling, darling jewel. You are not false to me. Everybody else is false; everybody else is cruel. Mamma will care for nobody, nobody, nobody, but her own, own, own, little man;’ and she again kissed and pressed the baby, and cried till the tears ran down over the child’s face.

‘Who has been cruel to you, Eleanor?’ said Mary. ‘I hope I have not.’

Now, in this matter, Eleanor had great cause for uneasiness.

She could not certainly accuse her loving sister–in–law of cruelty; but she had to do that which was more galling; she had to accuse herself of an imprudence against which her sister–in–law had warned her. Miss Bold had never encouraged Eleanor’s acquaintance with Mr Slope, and she had positively discouraged the friendship of the Stanhopes as far as her usual gentle mode of speaking had permitted. Eleanor had only laughed at her, however, when she said that she disapproved of married women who lived apart from their husbands, and suggested that Charlotte Stanhope never went to church. Now, however, Eleanor must either hold her tongue, which was quite impossible, or confess herself to have been utterly

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