21. St Ewold's Parsonage
When Mr Harding and Mrs Bold reached the rectory on the following morning, the
archdeacon and his friend were at St Ewold's. They had gone over that the new vicar
might inspect his church, and be introduced to the squire, and were not expected back
before dinner. Mr Harding rambled out by himself, and strolled, as was his wont at
Plumstead, about the lawn and round the church; and as he did so, the two sisters
naturally fell into conversation about Barchester.
There was not much sisterly confidence between them. Mrs Grantly was ten years older
than Eleanor, and had been married while Eleanor was yet a child. They had never,
therefore, poured into each other's ears their hopes and loves; and now that one was a
wife and the other a widow, it was not probable that they would begin to do so. They
lived too much asunder to be able to fall into that kind of intercourse which makes
confidence between sisters almost a necessity; and, moreover, that which is so easy at
eighteen is often very difficult at twenty-eight. Mrs Grantly knew this, and did not,
therefore, expect confidence from her sister; and yet she longed to ask her whether in
real truth Mr Slope was agreeable to her.
It was by no means difficult to turn the conversation to Mr Slope. That gentleman had
become so famous at Barchester, had so much to do with all clergymen connected with
the city, and was so specially concerned in the affairs of Mr Harding, that it would have
been odd if Mr Harding's daughters had not talked about him. Mrs Grantly was soon
abusing him, which she did with her whole heart; and Mrs Bold was nearly as eager to
defend him. She positively disliked the man, would have been delighted to learn that he
had taken himself off so that she should never see him again, had indeed almost a fear
of him, and yet she constantly found herself taking his part. The abuse of other people,
and abuse of a nature that she felt to be unjust, imposed that necessity on her, and at
last made Mr Slope's defence an habitual course of argument with her.
From Mr Slope the conversation turned to the Stanhopes, and Mrs Grantly was listening
with some interest to Eleanor's account of the family, when it dropped out that Mr Slope
was one of the party.
'What!' said the lady of the rectory, 'was Mr Slope there too?'
Eleanor merely replied that such had been the case.
'Why, Eleanor, he must be very fond of you, I think; he seems to follow you everywhere.'
Even this did not open Eleanor's eyes. She merely laughed, and said that she imagined
Mr Slope found other attraction at Dr Stanhope's. And so they parted. Mrs Grantly felt
quite convinced that the odious match would take place; and Mrs Bold as convinced