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Barchester Towers

8. The Ex-Warden Rejoices In His Pr obable Return To The
Hospital
Among the ladies in Barchester who have hitherto acknowledged Mr Slope as their
spiritual director, must not be reckoned either the widow Bold, or her sister-in-law. On
the first outbreak of the wrath of the denizens of the close, none had been more
animated against the intruder than those two ladies. And this was natural. Who could be
so proud of the musical distinction of their own cathedral as the favourite daughter of
the precentor? Who would be so likely to resent an insult offered to the old choir? And in
such matters Miss Bold and her sister-in-law had but one opinion.
This wrath, however, has in some degree been mitigated, and I regret to say that these
ladies allowed Mr Slope to be his own apologist. About a fortnight after the sermon had
been preached, they were both of them not a little surprised by hearing Mr Slope
announced, as the page in buttons opened Mrs Bold's drawing-room door. Indeed, what
living man could, by a mere morning visit, have surprised them more? Here was the
great enemy of all that was good in Barchester coming into their own drawing-room, and
they had not strong arm, no ready tongue near at hand for their protection. The widow
snatched her baby out of its cradle into her lap, and Mary Bold stood up ready to die
manfully in that baby's behalf, should, under any circumstances, such a sacrifice be
necessary.
In this manner was Mr Slope received. But when he left, he was allowed by each lady to
take her hand, and to make his adieux as gentlemen do who have been graciously
entertained! Yes; he shook hands with them, and was curtseyed out courteously, the
buttoned page opening the door, as he would have done for the best canon of them all.
He had touched the baby's little hand and blessed him with a fervid blessing; he had
spoken to the widow of her early sorrows, and Eleanor's silent tears had not rebuked
him; he had told Mary Bold that her devotion would be rewarded, and Mary Bold had
heard the praise without disgust. And how had he done all this? How had he so quickly
turned aversion into, at any rate, acquaintance? How had he overcome the enmity with
which those ladies had been ready to receive him, and made his peace with them so
easily?
My readers will guess from what I have written that I myself do not like Mr Slope; but I
am constrained to admit that he is a man of parts. He knows how to say a soft word in
the proper place; he knows how to adapt his flattery to the ears of his hearers; he knows
the wiles of the serpent and he uses them. Could Mr Slope have adapted his manners
to men as well as to women, could he ever have learnt the ways of a gentleman, he
might have risen to great things.
He commenced his acquaintance with Eleanor by praising her father. He had, he said,
become aware that he had unfortunately offended the feelings of a man of whom he
could not speak too highly; he would not now allude to a subject which was probably too
 
 
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