The Warden's Tea Party
After much painful doubting, on one thing only could Mr Harding resolve. He
determined that at any rate he would take no offence, and that he would make this
question no cause of quarrel either with Bold or with the bedesmen. In furtherance of this
resolution, he himself wrote a note to Mr Bold, the same afternoon, inviting him to meet
a few friends and hear some music on an evening named in the next week. Had not this
little party been promised to Eleanor, in his present state of mind he would probably have
avoided such gaiety; but the promise had been given, the invitations were to be written,
and when Eleanor consulted her father on the subject, she was not ill pleased to hear him
say, 'Oh, I was thinking of Bold, so I took it into my head to write to him myself, but you
must write to his sister.'
Mary Bold was older than her brother, and, at the time of our story, was just over thirty.
She was not an unattractive young woman, though by no means beautiful. Her great merit
was the kindliness of her disposition. She was not very clever, nor very animated, nor had
she apparently the energy of her brother; but she was guided by a high principle of right
and wrong; her temper was sweet, and her faults were fewer in number than her virtues.
Those who casually met Mary Bold thought little of her; but those who knew her well
loved her well, and the longer they knew her the more they loved her. Among those who
were fondest of her was Eleanor Harding; and though Eleanor had never openly talked to
her of her brother, each understood the other's feelings about him. The brother and sister
were sitting together when the two notes were brought in.
'How odd,' said Mary, 'that they should send two notes. Well, if Mr Harding becomes
fashionable, the world is going to change.'
Her brother understood immediately the nature and intention of the peace-offering; but it
was not so easy for him to behave well in the matter, as it was for Mr Harding. It is much
less difficult for the sufferer to be generous than for the oppressor. John Bold felt that he
could not go to the warden's party: he never loved Eleanor better than he did now; he had
never so strongly felt how anxious he was to make her his wife as now, when so many
obstacles to his doing so appeared in view. Yet here was her father himself, as it were,
clearing away those very obstacles, and still he felt that he could not go to the house any
more as an open friend.
As he sat thinking of these things with the note in his hand, his sister was waiting for his
'Well,' said she, 'I suppose we must write separate answers, and both say we shall be very
'You'll go, of course, Mary,' said he; to which she readily assented. 'I cannot,' he
continued, looking serious and gloomy. 'I wish I could, with all my heart.'