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28. CHAPTER XXVIII: MRS BOLD IS ENTERTAINED BY DR AND MRS GRANTLY AT PLUMSTEAD (continued)
Mr Harding felt this; and felt also that when the archdeacon talked thus about his roof, what he said was most offensive to himself as Eleanor's father. If Eleanor did receive a letter from Mr Slope, what was there in that to pollute the purity of Dr Grantly's household. He was indignant that his daughter should be so judged and so spoken of; and, he made up his mind that even as Mrs Slope she must be dearer to him than any other creature on God's earth. He almost broke out, and said as much; but for the moment he restrained himself.
'Here,' said the archdeacon, handing the offensive missile to his father-in-law; 'I am not going to be the bearer of his love letters. You are her father, and may do as you think fit with it.'
By doing as he thought fit with it, the archdeacon certainly meant that Mr Harding would be justified in opening and reading the letter, and taking any steps which might in consequence be necessary. To tell the truth, Dr Grantly did feel rather a stronger curiosity than was justified by his outraged virtue, to see the contents of the letter. Of course he could not open it himself, but he wished to make Mr Harding understand that he, as Eleanor's father, would be fully justified in doing so. The idea of such a proceeding never occurred to Mr Harding. His authority over Eleanor ceased when she became the wife of John Bold. He had not the slightest wish to pry into her correspondence. He consequently put the letter into his pocket, and only wished that he had been able to do so without the archdeacon's knowledge. They both sat silent during the journey home, and then Dr Grantly said, 'Perhaps Susan had better give it to her. She can explain to her sister, better than you or I can do, how deep is the disgrace of such an acquaintance.'
'I think you are very hard upon Eleanor,' replied Mr Harding. 'I will not allow that she has disgraced herself, nor do I think it likely that she will do so. She has a right to correspond with whom she pleases, and I shall not take upon myself to blame her because she gets a letter from Slope.'
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