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36. CHAPTER XXXVI: ULLATHORNE SPORTS--ACT I (continued)
'Our party,' said she, still addressing her father, 'consisted of the Doctor and Charlotte Stanhope, myself, and Mr Slope.' As she mentioned the last name she felt her father's arm quiver slightly beneath her touch. At the same moment Mr Arabin turned away from them, and joining his hands behind his back strolled slowly away by one of the paths.
'Papa,' said she, 'it was impossible to help coming in the same carriage with Mr Slope; it was quite impossible. I had promised to come with them before I dreamt of his coming, and afterwards I could not get out of it without explaining and giving rise to talk. You weren't at home, you know, I couldn't possibly help it.' She said all this so quickly that by the time her apology was spoken she was quite out of breath.
'I don't know why you should have wished to help it, my dear,' said her father.
'Yes, papa, you do; you must know, you do know all the things they said at Plumstead. I am sure you do. You know all the archdeacon said. How unjust he was, and Mr Arabin too. He's a horrid man, a horrid, odious man, but--'
'Who is an odious man, my dear? Mr Arabin?'
'No; but Mr Slope. You know I mean Mr Slope. He's the most odious man I ever met in my life, and it was most unfortunate my having to come here in the same carriage with him. But how could I help it?'
A great weight began to move itself off Mr Harding's mind. So, after all, the archdeacon with all his wisdom, and Mrs Grantly with all her tact, and Mr Arabin with all his talent were in the wrong. His own child, his Eleanor, the daughter of whom he was so proud was not to become the wife of Mr Slope. He had been about to give his sanction to the marriage, so certified had he been of this fact; and now he learnt that this imputed lover of Eleanor's was at any rage as much disliked by her as by any one of the family. Mr Harding, however, was by no means sufficiently a man of the world to conceal the blunder he had made. He could not pretend that he had entertained no suspicion; he could not make believe that he had never joined the archdeacon in his surmises. He was greatly surprised, and gratified beyond measure, and he could not help showing that such was the case.
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