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41. CHAPTER XLI: MRS BOLD CONFIDES HER SORROW TO HER FRIEND MISS STANHOPE
When Mrs Bold came to the end of the walk and faced the lawn, she began to bethink herself what she should do. Was she to wait there till Mr Slope caught her, or was she to go in among the crowd with tears in her eyes and passion in her face? She might in truth have stood there long enough without any reasonable fear of further immediate persecution from Mr Slope; but we are all inclined to magnify the bugbears which frighten us. In her present state of dread she did not know of what atrocity he might venture to be guilty. Had any one told her a week ago that he would have put his arm around her waist at the party of Miss Thorne's she would have been utterly incredulous. Had she been informed that he would be seen on the following Sunday walking down the High Street in a scarlet coat and top-boots, she would not have thought such a phenomenon more improbable.
But this improbable iniquity he had committed; and now there was nothing she could not believe of him. In the first place it was quite manifest that he was tipsy; in the next place, it was to be taken as proved that all his religion was sheer hypocrisy; and finally the man was utterly shameless. She therefore stood watching for the sound of his footfall, not without some fear that he might creep out at her suddenly from among the bushes.
As she thus stood, she saw Charlotte Stanhope at a little distance from her walking quickly across the grass. Eleanor's handkerchief was in her hand, and putting it to her face so as to conceal her tears, she ran across the lawn and joined her friend.
'Oh, Charlotte,' she said, almost too much out of breath to speak very plainly; 'I am so glad I have found you.'
'Glad you have found me!' said Charlotte, laughing, 'that's a good joke. Why Bertie and I have been looking for you everywhere. He swears that you have gone off with Mr Slope, and is now on the point of hanging himself.'
'Oh, Charlotte, don't,' said Mrs Bold.
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