The ongoing Big Read of Barchester Towers has reached Chapter 41 in the Trollope Society Facebook Group. I have been summarising for the last four chapters and this was my last chapter summary, posted yesterday.
Mrs Bold Confides Her Sorrow to Her Friend Miss Stanhope
Eleanor is in a dilemma. Having run from Mr Slope, she imagines him in hot pursuit and so vacillates between dashing through the assembled guests in an obvious state of distress (social no-no on an epic scale) or stopping her flight and risking Mr Slope catching up with her.
Seeing Charlotte Stanhope she goes to her for aid. Charlotte has in fact been looking for Eleanor with a view to engineering a tete a tete between Eleanor and Bertie i which he might propose so she is delighted when Eleanor come to her apparently out of nowhere.
Charlotte takes Eleanor away from the crowds and Eleanor confides in her what has transpired. Charlotte repeats the refrain that by defending him in public, Eleanor may have encouraged Mr Slope to think she has personal feelings for him – the old Grantly argument which Eleanor now begins to accept is true and that she was wrong to act as she did.
When Eleanor describes slapping Mr Slope, Charlotte cannot hide her amusement and triumph. She quickly resolves to take advantage of the situation by suggesting her brother Bertie should act as Eleanor’s protector – thereby throwing them together and, she hopes, enabling Bertie to take advantage of the opportunity to press his suit. She realises that Eleanor receiving two proposals in one day is not the ideal – a slight delay might be more likely to result in a positive outcome so far as she is concerned but matters have come to a head between Bertie and his father over finances and so no delay can be allowed.
Eleanor would prefer to seek the protection of her father but Charlotte has an answer to that get out – it would not be seemly for there to be any falling out between fellow clergymen, poarticularly at a time when Mr Slope may be able to influence matters at the hospital in favour of her father.
Thus Charlotte proposes that Eleanor should seek the protection of Bertie and travel home with him and her in their carriage. To effect this, Madeline will need to leave first on her own.
Charlotte takes Eleanor with her to see Madeline to arrange this. Mr Arabin is with the Signora, completely bewitched by her as only a man of his lack of experience with women could be. WHile Eleanor has a private word with Madeline to make the arrangements, Eleanor and Mr Arabin are thus thrown on each others’ company. Given their maturity in years, they stand together awkwardly making desultory conversation then lapse into silence like a pair of love-struck teenagers.