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But when she did understand it, she was only more angry with him than ever: more angry, not only with him, but with Charlotte also. Her fair name was to bandied about between them in different senses, and each sense false. She was to played off by the sister against the father; and then by the brother against the sister. Her dear friend Charlotte, with all her agreeable sympathy and affection, was striving to sacrifice her for the Stanhope family welfare; and Bertie, who, as he now proclaimed himself, was over head and heels in debt, completed the compliment of owning that he did not care to have his debts paid at so great a sacrifice to himself. Then she was asked to conspire together with this unwilling suitor, for the sake of making the family believe that he had in obedience to their commands done his best to throw himself thus away!
She lifted up her face when she had finished, and looking at him with much dignity, even through her tears, she said--
'I regret to say it, Mr Stanhope; but after what has passed, I believe that all intercourse between your family and myself had better cease.'
'Well, perhaps it had,' said Bertie naively; 'perhaps that will be better, at any rate for a time; and then Charlotte will think you are offended at what I have done.'
'And now I will go back to the house, if you please,' said Eleanor. 'I can find my way by myself, Mr Stanhope: after what has passed,' she added, 'I would rather go alone.'
'But I must find the carriage for you, Mrs Bold, and I must tell my father that you will return with him alone, and I must make some excuse to him for not going with you; and I must bid the servant put you down at your own house, for I suppose you will not now choose to see them again in the close.'
There was a truth about this, and a perspicuity in making arrangements for lessening her immediate embarrassment, which had some effect in softening Eleanor's anger. So she suffered herself to walk by his side over the now deserted lawn, till they came to the drawing-room window. There was something about Bertie Stanhope which gave him in the estimation of every one, a different standing from that which any other man would occupy under similar circumstances. Angry as Eleanor was, and great as was her cause for anger, she was not half as angry with him as she would have been with any one else. He was apparently so simple, so good- natured, so unaffected and easy to talk to, that she had already half-forgiven him before he was at the drawing-room window. When they arrived there, Dr Stanhope was sitting nearly alone with Mr and Miss Thorne; one or two other unfortunates were there, who from one cause or another were still delayed in getting away; but they were every moment getting fewer in number.
As soon as he had handed Eleanor over to his father, Bertie started off to the front gate, in search of the carriage, and there waited leaning patiently against the front wall, and comfortably smoking a cigar, till it came up. When he returned to the room, Dr Stanhope and Eleanor were alone with their hosts.
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