When George Holland received his two letters and read them he laid them side by side and asked himself what each of them meant.
Well, he could make a pretty good guess as to what the bishop's meant. The bishop meant business. But what did Mr. Linton want with him? Mr. Linton was a business man, perhaps he meant business too. Business men occasionally mean business; they more frequently only pretend to do so, in order to put off their guard the men they are trying to get the better of.
He would have an interview with the bishop; so much was certain; and that interview was bound to be a difficult one--for the bishop. It was with some degree of pride that he anticipated the conflict. He would withdraw nothing that he had written. Let all the forces of the earth be leagued against him, he would abate not a jot--not a jot. (By the forces of the earth he meant the Bench of Bishops, which was scarcely doing justice to the bishops--or to the forces of the earth.)
Yes, they might deprive him of his living, but that would make no difference to him. Not a jot--not a jot! They might persecute him to the death. He would be faithful unto death to the truths he had endeavored to spread abroad. He felt that they were truths.
But that other letter, which also asked for an interview at his earliest convenience the next day, was rather more puzzling to George Holland. He had never had any but the most casual acquaintance with Mr. Linton--such an acquaintance as one has with one's host at a house where one has occasionally dined. He had dined at Mr. Linton's house more than once; but then he had been seated in such proximity to Mrs. Linton as necessitated his remoteness from Mr. Linton. Therefore he had never had a chance of becoming intimate with that gentleman. Why, then, should that gentleman desire an early interview with him?
It was certainly curious that within a few minutes of his having referred to Mrs. Linton, in the presence of Phyllis Ayrton, in a way that had had a very unhappy result so far as he was concerned, he should receive a letter from Mrs. Linton's husband asking for an early interview.
He seated himself in his study chair and began to think what the writer of that letter might have to say to him.
He had not to ask himself if it was possible that Mr. Linton might have a word or two to say to him, respecting the word or two which he, George Holland, had just said about Mrs. Linton; for George knew very well that, though during the previous week or two he had heard some persons speaking lightly of Mrs. Linton, coupling her name with the name of Herbert Courtland, yet he had never had occasion to couple their names together except during the previous half hour, so that it could not be Mr. Linton's intention to take him to task, so to speak, for his indiscretion--his slander, Phyllis might be disposed to term it.