were, moreover, other rich women who might be willing to become wives; and after all, this twelve hundred a year might, when inquired into, melt away into some small sum utterly beneath his notice. Then also he remembered that Mrs Bold had a son.

Another circumstance also much influenced him, though it was one which may almost be said to have influenced him against his will. The vision of Signora Neroni was perpetually before his eyes. It would be too much to say that Mr Slope was lost in love, but yet he thought, and kept continually thinking, that he had never seen so beautiful a woman. He was a man whose nature was open to such impulses, and the wiles of the Italianised charmer had been thoroughly successful in imposing upon his thoughts. We will not talk of his heart: not that he had no heart, but because his heart had little to do with his present feelings. His taste had been pleased, his eyes charmed, and his vanity gratified. He had been dazzled by a sort of loveliness which he had never before seen, and had been caught by an easy, free, voluptuous manner which was perfectly new to him. He had never been so tempted before, and the temptation was now irresistible. He had not owned to himself that he cared for this woman more than for others around him; but yet he thought often of the time when he might see her next, and made, almost unconsciously, little cunning plans for seeing her frequently.

He had called at Dr Stanhope’s house the day after the bishop’s party, and then the warmth of his admiration had been fed with fresh fuel. If the signora had been kind in her manner, and flattering in her speech when lying upon the bishop’s sofa, with the eyes of so many on her, she had been much more so in her mother’s drawing–room, with no one present but her sister to repress either her nature or her art. Mr Slope had thus left her quite bewildered, and could not willingly admit into his brain any scheme, a part of which would be the necessity of abandoning all further special relationship with this lady.

And so he slowly rode along very meditative.

And here the author must beg it to be remembered that Mr Slope was not in all things a bad man. His motives, like those of most men, were mixed; and though his conduct was generally very different from that which we would wish to praise, it was actuated perhaps as often as that of the majority of the world by a desire to do his duty. He believed in the religion which he taught, harsh, unpalatable, uncharitable as that religion was. He believed those whom he wished to get under his hoof, the Grantlys and Gwynnes of the church, to be the enemies of that religion. He believed himself to be the pillar of strength, destined to do great things; and with that subtle, selfish, ambiguous sophistry to which the minds of all men are so subject, he had taught himself to think that in doing much for the promotion of his own interests he was doing much also for the promotion of religion. Mr Slope had never been an immoral man. Indeed, he had resisted temptations to immorality with a strength of purpose that was creditable to him. He had early in life devoted himself to works which were not compatible with the ordinary pleasures of youth, and he had abandoned such pleasures not without a struggle. It must therefore be conceived that he did not admit to himself that he warmly admired the beauty of a married woman without heartfelt stings of conscience; and to pacify that conscience, he had to teach himself that the nature of his admiration was innocent.

And thus he rode along meditative and ill at ease. His conscience had not a word to say against his choosing the widow and her fortune. That he looked upon as a godly work rather than otherwise; as a deed which, if carried through, would redound to his credit as a Christian. On that side lay no future remorse, no conduct which he might probably have to forget, no inward stings. If it should turn out to be really the fact that Mrs Bold had twelve hundred a year at her own disposal, Mr Slope would rather look upon it as a duty which he owed his religion to make himself the master of the wife and the money; as a duty, too, in which some amount of self–sacrifice would be necessary. He would have to give up his friendship with the signora, his resistance to Mr Harding, his antipathy—no, he found on mature self–examination, that he could not bring himself to give up his antipathy to Dr Grantly. He would marry the lady as the enemy of her brother–in–law, if such an arrangement suited her; if not, she must look elsewhere for a husband.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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