Mr Slope's manages matters very cleverly at Puddingdale

The next two weeks passed pleasantly enough at Plumstead. The whole party there assembled seemed to get on well together. Eleanor made the house agreeable, and the archdeacon and Mrs Grantly seemed to have forgotten her injury as regarded Mr Slope. Mr Harding had his violoncello, and played to them while his daughters accompanied him. Johnny Bold, by the help either of Mr Rerechild or else by that of his coral and carrot–juice, got through his teething troubles. There had been gaieties too of all sorts. They had dined at Ullathorne, and the Thornes had dined at the rectory. Eleanor had been duly put to stand on her box, and in that position had found herself quite unable to express her opinion on the merits of flounces, such having been the subject given to try her elocution. Mr Arabin had of course been much in his own parish, looking to the doings at his vicarage, calling on his parishioners, and taking on himself the duties of his new calling. But still he had been every evening at Plumstead, and Mrs Grantly was partly willing to agree with her husband that he was a pleasant inmate in a house.

They had also been at a dinner party at Dr Stanhope’s, of which Mr Arabin had made one. He also, moth–like, burnt his wings in the flames of the signora’s candle. Mrs Bold, too, had been there, and had felt somewhat displeased with the taste, want of taste she called it, shown by Mr Arabin in paying so much attention to Madame Neroni. It was as infallible that Madeline should displease and irritate the women, as that she should charm and captivate the men. The one result followed naturally on the other. It was quite true that Mr Arabin had been charmed. He thought her a very clever and a very handsome woman; he thought also that her peculiar afflictions entitled her to the sympathy of all. He had never, he said, met so much suffering joined to such perfect beauty and so clear a mind. ’Twas thus he spoke of the signora coming home in the archdeacon’s carriage; and Eleanor by no means liked to hear the praise. It was, however, exceedingly unjust of her to be angry with Mr Arabin, as she had herself spent a very pleasant evening with Bertie Stanhope, who had taken her down to dinner, and had not left her side for one moment after the gentlemen came out of the dining–room. It was unfair that she should amuse herself with Bertie and yet begrudge her new friend his licence of amusing himself with Bertie’s sister. And yet she did so. She was half angry with him in the carriage, and said something about meretricious manners. Mr Arabin did not understand the ways of women very well, or else he might have flattered himself that Eleanor was in love with him.

But Eleanor was not in love with him. How many shades there are between love and indifference, and how little the graduated scale is understood! She had now been nearly three weeks in the same house with Mr Arabin, and had received much of his attention, and listened daily to his conversation. He had usually devoted at least some portion of his evening to her exclusively. At Dr Stanhope’s he had devoted himself exclusively to another. It does not require that a woman should be in love to be irritated at this; it does not require that she should even acknowledge to herself that it was unpleasant to her. Eleanor had no such self–knowledge. She thought in her own heart it was only on Mr Arabin’s account that she regretted that he could condescend to be amused by the signora. ‘I thought he had more mind,’ she said to herself, as she sat watching her baby’s cradle on her return from the party. ‘After all, I believe Mr Stanhope is the pleasanter man of the two.’ Alas for the memory of poor John Bold! Eleanor was not in love with Bertie Stanhope, nor was she in love with Mr Arabin. But her devotion to her late husband was fast fading, when she could revolve in her mind, over the cradle of his infant, the faults and failings of other aspirants to her favour.

Will any one blame my heroine for this? Let him or her rather thank God for all His goodness,—for His mercy endureth for ever.

Eleanor, in truth, was not in love; neither was Mr Arabin. Neither indeed was Bertie Stanhope, though he had already found occasion to say nearly as much as that he was. The widow’s cap had prevented him from making a positive declaration, when otherwise he would have considered himself entitled to do so on a third or fourth interview. It was, after all, but a small cap now, and had but little of the weeping–willow left in its construction. It is singular how these emblems of grief fade away by unseen gradations. Each pretends to be the counterpart of the forerunner, and yet the last little bit of crimped white crape that sits so jauntily on the back of the head, is as dissimilar to the first huge mountain of woe which disfigured the face of the weeper, as the state of the Hindoo is to the jointure of the English dowager.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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