‘I wonder,’ said Dr Grantly, ‘if it be true that Mr Slope and Mrs Bold come here together. Susan says she is almost sure she saw their faces in the same carriage as she got out of her own.’

Mr Arabin had nothing for it but to bear his testimony to the correctness of Mrs Grantly’s eyesight.

‘It is perfectly shameful,’ said the archdeacon; ‘or I should rather say, shameless. She was asked her as my guest; and if she be determined to disgrace herself, she should have feeling enough not to do so before my immediate friends. I wonder how that man got himself invited. I wonder whether she had the face to bring him.’

To this Mr Arabin could answer nothing, nor did he wish to answer anything. Though he abused Eleanor to himself, he did not choose to abuse to any one else, nor was he well pleased to hear any one else speak ill of her. Dr Grantly, however, was very angry, and did not spare his sister–in–law. Mr Arabin therefore left him as soon as he could, and wandered back into the house.

It is impossible to say how the knowledge had been acquired, but the signora had a sort of instinctive knowledge that Mr Arabin was an admirer of Mrs Bold. Men hunt foxes by the aid of dogs, and are aware that they do so by the strong organ of smell with which the dog is endowed. They do not, however, in the least comprehend how such a sense can work with such acuteness. The organ by which woman instinctively, as it were, know and feel how other women are regarded by men, and how also men are regarded by other women, is equally strong, and equally incomprehensible. A glance, a word, a motion, suffices: by some such acute exercise of her feminine senses the signora was aware that Mr Arabin loved Eleanor Bold; and therefore, by a further exercise of her peculiar feminine propensities, it was quite natural for her to entrap Mr Arabin into her net.

The work was half done before she came to Ullathorne, and when could she have a better opportunity of completing it? She had had almost enough of Mr Slope, though she could not quite resist the fun of driving a very sanctimonious clergyman to madness by a desperate and ruinous passion. Mr Thorne had fallen too easily to give much pleasure in the chase. His position as a man of wealth might make his alliance of value, but as a lover he was very second–rate. We may say that she regarded him somewhat as a sportsman does a pheasant. The bird is so easily shot, that he would not be worth the shooting were it not for the very respectable appearance that he makes in a larder. The signora would not waste much time in shooting Mr Thorne, but still he was worth bagging for family uses.

But Mr Arabin was game of another sort. The signora was herself possessed of quite sufficient intelligence to know that Mr Arabin was a man more than usually intellectual. She knew also, that as a clergyman he was of a much higher stamp than Mr Slope, and that as gentleman he was better educated than Mr Thorne. She would never have attempted to drive Mr Arabin into ridiculous misery as she did Mr Slope, nor would she think it possible to dispose of him in ten minutes as she had done with Mr Thorne.

Such were her reflections about Mr Arabin. As to Mr Arabin, it cannot be said that he reflected at all about the signora.

He knew that she was beautiful, and he felt that she was able to charm him. He required charming in his present misery, and therefore he went and stood at the head of her couch. She knew all about it. Such were her peculiar gifts.

It was her nature to see that he required charming, and it was her province to charm him. As the Easter idler swallows his dose of opium, as the London reprobate swallows his dose of gin, so with similar desire and for similar reasons did Mr Arabin prepare to swallow the charms of the Signora Neroni.

‘Why aren’t you shooting with bows and arrows, Mr Arabin?’ said she, when they were nearly alone together in the sitting–room; ‘or talking with young ladies in shady bowers, or turning your talents to account in some way? What was a bachelor like you asked here for? Don’t you mean to earn your cold chicken and champagne? Were I you, I should be ashamed to be so idle.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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