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24. CHAPTER XXIV: MR SLOPE'S MANAGES MATTERS VERY CLEVERLY AT PUDDINGDALE (continued)
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.
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