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30. CHAPTER XXX: ANOTHER LOVE SCENE
But there was another visitor at the rectory whose feelings in this unfortunate matter must be somewhat strictly analysed. Mr Arabin had heard from his friend of the probability of Eleanor's marriage with Mr Slope with amazement, but not with incredulity. It has been said that he was not in love with Eleanor, and up to this period this certainly had been true. But as soon as he heard that she loved some one else, he began to be very fond of her himself. He did not make up his mind that he wished to have her for his wife; he had never thought of her, and did not know how to think of her, in connection with himself; but he experienced an inward indefinable feeling of deep regret, a gnawing sorrow, and unconquerable depression of spirits, and also a species of self-abasement that he--he Mr Arabin--had not done something to prevent that other he, that vile he, whom he so thoroughly despised, from carrying off his sweet prize.
Whatever man may have reached the age of forty unmarried without knowing something of such feelings must have been very successful or else very cold hearted.
Mr Arabin had never thought of trimming the sails of his bark so that he might sail as convoy to this rich argosy. He had seen that Mrs Bold was beautiful, but he had not dreamt of making her beauty his own. He knew that Mrs Bold was rich, but he had no more idea of appropriating her wealth than that of Dr Grantly. He had discovered that Mrs Bold was intelligent, warm-hearted, agreeable, sensible, all, in fact, that a man could wish his wife to be; but the higher were her attractions, the greater her claims to consideration, the less had he imagined that he might possible become the possessor of them. Such had been his instinct rather than his thoughts, so humble and so diffident. Now his diffidence was to be rewarded by his seeing this woman, whose beauty was to his eyes perfect, whose wealth was such as to have deterred him from thinking of her, whose widowhood would have silenced him had he not been so deterred, by his seeing her become the prey of--Obadiah Slope!
On the morning of Mrs Bold's departure he got on his horse to ride over to St Ewold's. As he rode he kept muttering to himself a line from Van Artevelde:-
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