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40. CHAPTER XL: ULLATHORNE SPORTS--ACT II (continued)
Poor lady! He had within him a certain Christian conscience-stricken feeling of remorse on this head. It might be that he had wronged her by his tardiness. He had, however, at the present moment imbibed too much of Mr Thorne's champagne to have any inward misgivings. He was right in repeating the boast of Lady Macbeth: he was not drunk; but he was bold enough for anything. It was a pity that in such a state he could not have encountered Mrs Proudie.
'You must permit me to attend you,' said he; 'I could not think of allowing you to go alone.'
'Indeed you must, Mr Slope,' said Eleanor still very stiffly; 'for it is my special wish to be alone.'
The time for letting the great secret escape him had already come. Mr Slope saw that it must be now or never, and he was determined that it should be now. This was not his first attempt at winning a fair lady. He had been on his knees, looked unutterable things with his eyes, and whispered honeyed words before this. Indeed he was somewhat an adept at these things, and had only to adapt to the perhaps different taste of Mrs Bold the well-remembered rhapsodies which had once so much gratified Olivia Proudie.
'Do not ask me to leave you, Mrs Bold,' said he with an impassioned look, impassioned and sanctified as well, with that sort of look which is not uncommon with gentlemen of Mr Slope's school, and which may perhaps be called the tender-pious. 'Do not ask me to leave you, till I have spoken a few words with which my heart is full; which I have come hither purposely to say.'
Eleanor saw how it was now. She knew directly what it was she was about to go through, and very miserable the knowledge made her. Of course she could refuse Mr Slope, and there would be an end of that, one might say. But there was not an end of it as far as Eleanor was concerned. The very fact of Mr Slope's making an offer to her would be a triumph for the archdeacon, and in a great measure a vindication of Mr Arabin's conduct. The widow could not bring herself to endure with patience the idea that she had been in the wrong.
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