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46. CHAPTER XLVI: MR SLOPE'S PARTING INTERVIEW WITH THE SIGNORA
On the following day the signora was in her pride. She was dressed in her brightest of morning dresses, and had quite a levee round her couch. It was a beautifully bright October afternoon; all the gentlemen of the neighbourhood were in Barchester, and those who had the entry of Dr Stanhope's house were in the signora's back drawing-room. Charlotte and Mrs Stanhope were in the front room, and such of the lady's squires as could not for the moment get near the centre of attraction had to waste their fragrance on the mother and sister.
The first who came and the last to leave was Mr Arabin. This was the second visit he had paid to Madame Neroni since he had met her at Ullathorne. He came he knew not why, to talk about he knew not what. But, in truth, the feelings which now troubled him were new to him, and he could not analyse them. It may seem strange that he should thus come dangling about Madame Neroni because he was in love with Mrs Bold; but it was nevertheless the fact; and though he could not understand why he did so, Madame Neroni understood it well enough.
She had been gentle and kind to him, and had encouraged his staying. Therefore he stayed on. She pressed his hand when he first greeted her; and whispered to him little nothings. And then her eye, brilliant and bright, now mirthful, now melancholy, and invincible in either way! What man with warm feelings, blood unchilled, and a heat not guarded by a triple steel of experience could have withstood those eyes! The lady, it is true, intended to do no mortal injury; she merely chose to inhale a slight breath of incense before she handed the casket over to another. Whether Mrs Bold would willingly have spared even so much is another question.
And then came Mr Slope. All the world now knew that Mr Slope was a candidate for the deanery, and that he was generally considered to be the favourite. Mr Slope, therefore, walked rather largely upon the earth. He gave to himself a portly air, such as might become a dean, spoke but little to other clergymen, and shunned the bishop as much as possible. How the meagre little prebendary, and the burly chancellor, and all the minor canons and vicars choral, ay, and all the choristers too, cowered and shook and walked about with long faces when they read or heard of that article of the Jupiter. Now were coming the days when nothing would avail to keep the impure spirit from the cathedral pulpit. That pulpit would indeed be his own. Precentors, vicars, and choristers might hang up their harps on the willows. Ichabod! Ichabod! The glory of their house was departing from them.
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