Anthony Trollope: Barchester Towers


He was sitting with her in the drawing-room, with his arm round her waist, saying now and then some little soft words of affection, and working hard with his imaginary little fiddle-bow, when Mr Arabin entered the room. He immediately got up, and the two made some trifle remarks to each other, neither thinking of what he was saying, and Eleanor kept her seat on the sofa mute and moody. Mr Arabin was included in the list of those against whom her anger was excited. He, too, had dared to talk about her acquaintance with Mr Slope; he, too, had dared to blame her for not making an enemy of his enemy. She had not intended to see him before her departure, and was now but little inclined to be gracious.

There was a feeling through the whole house that something was wrong. Mr Arabin, when he saw Eleanor, could not succeed in looking or in speaking as though he knew nothing of all this. He could not be cheerful and positive and contradictory with her, as was his wont. He had not been two minutes in the room before he felt that he had done wrong in return; and the moment he heard her voice, he thoroughly wished himself back at St Ewold's. Why, indeed, should he have wished to have aught further to say to the future wife of Mr Slope?

'I am sorry to hear that you are too leave so soon,' said he, striving in vain to use his ordinary voice. In answer to this she muttered something about the necessity of her being in Barchester, and betook herself industriously to her crochet work.

Then there was a little more trite conversation between Mr Arabin and Mr Harding; trite, and hard, and vapid, and senseless. Neither of them had anything to say to the other, and yet neither at such a moment liked to remain silent. At last Mr Harding, taking advantage of a pause, escaped from the room, and Eleanor and Mr Arabin were left together.

'Your going will be a great break-up to our party,' said he.

She again muttered something which was all but inaudible; but kept her eyes fixed upon her work.

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