Mrs Proudie's Reception-commenced

The bishop and his wife had only spent three or four days in Barchester on the occasion of their first visit. His lordship had, as we have seen, taken his seat on his throne; but his demeanour there, into which it had been his intention to infuse much hierarchical dignity, had been a good deal disarranged by the audacity of his chaplain’s sermon. He had hardly dared to look his clergy in the face, and to declare by the severity of his countenance that in truth he meant all that his factotum was saying on his behalf; nor yet did he dare throw Mr Slope over, and show to those around him that he was no party to the sermon, and would resent it.

He had accordingly blessed his people in a shambling manner, not at all to his own satisfaction, and had walked back to his palace with his mind very doubtful as to what he would say to his chaplain on the subject. He did not remain long in doubt. He had hardly doffed his lawn when the partner of all his toils entered his study, and exclaimed even before she had seated herself—

‘Bishop, did you ever hear a more sublime, more spirit–moving, more appropriate discourse than that?’

‘Well, my love; ha–hum–he!’ The bishop did not know what to say.

‘I hope, my lord, you don’t mean to say you disapprove?’

There was a look about the lady’s eye which did not admit of my lord’s disapproving at that moment. He felt that if he intended to disapprove, it must be now or never; but he also felt that it could not be now. It was not in him to say to the wife of his bosom that Mr Slope’s sermon was ill–timed, impertinent and vexatious.

‘No, no,’ replied the bishop. ‘No, I can’t say I disapprove—a very clever sermon and very well intended, and I dare say will do a great deal of good.’ This last praise was added, seeing that what he had already said by no means satisfied Mrs Proudie.

‘I hope it will,’ said she. ‘I am sure it was well deserved. Did you ever in your life, bishop, hear anything so like play–acting as the way in which Mr Harding sings the litany? I shall beg Mr Slope to continue a course of sermons on the subject till all that is altered. We will have at any rate, in our cathedral, a decent, godly, modest morning service. There must be no more play–acting here now;’ and so the lady rang for lunch.

This bishop knew more about cathedrals and deans, and precentors and church services than his wife did, and also more of the bishop’s powers. But he thought it better at present to let the subject drop.

‘My dear,’ said he, ‘I think we must go back to London on Tuesday. I find that my staying here will be very inconvenient to the Government.’

The bishop knew that to this proposal his wife would not object; and he also felt that by thus retreating from the ground of battle, the heat of the fight might be got over in his absence.

‘Mr Slope will remain here, of course,’ said the lady.

‘Oh, of course,’ said the bishop.

Thus, after less than a week’s sojourn in his palace, did the bishop fly from Barchester; nor did he return to it for two months, the London season being then over. During that time Mr Slope was not idle, but he did not again assay to preach in the cathedral. In answer to Mrs Proudie’s letters, advising a course of sermons, he had pleaded that he would at any rate wish to put off such an undertaking till she was there to hear them.

He had employed his time in consolidating a Proudie and Slope party—or rather a Slope and Proudie party, and he had not employed his time in vain. He did not meddle with the dean and chapter, except by giving them little teasing intimations of the bishop’s wishes about this and the bishop’s feelings about

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