The bishop was more amazed than ever. Had he seen his father? ‘No,’ he replied; he had not yet had the pleasure; he hoped he might; and, as he said so, he resolved to bear heavy on that fat, immoveable rector, if ever he had the power of doing so.

‘He’s in the room somewhere,’ said Bertie, ‘and he’ll turn up soon. By the bye, do you know much about the Jews?’

At last the bishop saw a way out. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said he; ‘but I’m forced to go round the room.’

‘Well—I believe I’ll follow in your wake,’ said Bertie. ‘Terribly hot, isn’t it?’ This he addressed to the fat rector with whom he had brought himself into the closest contact. ‘They’ve got this sofa into the worst possible part of the room; suppose we move it. Take care, Madeline.’

The sofa had certainly been so placed that those who were behind it found great difficulty in getting out;—there was but a narrow gangway, which one person could stop. This was a bad arrangement, and one which Bertie thought it might be well to improve.

‘Take care, Madeline,’ said he; and turning to the fat rector, added, ‘Just help me with a slight push.’

The rector’s weight was resting on the sofa, and unwittingly lent all its impetus to accelerate and increase the motion which Bertie intentionally originated. The sofa rushed from its moorings, and ran half–way into the middle of the room. Mrs Proudie was standing with Mr Slope in front of the signora, and had been trying to be condescending and sociable; but she was not in the very best of tempers; for she found that whenever she spoke to the lady, the lady replied by speaking to Mr Slope. Mr Slope was a favourite, no doubt; but Mrs Proudie had no idea of being less thought of than the chaplain. She was beginning to be stately, stiff, and offended, when unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train, and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture. Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open, flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves;—a long ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet, and still clung to the vile wheel on which the sofa moved.

So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemated stories, show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small spark is applied to the treacherous fusee—a cloud of dust arises to the heavens—and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and ugly fragments.

We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised. We know too what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield. As Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs Proudie look on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her train.

‘Oh, you idiot, Bertie!’ said the signora, seeing what had been done, and what were the consequences.

‘Idiot,’ re–echoed Mrs Proudie, as though the word were not half strong enough to express the required meaning; ‘I’ll let him know –;’ and then looking round to learn, at a glance, the worst, she saw that at present it behoved her to collect the scattered débris of her dress.

Bertie, when he saw what he had done, rushed over the sofa, and threw himself on one knee before the offended lady. His object, doubtless, was to liberate the torn lace from the castor; but he looked as though he were imploring pardon from a goddess.

‘Unhand it, sir!’ said Mrs Proudie. From what scrap of dramatic poetry she had extracted the word cannot be said; but it must have rested on her memory, and now seemed opportunely dignified for the occasion.

‘I’ll fly to the looms of the fairies to repair the damage, if you’ll only forgive me,’ said Ethelbert, still on his knees.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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