The Widow's Suitors

Mr Slope lost no time in availing himself of the bishop’s permission to see Mr Quiverful, and it was in his interview with this worthy pastor that he first learned that Mrs Bold was worth the wooing. He rode out to Puddingdale to communicate to the embryo warden the good will of the bishop in his favour, and during the discussion on the matter, it was unnatural that the pecuniary resources of Mr Harding and his family should become the subject of remark.

Mr Quiverful, with his fourteen children and his four hundred a year, was a very poor man, and the prospect of this new preferment, which was to be held together with his living, was very grateful to him. To what clergyman so circumstanced would not such a prospect be very grateful? But Mr Quiverful had long been acquainted with Mr Harding, and had received kindness at his hands, so that his heart misgave him as he thought of supplanting a friend at the hospital. Nevertheless, he was extremely civil, cringingly civil, to Mr Slope; treated him quite as the great man; entreated this great man to do him the honour to drink a glass of sherry, at which, as it was very poor Marsala, the now pampered Slope turned up his nose; and ended by declaring his extreme obligation to the bishop and Mr Slope, and his great desire to accept the hospital, if—if it were certainly the case that Mr Harding had refused it.

What man, as needy as Mr Quiverful, would have been more disinterested?

‘Mr Harding did positively refuse it,’ said Mr Slope, with a certain air of offended dignity, ‘when he heard of the conditions to which the appointment is now subjected. Of course, you understand, Mr Quiverful, that the same conditions will be imposed on yourself.’

Mr Quiverful cared nothing for the conditions. He would have undertaken to preach any number of sermons Mr Slope might have chosen to dictate, and to pass every remaining hour of his Sundays within the walls of a Sunday school. What sacrifices, or, at any rate, what promises, would have been too much to make for such an addition to his income, and for such a house! But his mind still recurred to Mr Harding.

‘To be sure,’ said he; ‘Mr Harding’s daughter is very rich, and why should he trouble himself with the hospital?’

‘You mean Mrs Grantly,’ said Slope.

‘I meant the widowed daughter,’ said the other. ‘Mrs Bold has twelve hundred a year of her own, and I suppose Mr Harding means to live with her.’

‘Twelve hundred a year of her own!’ said Slope, and very shortly afterwards took his leave, avoiding, as far as it was possible for him to do, any further allusion to the hospital. Twelve hundred a year, said he to himself, as he rode slowly home. If it were the fact that Mrs Bold had twelve hundred a year of her own, what a fool would he be to oppose her father’s return to his old place. The train of Mr Slope’s ideas will probably be plain to all my readers. Why should he not make the twelve hundred a year his own? And if he did so, would it not be well for him to have a father–in–law comfortably provided with the good things of this world? Would it not, moreover, be much more easy for him to gain his daughter, if he did all in his power to forward his father’s views?

These questions presented themselves to him in a very forcible way, and yet there were many points of doubt. If he resolved to restore to Mr Harding his former place, he must take the necessary steps for doing so at once; he must immediately talk over the bishop, quarrel on the matter with Mrs Proudie whom he knew he could not talk over, and let Mr Quiverful know that he had been a little too precipitate as to Mr Harding’s positive refusal. That he could effect all this, he did not doubt; but he did not wish to effect it for nothing. He did not wish to give way to Mr Harding, and then be rejected by the daughter. He did not wish to lose one influential friend before he had gained another.

And thus he rode home, meditating the many things in his mind. It occurred to him that Mrs Bold was sister–in–law to the archdeacon; and that not even for twelve hundred a year would he submit to that imperious man. A rich wife was a great desideratum to him, but success in his profession was still greater; there

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