His inquiries as to the widow’s income had at any rate been so far successful as to induce him to determine to go on with the speculation. As regarded Mr Harding, he had also resolved to do what he could without injury to himself. To Mrs Proudie he determined not to speak on the matter, at least not at present. His object was to instigate a little rebellion on the part of the bishop. He thought that such a state of things would be advisable, not only in respect to Messrs Harding and Quiverful, but also in the affairs of the diocese generally. Mr Slope was by no means of the opinion that Dr Proudie was fit to rule, but he conscientiously thought it wrong that his brother clergy should be subjected to petticoat government. He therefore made up his mind to infuse a little of his spirit into the bishop, sufficient to induce him to oppose his wife, though not enough to make him altogether insubordinate.

He had therefore taken the opportunity of again speaking to his lordship about the hospital, and had endeavoured to make it appear that after all it would be unwise to exclude Mr Harding from the appointment. Mr Slope, however, had a harder task than he had imagined. Mrs Proudie, anxious to assume to herself as much as possible of the merit of patronage, had written to Mrs Quiverful, requesting her to call at the palace; and had then explained to that matron, with much mystery, condescension, and dignity, the good that was in store for her and her progeny. Indeed Mrs Proudie had been so engaged at the very time that Mr Slope had been doing the same with her husband at Puddingdale Vicarage, and had thus in a measure committed herself. The thanks, the humility, the gratitude, the surprise of Mrs Quiverful had been very overpowering; she had all but embraced the knees of her patroness; and had promised that the prayers of fourteen unprovided babes (so Mrs Quiverful had described her own family, the eldest of which was a stout young woman of three–and–twenty) should be put up to heaven morning and evening for the munificent friend whom God had sent to them. Such incense as this was not unpleasing to Mrs Proudie, and she made the most of it. She offered her general assistance to the fourteen unprovided babes, if, as she had no doubt, she should find them worthy; expressed a hope that the eldest of them would be fit to undertake tuition in her Sabbath schools, and altogether made herself a very great lady in the estimation of Mrs Quiverful.

Having done this, she thought it prudent to drop a few words before the bishop, letting him know that she had acquainted the Puddingdale family with their good fortune; so that he might perceive that he stood committed to the appointment. The husband well understood the rule of his wife, but he did not resent it. He knew that she was taking the patronage out of his hands; he was resolved to put an end to her interference, and re–assume his powers. But then he thought this was not the best time to do it. He put off the evil hour, as many a man in similar circumstances has done before him.

Such having been the case, Mr Slope, naturally encountered a difficulty in talking over the bishop, a difficulty indeed which he found could not be overcome except at the cost of a general outbreak at the palace. A general outbreak at the present moment might be good policy, but it also might not. It was at any rate not a step to be lightly taken. He began by whispering to the bishop that he feared the public opinion would be against him if Mr Harding did not reappear at the hospital. The bishop answered with some warmth that Mr Quiverful had been promised the appointment on Mr Slope’s advice. ‘Not promised!’ said Mr Slope. ‘Yes, promised,’ replied the bishop, ‘and Mrs Proudie has seen Mrs Quiverful on the subject.’ This was quite unexpected on the part of Mr Slope, but his presence of mind did not fail him, and he turned the statement to his own account.

‘Ah, my lord,’ said he, ‘we shall all be in scrapes if the ladies interfere.’

This was too much in unison with his lordship’s feelings to be altogether unpalatable, and yet such an allusion to interference demanded a rebuke. My lord was somewhat astounded also, though not altogether made miserable, by finding that there was a point of difference between his wife and his chaplain.

‘I don’t know what you mean by interference,’ said the bishop mildly. ‘When Mrs Proudie heard that Mr Quiverful was to be appointed, it was not unnatural that she should wish to see Mrs Quiverful about the schools. I really cannot say that I see any interference.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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