‘What is it about, bishop?’ asked the lady.

‘Well—it was about those Quiverfuls—but I see you are engaged. Another time will do just as well for me.’

‘What about the Quiverfuls? It is quite understood I believe, that they are to come to the hospital. There is to be no doubt about that, is there?’ And as she spoke she kept her pencil sternly and vigorously fixed on the column of figures before her.

‘Why, my dear, there is a difficulty,’ said the bishop.

‘A difficulty!’ said Mrs Proudie, ‘What difficulty? The place has been promised to Mr Quiverful, and of course he must have it. He has made all his arrangements. He has written for a curate for Puddingdale, he has spoken to the auctioneer about selling his farm, horses, and cows, and in all respects considers the place as his own. Of course he must have it.’

Now, bishop, look well to thyself, and call up all the manhood that is in thee. Think how much is at stake. If now thou art not true to thy guns, no Slope can hereafter aid thee. How can he who deserts his own colours at the final smell of gunpowder expect faith in any ally. Thou thyself hast sought the battlefield; fight out the battle manfully now thou art there. Courage, bishop, courage! Frowns cannot kill, nor can sharp words break any bones. After all the apron is thine own. She can appoint no wardens, give away no benefices, nominate no chaplains, an’ thou art but true to thyself. Up, man, and at her with a constant heart.

Some little monitor within the bishop’s breast so addressed him. But then there was another monitor there which advised him differently, and as follows. Remember, bishop, she is a woman, and such a woman is the very mischief. Were it not better for thee to carry on this war, if it must be waged, from behind thine own table in thine own study? Does not every cock fight best on is own dunghill? Thy daughters also are here, the pledges of thy love, the fruits of thy loins; is it well that they should see thee in the hour of thy victory over their mother? Nay, is it well that they should see thee in the possible hour of thy defeat? Besides, hast thou not chosen thy opportunity with wonderful little skill, indeed with no touch of sagacity for which thou art famous? Will it not turn out that thou art wrong in this matter, and thine enemy right; that thou hast actually pledged thyself in this matter of the hospital, and that now thou wouldst turn upon thy wife because she requires from thee but the fulfilment of thy promise? Art thou not a Christian bishop, and is not thy word to be held sacred whatever be the result? Return, bishop, to thy sanctum on the lower floor, and postpone thy combative propensities for some occasion in which at least thou mayest fight the battle against odds less tremendously against thee.

All this passed within the bishop’s bosom while Mrs Proudie stall sat with her fixed pencil, and the figures of her sum still enduring on the tablets of her memory. ‘L4 17s 7d,’ she said to herself. ‘Of course Mr Quiverful must have the hospital,’ she said out loud to her lord.

‘Well, my dear, I merely wanted to suggest to you that Mr Slope seems to think that if Mr Harding be not appointed, public feeling in the matter would be against us and that the press might perhaps take it up.’

‘Mr Slope seems to think!’ said Mrs Proudie, in a tone of voice which plainly showed the bishop that he was right in looking for a breach in that quarter. ‘And what has Mr Slope to do with it? I hope, my lord, you are not going to allow yourself to be governed by a chaplain.’ and now in her eagerness the lady lost her place in her account.

‘Certainly not, my dear. Nothing I can assure you is less probable. But still Mr Slope may be useful in finding how the wind blows, and I really thought that if we could give something good to Mr Quiverful—’

‘Nonsense,’ said Mrs Proudie; ‘it would be years before you could give them anything else that could suit them half as well, and as for the press and the public, and all that, remember there are two ways of

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.