The Widow's Persecution

Early on the following morning, Mr Slope was summoned to the bishop’s dressing–room, and went there fully expecting that he should find his lordship very indignant, and spirited up by his wife to repeat the rebuke which she had administered on the previous day. Mr Slope had resolved that at any rate from him he would not stand it, and entered the dressing–room in rather a combative disposition; but he found the bishop in the most placid and gentle of humours. His lordship complained of being rather unwell, had a slight headache, and was not quite the thing in his stomach; but there was nothing the matter with his temper.

‘Oh, Slope,’ said he, taking the chaplain’s proffered hand. ‘Archdeacon Grantly is to call on me this morning, and I really am not fit to see him. I fear I must trouble you to see him for me;’ and then Dr Proudie proceeded to explain what it was that must be said to Dr Grantly. He was to be told in fact in the civilest words in which the tidings could be conveyed, that Mr Harding having refused the wardenship, the appointment had been offered to Mr Quiverful and accepted by him.

Mr Slope again pointed out to his patron that he thought he was perhaps not quite wise in his decision, and this he did sotto voce. But even with this precaution it was not safe to say much, and during the little that he did say, the bishop made a very slight, but still a very ominous gesture with his thumb towards the door which opened from his dressing–room to some inner sanctuary. Mr Slope at once took the hint and said no more; but he perceived that there was to be confidence between him and his patron, that the league desired by him was to be made, and that this appointment of Mr Quiverful was to be the sacrifice offered on the altar of conjugal obedience. All this Mr Slope read in the slight motion of the bishop’s thumb, and he read it correctly. There was no need of parchments and seals, of attestations, explanations, and professions. The bargain was understood between them, and Mr Slope gave the bishop his hand upon it. The bishop understood the little extra squeeze, and an intelligible gleam of assent twinkled in his eye.

‘Pray be civil to the archdeacon, Mr Slope,’ said he out loud; ‘but make him quite understand that in this matter Mr Harding has put it out of my power to oblige him.’

It would be calumny on Mrs Proudie to suggest that she was sitting in her bed–room with her ear at the keyhole during this interview. She had within her a spirit of decorum which prevented her from descending to such baseness. To put her ear to a key–hole or to listen at a chink, was a trick for a housemaid.

Mrs Proudie knew this, and therefore she did not do it; but she stationed herself as near to the door as she well could, that she might, if possible, get the advantage which the housemaid would have had, without descending to the housemaid’s artifice.

It was little, however, that she heard, and that little was only sufficient to deceive her. She saw nothing of that friendly pressure, perceived nothing of that concluded bargain; she did not even dream of the treacherous resolves which those two false men had made together to upset her in the pride of her station, to dash the cup from her lip before she had drank of it, to seep away all her power before she had tasted its sweets! Traitors that they were; the husband of her bosom, and the outcast whom she had fostered and brought into the warmth of the world’s brightest fireside! But neither of them had the magnanimity of this woman. Though two men have thus leagued themselves together against her, even yet the battle is not lost.

Mr Slope felt pretty sure that Dr Grantly would decline the honour of seeing him, and such turned out to be the case. The archdeacon, when the palace door was opened to him, was greeted by a note. Mr Slope presented his compliments &c, &c. The bishop was ill in his room, and very greatly regretted, &c &c. Mr Slope had been charged with the bishop’s views, and if agreeable to the archdeacon, would do himself the honour &c, &c. The archdeacon, however, was not agreeable, and having read his note in the hall, crumpled it up in his hand, and muttering something about sorrow for his lordship’s illness, took his leave, without sending as much as a verbal message in answer to Mr Slope’s note.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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