‘It is everything to the purpose, Mr Quiverful. Witnesses indeed! And then to talk of your honour being questioned because you wish to provide for fourteen children. It is everything to the purpose; and so they shall know, if I scream it into their ears from the town cross of Barchester.’

‘You forget, Letitia, that the bishop has so many things in his gift. We must wait a little longer. That is all.’

‘Wait! Shall we feed the children by waiting? Will waiting put George and Tom, and Sam, out into the world? Will it enable my poor girls to give up some of their drudgery? Will waiting make Bessy and Jane fit even to be governesses? Will waiting pay for the things we got in Barchester last week?’

‘It is all we can do, my dear. The disappointment is as much to me as to you; and yet, God knows, I feel it more for your sake than my own.’

Mrs Quiverful was looking full into her husband’s face, and saw a small hot tear appear on each of those furrowed cheeks. This was too much for her woman’s heart. He also had risen, and was standing with his back to the empty grate. She rushed towards him, and seizing him in her arms, sobbed aloud upon his bosom.

‘Yes, you are too good, too soft, too yielding,’ she said at last. ‘These men, when they want you, they use you like a cat’s–paw; and when they want you no longer, they throw you aside like an old shoe. This is twice they have treated you so.’

‘In one way this will be for the better,’ argued he. ‘It will make the bishop feel that he is bound to do something for me.’

‘At any rate, he shall hear of it,’ said the lady, again reverting to her more angry mood. ‘At any rate he shall hear of it, and that loudly; and so shall she. She little knows Letitia Quiverful, if she thinks I will sit down quietly with the loss after all that passed between us at the palace. If there’s any feeling within her, I’ll make her ashamed of herself,’—and she paced the room again, stamping the floor as she went with her fat heavy foot.

‘Good heavens! What a heart she must have within her to treat in such a way as this the father of fourteen unprovided children!’

Mr Quiverful proceeded to explain that he didn’t think that Mrs Proudie had anything to do with it.

‘Don’t tell me,’ said Mrs Quiverful; ‘I know more about it than that. Doesn’t all the world know that Mrs Proudie is bishop of Barchester, and that Mr Slope is merely her creature? Wasn’t it she that made me the promise just as though the thing was in her own particular gift? I tell you, it was that woman who sent him over here to–day because, for some reason of her own, she wants to go back on her word.’

‘My dear, you’re wrong—’

‘Now, Q, don’t be so soft,’ she continued. ‘Take my word for it, the bishop knows no more about it than Jemima does.’ Jemima was the two–year old. ‘And if you’ll take my advice, you’ll lose no time in going over and seeing him yourself.’

Soft, however, as Mr Quiverful might be, he would not allow himself to be talked out of his opinion on this occasion; and proceeded with much minuteness to explain to his wife the tone in which Mr Slope had spoken of Mrs Proudie’s interference in diocesan matters. As he did so, a new idea gradually instilled itself into the matron’s head, and a new course of action presented itself to her judgement. What if, after all, Mrs Proudie knew nothing of this visit of Mr Slope’s? In that case, might it not be possible that that lady would still be staunch to her in this matter, still stand her friend, and, perhaps, possibly carry her through in opposition to Mr Slope? Mrs Quiverful said nothing as this vague hope occurred to her, but

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