Mrs Proudie takes a fall
It was hardly an hour since Mrs Proudie had left her husbands apartment victorious, and yet so indomitable was her courage that she now returned thither panting for another combat. She was greatly angry with what she thought was his duplicity. He had so clearly given her a promise on this matter of the hospital. He had been already so absolutely vanquished on that point. Mrs Proudie began to feel that if every affair was to be thus discussed and battled about twice and even thrice, the work of the diocese would be too much even for her.
Without knocking at the door she walked quickly into her husbands room and found him seated at his office table, with Mr Slope opposite to him. Between his fingers was the very note which he had written to the archbishop in her presenceand it was open! Yes, he had absolutely violated the seal which had been made sacred by her approval. They were sitting in deep conclave, and it was too clear that the purport of the archbishops invitation had been absolutely canvassed again, after it had been already debated and decided on in obedience to her behests! Mr Slope rose from his chair, and bowed slightly. The two opposing spirits looked each other fully in the face, and they knew that they were looking each at an enemy.
What is this, bishop, about Mr Quiverful? said she, coming to the end of the table and standing there.
Mr Slope did not allow the bishop to answer, but replied himself. I have been out to Puddingdale this morning, maam, and have seen Mr Quiverful. Mr Quiverful has abandoned his claim to the hospital, because he is now aware that Mr Harding is desirous to fill his old place. Under these circumstances I have strongly advised his lordship to nominate Mr Harding.
Mr Quiverful has not abandoned anything, said the lady, with a very imperious voice. His lordships word has been pledged to him, and it must be respected.
The bishop still remained silent. He was anxiously desirous of making his old enemy bite the dust beneath his feet. His new ally had told him that nothing was more easy for him than to do so. The ally was there now at his elbow to help him, and yet his courage failed him. It is so hard to conquer when the prestige of the former victories is all against one. It is so hard for the cock who has once been beaten out of his yard to resume his courage and again take a proud place upon a dunghill.
Perhaps I ought not to interfere, said Mr Slope, but yet
Certainly you ought not, said the infuriated dame.
But yet, continued Mr Slope, not regarding the interruption, I have thought it my imperative duty to recommend to the bishop not to slight Mr Hardings claims.
Mr Harding should have known his own mind, said the lady.
If Mr Harding be not replaced at the hospital, his lordship will have to encounter much ill will, not only in the diocese, but in the world at large. Besides, taking a higher ground, his lordship, as I understood, feels it to be his duty to gratify, in this matter, so very worthy a man and so good a clergyman as Mr Harding.
And what is to become of the Sabbathday school, and of the Sunday services in the hospital? said Mrs Proudie, with something very nearly approaching to a sneer on her face.
I understand that Mr Harding makes no objection to the Sabbathday school, said Mr Slope. And as to the hospital services, that matter will be best discussed after his appointment. If he has any personal objection, then, I fear, the matter must rest.
You have a very easy conscience in such matters, Mr Slope, said she.
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