‘I should not have an easy conscience,’ he rejoined, ‘but a conscience very far from being easy, if anything said or done by me should lead the bishop to act unadvisedly on this matter. It is clear that in the interview I had with Mr Harding, I misunderstood him—’

‘And it is equally clear that you have misunderstood Mr Quiverful,’ said she, not at the top of her wrath. ‘What business have you at all with these interviews? Who desired you to go to Mr Quiverful this morning? Who commissioned you to manage this affair? Will you answer me, sir?—who sent you to Mr Quiverful this morning?’

There was a dead pause in the room. Mr Slope had risen from his chair, and was standing with his hand on the back of it, looking at first very solemn and now very black. Mrs Proudie was standing as she had at first placed herself, at the end of the table, and as she interrogated her foe she struck her hand upon it with almost more than feminine vigour. The bishop was sitting in his easy chair twiddling his thumbs, turning his eyes now to his wife, and now to his chaplain, as each took up the cudgels. How comfortable it would be if they could fight it out between them without the necessity of any interference on his part; fight it out so that one should kill the other utterly, as far as the diocesan life was concerned, so that he, the bishop, might know clearly by whom it behoved him to be led. There would be the comfort of quiet in either case; but if the bishop had a wish as to which might prove the victor, that wish was certainly not antagonistic to Mr Slope.

‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know’, is an old saying, and perhaps a true one; but the bishop had not yet realised the truth of it.

‘Will you answer me, sir?’ she repeated. ‘Who instructed you to call on Mr Quiverful this morning?’ There was another pause. ‘Do you intend to answer me, sir?’

‘I think, Mrs Proudie, that under all the circumstances it will be better for me not to answer such a question,’ said Mr Slope. Mr Slope had many tones in his voice, all duly under his command; among them was a sanctified low tone, and a sanctified loud tone; and he now used the former.

‘Did anyone send you, sir?’

‘Mrs Proudie,’ said Mr Slope, ‘I am quite aware how much I owe to your kindness. I am aware also what is due by courtesy from a gentleman to a lady. But there are higher considerations than either of those, and I hope I shall be forgiven if I now allow myself to be actuated solely by them. My duty in this matter is to his lordship, and I can admit of no questioning but from him. He has approved of what I have done, and you must excuse me if I say, that having that approval and my own, I want none other.’

What horrid words were these which greeted the ear of Mrs Proudie? The matter was indeed too clear. There was premeditated mutiny in the camp. Not only had ill–conditioned minds become insubordinate by the fruition of a little power. The bishop had not yet been twelve months in this chair, and rebellion had already reared her hideous head within the palace. Anarchy and misrule would quickly follow, unless she took immediate and strong measures to put down the conspiracy which she had detected.

‘Mr Slope,’ she said, with slow and dignified voice, differing much from that which she had hitherto used, ‘Mr Slope, I will trouble you, if you please, to leave the apartment. I wish to speak to my lord alone.’

Mr Slope also felt that everything depended on the present interview. Should the bishop now be repetticoated, his thraldom would be complete and for ever. The present moment was peculiarly propitious for rebellion. The bishop had clearly committed himself by breaking the seal of the answer to the archbishop; he had therefore fear to influence him. Mr Slope had told him that no consideration ought to induce him to refuse the archbishop’s invitation; he had therefore hoped to influence him. He had accepted Mr Quiverful’s resignation, and therefore dreaded having to renew that matter with his wife. He had been screwed up to the pitch of asserting a will of his own, and might possibly be carried on till by an absolute success he should have been taught how possible it was to succeed. Now was the moment for victory or rout. It

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