‘For heaven’s sake, don’t let any one cajole you out of it again,’ said the wife.

‘Let me alone for that,’ said the husband, with a look of almost fierce determination, pressing his fist as he spoke rigidly on his desk, as though he had Mr Slope’s head below his knuckles, and meant to keep it there.

‘I wonder how soon it will be,’ said she.

‘I wonder whether it will be at all,’ said he, still doubtful.

‘Well, I won’t say too much,’ said the lady. ‘The cup has slipped twice before, and it may fall altogether this time; but I’ll not believe it. He’ll give you the appointment to–morrow. You’ll find he will.’

‘Heaven send he may,’ said Mr Quiverful, solemnly. And who that considers the weight of the burden on this man’s back, will say that the prayer was an improper one? There were fourteen of them—fourteen of them living—as Mrs Quiverful had so powerfully urged in the presence of the bishop’s wife. As long as promotion cometh from any human source, whether north or south, east or west, will not such a claim as this hold good, in spite of all our examination tests, detur digniori’s and optimist tendencies? It is fervently to be hoped that it may. Till we can become divine we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower.

And then the pair sitting down lovingly together, talked over all their difficulties, as they so often did, and all their hopes, as they so seldom were able to do.

‘You had better call on that man, Q, as you come away from the palace,’ said Mrs Quiverful, pointing to an angry call for money from the Barchester draper, which the postman had left at the vicarage that morning. Cormorant that he was, unjust, hungry cormorant! When rumour first got abroad that the Quiverfuls were to go to the hospital this fellow with fawning eagerness had pressed his goods upon the wants of the poor clergyman. He had done so, feeling that he should be paid from the hospital funds, and flattering himself that a man with fourteen children, and money wherewithal to clothe them, could not but be an excellent customer. As soon as the second rumour reached him, he applied for his money angrily.

‘And the ‘fourteen’—or such of them as were old enough to hope and discuss their hopes, talked over their golden future. The tall–grown girls whispered to each other of possible Barchester parties, of possible allowances for dresses, of a possible piano—the one they had in the vicarage was so weather–beaten with storms of years and children as to be no longer worthy of the name—of the pretty garden, and the pretty house. ’Twas of such things it most behoved them to whisper.

And the younger fry, they did not content themselves with whispers, but shouted to each other of their new playground beneath our dear ex–warden’s well–loved elms, of their future own gardens, of marbles to be procured in the wished–for city, and of the rumour which had reached them of a Barchester school.

’Twas in vain that their cautious mother tried to instil into their breasts the very feeling she had striven to banish from that of their father; ’twas in vain that she repeated to the girls that ‘there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip’; ’twas in vain she attempted to make the children believe that they were to live at Puddingdale all their lives. Hopes mounted high and would not have themselves quelled. The neighbouring farmers heard this news, and came in to congratulate them. ’Twas Mrs Quiverful herself who had kindled the fire, and in the first outbreak of her renewed expectations she did it so thoroughly, that it was quite past her power to put it out again.

Poor matron! Good honest matron! Doing thy duty in the state to which thou hast been called, heartily if not contentedly; let the fire burn on—on this occasion the flames will not scorch; they shall warm thee and thine. ’Tis ordained that the husband of thine, that Q of thy bosom, shall reign supreme for some years to come over the bedesmen of Hiram’s hospital.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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