Having received a formal command to wait upon the bishop, he rose and proceeded to obey it. He rang the bell and desired the servant to inform his master that if it suited his lordship, he, Mr Slope, was ready to wait upon him. The servant, who well understood that Mr Slope was no longer in the ascendant, brought back a message, saying that, his lordship desired that Mr Slope would attend him immediately in his study. Mr Slope waited about ten minutes more to prove his independence, and then went into the bishops room. There, as had expected, he found Mrs Proudie, together with her husband.
Hum, haMr Slope, please take a chair, said the gentleman bishop.
Pray be seated, Mr Slope, said the lady bishop.
Thank ye, thank ye,said Mr Slope, and walking round to the fire, he threw himself into one of the armchairs that graced the hearthrug.
Mr Slope, said the bishop, it has become necessary that I should speak to you definitively on a matter that has for some time been pressing itself on my attention.
May I ask whether the subject is in any way connected with myself? said Mr Slope.
It is socertainly,yes, it certainly is connected with yourself, Mr Slope.
Then, my lord, if I may be allowed to express a wish, I would prefer that no discussion on the subject should take place between us in the presence of a third party.
Dont alarm yourself, Mr Slope, said Mrs Proudie, no discussion is at all necessary. The bishop merely intends to express his own wishes.
I merely intend, Mr Slope, to express my own wishesno discussion will be at all necessary, said the bishop, reiterating his wifes words.
That is more, my lord, than we any of us can be sure of, said Mr Slope; I cannot, however, force Mrs Proudie to leave the room; nor can I refuse to remain here, if it be your lordships wish that I should do so.
It is certainly his lordships wish,said Mrs Proudie.
Mr Slope, began the bishop, in a solemn, serious voice, it grieves me to have to find fault. It grieves me much to find fault with a clergyman; but especially so with a clergyman in your position.
Why, what have I done amiss, my lord? demanded Mr Slope, loudly.
What have you done amiss, Mr Slope? said Mrs Proudie, standing erect before the culprit, and raising that terrible forefinger. Do you dare to ask the bishop what you have done amiss? does not your conscience
Mrs Proudie, pray let it be understood, once for all, that I will have no words with you.
Ah, sire, but you will have words, said she; you must have words. Why have you had so may words with that Signora Neroni? Why have you disgraced yourself, you a clergyman, by constantly consorting with such a woman as thatwith a married womanwith one altogether unfit for a clergymans society?
At any rate, I was introduced to her in your drawingroom, returned Mr Slope.
And shamefully you behave there, said Mrs Proudie, most shamefully. I was wrong to allow you to remain in the house a day after what I then saw. I should have insisted on your instant dismissal.
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