Anthony Trollope: Barchester Towers


She did not show it as other women might have done. She did not give Mrs Quiverful eau-de-Cologne, or order her a glass of wine. She did not take her to her toilet table, and offer her the use of brushes and combs, towels and water. She did not say soft little speeches and coax her kindly with equanimity. Mrs Quiverful, despite her rough appearance, would have been as amenable to such little tender cares as any lady in the land. But none such was forthcoming. Instead of that, Mrs Proudie slapped one hand upon the other, and declared--not with an oath; for as a lady and a Sabbatarian and a she-bishop, she could not swear,--but with an adjuration, that 'she wouldn't have it done.'

The meaning of this was that she wouldn't have Mr Quiverful's promised appointment cozened away by the treachery of Mr Slope and the weakness of her husband. This meaning she very soon explained to Mrs Quiverful.

'Why was your husband such a fool,' said she, now dismounted from her high horse and sitting confidentially down close to her visitor, 'as to take the bait which that man threw to him? If he had not been so utterly foolish, nothing could have prevented your going to the hospital.'

Poor Mrs Quiverful was ready enough with her own tongue in accusing her husband to his face of being soft, and perhaps she did not always speak of him to her children quite so respectfully as she might have done. But she did not like to hear him abused by others, and began to vindicate him, and to explain that of course he had taken Mr Slope to be an emissary of Mrs Proudie herself; that Mr Slope was thought to be peculiarly her friend; and that, therefore, Mr Quiverful would have been failing in respect to her had he assumed to doubt what Mr Slope had said.

Thus mollified Mrs Proudie again declared that she 'would not have it done,' and at last sent Mrs Quiverful home with an assurance that, to the furthest stretch of her power and influence in the palace, the appointment of Mr Quiverful should be insisted upon. As she repeated that word 'insisted', she thought of the bishop in his night-cap, and with compressed lips slightly shook her head. Oh! my aspiring pastors, divines to whose ears nolo episcopari are the sweetest of words, which of you would be a bishop on such terms as these?

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