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17. CHAPTER XVII: WHO SHALL BE COCK OF THE WALK?
All this time things were going on somewhat uneasily at the palace. The hint or two which Mr Slope had given was by no means thrown away upon the bishop. He had a feeling that if he ever meant to oppose the now almost unendurable despotism of his wife, he must lose no further time in doing so; that if he even meant to be himself master in his own diocese, let alone his own house, he should begin at once. It would have been easier to have done so from the day of his consecration than now, but easier now than when Mrs Proudie should have succeeded in thoroughly mastering the diocesan details. Then the proffered assistance of Mr Slope was a great thing for him, a most unexpected and invaluable aid. Hitherto he had looked on the two as allied forces; and had considered that as allied they were impregnable. He had begun to believe that his only chance of escape would be by the advancement of Mr Slope to some distant and rich preferment. But now it seemed that one of his enemies, certainly the least potent of them, but nevertheless one very important, was willing to desert his own camp. He walked up and down his little study, almost thinking that the time had come when he would be able to appropriate to his own use the big room upstairs, in which his predecessor had always sat.
As he resolved these things in his mind a note was brought to him from Archdeacon Grantly, in which that divine begged his lordship to do him the honour of seeing him on the morrow--would his lordship have the kindness to name the hour? Dr Grantly's proposed visit would have reference to the re-appointment of Mr Harding to the wardenship of Hiram's hospital. The bishop having read this note was informed that the archdeacon's servant was waiting for an answer.
Here at once a great opportunity offered itself to the bishop of acting on his own responsibility. He bethought himself of his new ally, and rang the bell for Mr Slope. It turned out that Mr Slope was not in the house; and then, greatly daring, the bishop with his own unassisted spirit wrote a note to the archdeacon saying that he would see him, and naming the hour for doing so. Having watched from his study-window that the messenger got safely off the premises with this despatch, he began to turn over in his mind what step he should next take.
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