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18. CHAPTER XVIII: THE WIDOW'S PERSECUTION (continued)
'Pray be civil to the archdeacon, Mr Slope,' said he out loud; 'but make him quite understand that in this matter Mr Harding has put it out of my power to oblige him.'
It would be calumny on Mrs Proudie to suggest that she was sitting in her bed-room with her ear at the keyhole during this interview. She had within her a spirit of decorum which prevented her from descending to such baseness. To put her ear to a key-hole or to listen at a chink, was a trick for a housemaid.
Mrs Proudie knew this, and therefore she did not do it; but she stationed herself as near to the door as she well could, that she might, if possible, get the advantage which the housemaid would have had, without descending to the housemaid's artifice.
It was little, however, that she heard, and that little was only sufficient to deceive her. She saw nothing of that friendly pressure, perceived nothing of that concluded bargain; she did not even dream of the treacherous resolves which those two false men had made together to upset her in the pride of her station, to dash the cup from her lip before she had drank of it, to seep away all her power before she had tasted its sweets! Traitors that they were; the husband of her bosom, and the outcast whom she had fostered and brought into the warmth of the world's brightest fireside! But neither of them had the magnanimity of this woman. Though two men have thus leagued themselves together against her, even yet the battle is not lost.
Mr Slope felt pretty sure that Dr Grantly would decline the honour of seeing him, and such turned out to be the case. The archdeacon, when the palace door was opened to him, was greeted by a note. Mr Slope presented his compliments &c, &c. The bishop was ill in his room, and very greatly regretted, &c &c. Mr Slope had been charged with the bishop's views, and if agreeable to the archdeacon, would do himself the honour &c, &c. The archdeacon, however, was not agreeable, and having read his note in the hall, crumpled it up in his hand, and muttering something about sorrow for his lordship's illness, took his leave, without sending as much as a verbal message in answer to Mr Slope's note.
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