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32. CHAPTER XXXII: A NEW CANDIDATE FOR ECCLESIASTICAL HONOURS
The dean's illness occasioned much mental turmoil in other places besides the deanery and adjoining library, and the idea which occurred to the meagre little prebendary about Mr Slope did not occur to him alone.
The bishop was sitting listlessly in his study when the news reached him of the dean's illness. It was brought to him by Mr Slope, who of course was not the last person in Barchester to hear it. It was also not slow in finding its way to Mrs Proudie's ears. It may be presumed that there was not just much friendly intercourse between these two rival claimants for his lordship's obedience. Indeed, though living in the same house, they had not met since the stormy interview between them in the bishop's study on the preceding day.
On that occasion, Mrs Proudie had been defeated. That from her standards was a subject of great sorrow to that militant lady; but though defeated, she was not overcome. She felt that she might yet recover her lost ground, that she might yet hurl Mr Slope down to the dust from which she had picked him, and force her sinning lord to sue for pardon in sackcloth and ashes.
On that memorable day, memorable for his mutiny and rebellion against her high behests, he had carried his way with a high hand, and had really begun to think it possible that the days of his slavery were counted. He had begun to hope that he was now about to enter into a free land, a land delicious with milk which he himself might quaff, and honey which would not tantalise him by being only honey to the eye. When Mrs Proudie banged the door, as she left his room, he felt himself every inch a bishop. To be sure his spirit had been a little cowed by his chaplain's subsequent lecture; but on the whole he was highly pleased with himself, and flattered himself that the worst was over. 'Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute', he reflected; and now that his first step had been so magnanimously taken, all the rest would follow easily.
He met his wife as a matter of course at dinner, where little or nothing was said that could ruffle the bishop's happiness. His daughters and the servants were present and protected him.
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