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11. CHAPTER XI: MRS PROUDIE'S RECEPTION--CONCLUDED (continued)
At last the bishop saw a way out. 'I beg your pardon,' said he; 'but I'm forced to go round the room.'
'Well--I believe I'll follow in your wake,' said Bertie. 'Terribly hot, isn't it?' This he addressed to the fat rector with whom he had brought himself into the closest contact. 'They've got this sofa into the worst possible part of the room; suppose we move it. Take care, Madeline.'
The sofa had certainly been so placed that those who were behind it found great difficulty in getting out;--there was but a narrow gangway, which one person could stop. This was a bad arrangement, and one which Bertie thought it might be well to improve.
'Take care, Madeline,' said he; and turning to the fat rector, added, 'Just help me with a slight push.'
The rector's weight was resting on the sofa, and unwittingly lent all its impetus to accelerate and increase the motion which Bertie intentionally originated. The sofa rushed from its moorings, and ran half-way into the middle of the room. Mrs Proudie was standing with Mr Slope in front of the signora, and had been trying to be condescending and sociable; but she was not in the very best of tempers; for she found that whenever she spoke to the lady, the lady replied by speaking to Mr Slope. Mr Slope was a favourite, no doubt; but Mrs Proudie had no idea of being less thought of than the chaplain. She was beginning to be stately, stiff, and offended, when unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train, and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture. Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open, flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves;--a long ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet, and still clung to the vile wheel on which the sofa moved.
So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemated stories, show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small spark is applied to the treacherous fusee--a cloud of dust arises to the heavens--and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and ugly fragments.
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