"It would depend upon his mood at the time, madam," said Mr. Robarts. "If that were very stern, he might perhaps have me beheaded before the palace gates." Mrs. Proudie drew herself up in her chair, showing that she did not like the tone of the conversation; and Miss Proudie fixed her eyes vehemently on her book, showing that Miss Dunstable and her conversation were both beneath her notice.
Ha, ha, ha. Well, that's as good as a play." It was as good as a play to any there who had eyes to observe it and wit to comment on what they observed. But the Lady De Courcy soon found a congenial spirit on the lawn. There she encountered Mrs. Proudie, and as Mrs.
Mrs Proudie had no doubt as to what should be done. The man had abdicated his living, and of course some provision must be made for the services. She would again make an attempt upon her husband, and therefore she went into his room holding Mr Crawley's letter in her hand. "My dear," she said, "here is Mr Crawley's letter. I suppose you have read it." "Yes," said the bishop; "I have read it."
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.
'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.
And he drove on, leaving the lady well pleased and astonished at his good nature. On the whole things were going well with the archdeacon, and he could afford to be charitable to Mrs. Quiverful. He looked forth from his gig smilingly on all the world, and forgave everyone in Barchester their sins, excepting only Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope.
The truth is that in matters domestic she rules supreme over her titular lord, and rules with a rod of iron. Nor is this all. Things domestic Dr Proudie might have abandoned to her, if not voluntarily, yet willingly. But Mrs Proudie is not satisfied with such home dominion, and stretches her power over all his movements, and will not even abstain from things spiritual.
"We do indeed," says the mild Grecian. "We eat them!" says she of Colchis, with terrific energy. Mrs. Proudie was the Medea of Barchester; she had no idea of not eating Mr. Slope. Pardon him! Merely get rid of him! Make a dean of him! It was not so they did with their captives in her country, among people of her sort! Mr. Slope had no such mercy to expect; she would pick him to the very last bone.
Why have you disgraced yourself, you a clergyman, too, by constantly consorting with such a woman as that with a married woman with one altogether unfit for a clergyman's society?" "At any rate I was introduced to her in your drawing-room," retorted Mr. Slope. "And shamefully you behaved there," said Mrs. Proudie; "most shamefully.
I don't know why I pay such high wages to Mrs Richards, if she can't take the trouble to see whether or no you are fit to be looked at, and Mrs Proudie poked the strings here, and twitched the dress there, and gave her daughter a shove and a shake, and then pronounced it all right.