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16. CHAPTER XVI: BABY WORSHIP (continued)
He had therefore taken the opportunity of again speaking to his lordship about the hospital, and had endeavoured to make it appear that after all it would be unwise to exclude Mr Harding from the appointment. Mr Slope, however, had a harder task than he had imagined. Mrs Proudie, anxious to assume to herself as much as possible of the merit of patronage, had written to Mrs Quiverful, requesting her to call at the palace; and had then explained to that matron, with much mystery, condescension, and dignity, the good that was in store for her and her progeny. Indeed Mrs Proudie had been so engaged at the very time that Mr Slope had been doing the same with her husband at Puddingdale Vicarage, and had thus in a measure committed herself. The thanks, the humility, the gratitude, the surprise of Mrs Quiverful had been very overpowering; she had all but embraced the knees of her patroness; and had promised that the prayers of fourteen unprovided babes (so Mrs Quiverful had described her own family, the eldest of which was a stout young woman of three-and-twenty) should be put up to heaven morning and evening for the munificent friend whom God had sent to them. Such incense as this was not unpleasing to Mrs Proudie, and she made the most of it. She offered her general assistance to the fourteen unprovided babes, if, as she had no doubt, she should find them worthy; expressed a hope that the eldest of them would be fit to undertake tuition in her Sabbath schools, and altogether made herself a very great lady in the estimation of Mrs Quiverful.
Having done this, she thought it prudent to drop a few words before the bishop, letting him know that she had acquainted the Puddingdale family with their good fortune; so that he might perceive that he stood committed to the appointment. The husband well understood the rule of his wife, but he did not resent it. He knew that she was taking the patronage out of his hands; he was resolved to put an end to her interference, and re-assume his powers. But then he thought this was not the best time to do it. He put off the evil hour, as many a man in similar circumstances has done before him.
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