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17. CHAPTER XVII: WHO SHALL BE COCK OF THE WALK? (continued)
Mr Slope opened wide his huge protruding eyes, and stared out of them with a look of well-dignified surprise. 'Why, Mrs Proudie,' said he, 'I did but fetch her something to eat when she was hungry.'
'And you have called on her since,' continued she, looking at the culprit with the stern look of a detective policeman in the act of declaring himself.
Mr Slope turned over in his mind whether it would be well for him to tell this termagant at once that he should call on whom he liked, and do what he liked; but he remembered that his footing in Barchester was not yet sufficiently firm, and that it would be better for him to pacify her.
'I certainly called since at Dr Stanhope's house, and certainly saw Madame Neroni.'
'Yes, and you saw her alone,' said the episcopal Argus.
'Undoubtedly I did,' said Mr Slope, 'but that was because nobody else happened to be in the room. Surely it was no fault of mine if the rest of the family were out.'
'Perhaps not; but I assure you, Mr Slope, you will fall greatly in my estimation if I find that you allow yourself to be caught by the lures of that woman. I know women better than you do, Slope, and you may believe me that that signora, as she calls herself, is not a fitting companion for a strict evangelical, unmarried young clergyman.'
How Mr Slope would have liked to laugh at her, had he dared! But he did not dare. So he merely said, 'I can assure you, Mrs Proudie, the lady in question is nothing to me.'
'Well, I hope not, Mr Slope. But I have considered it my duty to give you this caution; and now there is another thing I feel myself called upon to speak about; it is your conduct to the bishop, Mr Slope.'
'My conduct to the bishop,' said he, now truly surprised and ignorant what the lady alluded to.
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