Anthony Trollope: Barchester Towers


'Well, my dear; we are not to have it.' Such were the words with which her ears were greeted when she entered the parlour, still hot from the kitchen fire. And the face of her husband spoke even more plainly than his words:--"E'en such a man, so faint, so spiritless, So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone, Drew Priam's curtain in the dead of night."

'What!' said she,--and Mrs Siddons could not have put more passion into a single syllable,--'What! Not have it? Who says so?' And she sat opposite to her husband, with her elbows on the table, her hands clasped together, and her coarse, solid, but once handsome face stretched over it towards him.

She sat as silent as death while he told his story, and very dreadful to him her silence was. He told it very lamely and badly, but still in such a manner that she soon understood the whole of it.

'And so you have resigned it?' said she.

'I have had no opportunity of accepting it,' he replied. 'I had no witnesses to Mr Slope's offer, even if that offer would bind the bishop. It was better for me, on the whole, to keep on good terms with such men than to fight for what I should never get!'

'Witnesses!' she screamed, rising quickly to her feet, and walking up and down the room. 'Do clergymen require witnesses to their words? He made the promise in the bishop's name, and if it is to be broken I'll know the reason why. Did he not positively say that the bishop had sent him to offer you the place?'

'He did, my dear. But that is now nothing to the purpose.'

'It is everything to the purpose, Mr Quiverful. Witnesses indeed! And then to talk of your honour being questioned because you wish to provide for fourteen children. It is everything to the purpose; and so they shall know, if I scream it into their ears from the town cross of Barchester.'

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