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15. CHAPTER XV: THE WIDOW'S SUITORS
Mr Slope lost no time in availing himself of the bishop's permission to see Mr Quiverful, and it was in his interview with this worthy pastor that he first learned that Mrs Bold was worth the wooing. He rode out to Puddingdale to communicate to the embryo warden the good will of the bishop in his favour, and during the discussion on the matter, it was unnatural that the pecuniary resources of Mr Harding and his family should become the subject of remark.
Mr Quiverful, with his fourteen children and his four hundred a year, was a very poor man, and the prospect of this new preferment, which was to be held together with his living, was very grateful to him. To what clergyman so circumstanced would not such a prospect be very grateful? But Mr Quiverful had long been acquainted with Mr Harding, and had received kindness at his hands, so that his heart misgave him as he thought of supplanting a friend at the hospital. Nevertheless, he was extremely civil, cringingly civil, to Mr Slope; treated him quite as the great man; entreated this great man to do him the honour to drink a glass of sherry, at which, as it was very poor Marsala, the now pampered Slope turned up his nose; and ended by declaring his extreme obligation to the bishop and Mr Slope, and his great desire to accept the hospital, if--if it were certainly the case that Mr Harding had refused it.
What man, as needy as Mr Quiverful, would have been more disinterested?
'Mr Harding did positively refuse it,' said Mr Slope, with a certain air of offended dignity, 'when he heard of the conditions to which the appointment is now subjected. Of course, you understand, Mr Quiverful, that the same conditions will be imposed on yourself.'
Mr Quiverful cared nothing for the conditions. He would have undertaken to preach any number of sermons Mr Slope might have chosen to dictate, and to pass every remaining hour of his Sundays within the walls of a Sunday school. What sacrifices, or, at any rate, what promises, would have been too much to make for such an addition to his income, and for such a house! But his mind still recurred to Mr Harding.
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