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17. CHAPTER XVII: WHO SHALL BE COCK OF THE WALK? (continued)
To-morrow he would have to declare to the archdeacon either that Mr Harding should have the appointment, or that he should not have it. The bishop felt that he could not honestly throw over Mr Quiverful without informing Mrs Proudie, and he resolved at last to brave the lioness in her own den and tell her that circumstances were such that it behoved him to reappoint Mr Harding. He did not feel that he should at all derogate from his new courage by promising Mrs Proudie that the very first piece of available preferment at his disposal should be given to Quiverful to atone for the injury done to him. If he could mollify the lioness with such a sop, how happy would he think his first efforts had been?
Not without many misgivings did he find himself in Mrs Proudie's boudoir. He had at first thought of sending for her. But it was not at all impossible that she might choose to take such a message amiss, and then also it might be some protection to him to have his daughters present at the interview. He found her sitting with her account books before her nibbling the end of her pencil evidently mersed in pecuniary difficulties, and harassed in mind by the multiplicity of palatial expenses, and the heavy cost of episcopal grandeur. Her daughters were around her. Olivia was reading a novel, Augusta was crossing a note to her bosom friend in Baker Street, and Netta was working diminutive coach wheels for the bottom of a petticoat. If the bishop could get the better of his wife in her present mood, he would be a man indeed. He might then consider victory his own for ever. After all, in such cases the matter between husband and wife stands much the same as it does between two boys at the same school, two cocks in the same yard, or two armies on the same continent. The conqueror once is generally the conqueror for ever after. The prestige of victory is everything.
'Ahem--my dear,' began the bishop, 'if you are disengaged, I wished to speak to you.' Mrs Proudie put her pencil down carefully at the point to which she had dotted her figures, marked down in her memory the sum she had arrived at, and then looked up, sourly enough, into her helpmate's face. 'If you are busy, another time will do as well,' continued the bishop, whose courage like Bob Acres' had oozed out, now that he found himself on the ground of battle.
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