Barchester Towers HTML version
15. 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.
'To be sure,' said he; 'Mr Harding's daughter is very rich, and why should he trouble
himself with the hospital?'
'You mean Mrs Grantly,' said Slope.
'I meant the widowed daughter,' said the other. 'Mrs Bold has twelve hundred a year of
her own, and I suppose Mr Harding means to live with her.'
'Twelve hundred a year of her own!' said Slope, and very shortly afterwards took his
leave, avoiding, as far as it was possible for him to do, any further allusion to the
hospital. Twelve hundred a year, said he to himself, as he rode slowly home. If it were