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little fish, as they flitted by in the running stream. On
the other side of the river was a rich, green meadow,
running up to and joining the deanery, and as little
open to the public as the garden of the dean itself.
Nothing, therefore, could be more private than the
quad of the hospital ; and it was there that the arch-
deacon determined to convey to them his sense of their
refractory proceedings.

The servant soon brought in word that the men
were assembled in the quad, and the archdeacon, big
with his purpose, rose to address them.

" Well, warden, of course you *re coming," said he,
seeing that Mr. Harding did not prepare to follow him.

" I wish you 'd excuse me," said Mr. Harding.

" For heaven's sake, don't let us have division in the
camp," replied the archdeacon. *' Let us have a long
pull and a strong pull, but above all a pull all together ;
come, warden, come ; don't be afraid of your duty."

Mr. Harding was afraid ; he was afraid that he was
being led to do that which was not his duty. He was
not, however, strong enough to resist, so he got up and
followed his son-in-law.

The old men were assembled in groups in the quad-
rangle ; — eleven of them at least, for poor old Johnny
Bell was bed-ridden, and could n't come ; he had, how-
ever, put his mark to the petition, as one of Handy's
earliest followers. 'T is true he could not move from
the bed where he lay ; 't is true he had no friend on


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earth but those whom the hospital contained ; and of
those the warden and his daughter were the most con-
stant and most appreciated ; 't is true that everything
was administered to him which his failing body could
require, or which his faint appetite could enjoy ; but
still his dull eye had glistened for a moment at the idea
of possessing a hundred pounds a year " to his own
cheek," as Abel Handy had eloquently expressed it ;
and poor old Johnny Bell had greedily put his mark to
the petition.

When the two clergymen appeared, they all uncov-
ered their heads. Handy was slow to do it, and hesi-
tated ; but the black coat and waistcoat, of which he
had spoken so irreverently in Skulpit's room, had its
effect even on him, and he too doffed his hat. Bunce,
advancing before the others, bowed lowly to the arch-
deacon, and with affectionate reverence expressed his
wish, that the warden and Miss Eleanor were quite
well ; " and the doctor's lady," he added, turning to
the archdeacon, " and the children at Plumstead, and
my lord ;" and having made his speech, he also retired
among the others, and took his place with the rest upon
the stone benches.

As the archdeacon stood up to make his speech,
erect in the middle of that little square, he looked like
an ecclesiastical statue placed there, as a fitting imper-
sonation of the chm-ch militant here on earth ; his shovel
hat, large, new, and well-pronounced, a churchman's hat
in every inch, declared the profession as plainly as
does the Quaker's broad brim ; his heavy eyebrows,
large open eyes, and full mouth and chin expressed the
solidity of his order ; the broad chest, amply covered
with fme cloth, told how well to do was its estate ; one


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hand ensconced within his pocket, evinced the prac-
tical hold which our mother church keeps on her tem-
poral possessions ; and the other, loose for action, was
ready to fight if need be in her defence ; and, below
these, the decorous breeches, and neat black gaiters
showing so admirably that well-turned leg, betokened
the stability, the decency, the outward beauty and grace
of our church establishment.

" Now, my men," he began, when he had settled
himself well in his position, " I want to say a few words
to you. Your good friend, the warden here, and my-
self, and my lord the bishop, on whose behalf I wish
to speak to you, would all be very sorry, very sorry
indeed, that you should have any just ground of com-
plaint. Any just ground of complaint on your part
would be removed at once by the warden, or by his
lordship, or by me on his behalf, without the necessity
of any petition on your part." Here the orator stopped
for a moment, expecting that some little murmurs of
applause would show that the weakest of the men were
beginning to give way ; but no such murmurs came.
Bunce, himself, even sat with closed lips, mute and
unsatisfactory. " Without the necessity of any petition
at all," he repeated. " I 'm told you have addressed a
petition to my lord." He paused for a reply from the
men, and after a while. Handy plucked up courage,
and said, " Yes, we has."

" You have addressed a petition to my lord, in which,
as I am informed, you express an opinion that you do
not receive from Hiram's estate all that is your due."
Here most of the men expressed their assent. " Now
what is it you ask for? What is it you want that you
have n't got here? What is i t "


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" A hundred a year," muttered old Moody, with a
voice as if it came out of the ground.

" A hmidred a year ! " ejaculated the archdeacon
militant, defying the impudence of these claimants
with one hand stretched out and closed, while with
the other he tightly grasped, and secured within his
breeches pocket, that symbol of the church's wealth
which his own loose half-crowns not unaptly repre-
sented. "A hundred a year! Why, my men, you
must be mad! And you talk about John Hiram*s
will ! When John Hiram built a hospital for worn-out
old men, worn-out old labouring men, infirm old men
past their work, cripples, blind, bed-ridden, and such
hke, do you think he meant to make gentlemen of
them? Do you think John Hiram intended to give a
hundred a year to old single men, who earned perhaps
two shillings or half-a-crown a day for themselves and
families in the best of their time? No, my men! I *11
tell you what John Hiram meant; he meant that
twelve poor old worn-out labourers, men who could
no longer support themselves, who had no friends to
support them, who must starve and parish miserably if
not protected by the hand of charity; — he meant that
twelve such men as these should come in here in their
poverty and wretchedness, and find within these walls
shelter and food before their death, and a Uttle leisure
to make their peace with God. That was what John
Hiram meant. You have not read John Hiram's will,
and I doubt whether those wicked men who are advis-
ing you have done so. I have ; I know what his will
was ; and I tell you that that was his will, and that
that was his intention."

Not a sound came from the eleven bedesmen, fts


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they sat listening to what, according to the archdeacon,
was their mtended estate. They grimly stared upon
his burly figure, but did not then express, by word or
sign, the anger and disgust to which such language was
sure to give rise.

" Now let me ask you," he continued ; " do you think
you are worse off than John Hiram intended to make
you? Have you not shelter, and food, and leisure?
Have you not much more? Have you not every in-
dulgence which you are capable of enjoying? Have
you not twice better food, twice a better bed, ten times
more money in your pocket than you were ever able
to earn for yourselves before you were lucky enough
to get into this place? And now you sent a petition
to the bishop, asking for a hundred pounds a year!
I tell you what, my friends ; you are deluded, and
made fools of by wicked men who are acting for their
own ends. You will never get a hundred pence a year
more than what you have now. It is very possible that
you may get less ; it is very possible that my lord, the
bishop, and your warden, may make changes "

" No, no, no," interrupted Mr. Harding, who had
been listening with indescribable misery to the tirade of
his son-in-law ; " no, my friends. I want no changes ;
— at least no changes that shall make you worse off than
you now are, as long as you and I hve together."

" God bless you, Mr. Harding," said Bunce ; and
" God bless you, Mr. Harding ; God bless you, sir :
we know you was always our friend," was exclaimed
by enough of the men to make it appear that the sen-
timent was general.

The archdeacon had been interrupted in his speech
before he had quite; but he felt that he


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could not recommence with dignity after this little
ebullition, and he led the way back into the garden,
followed by his father-in-law.

" Well," said he, as soon as he found himself within
the cool retreat of the warden's garden ; " I think I
spoke to them plainly." And he wiped the perspira-
tion from his brow ; for making a speech under a broil-
ing mid-day sun in summer, in a full suit of thick black
cloth, is warm work.

" Yes, you were plain enough," repUed the warden,
in a tone which did not express approbation.

" And that 's everything," said the other, who was
clearly well satisfied with himself ; " that *s everything.
With those sort of people one must be plain, or one
will not be understood. Now, I think they did imder-
stand me ; — I think they knew what I meant." *

The warden agreed. He certainly thought they had
understood to the full what had been said to them.

" They know pretty well what they have to expect
from us ; they know how we shall meet any refractory
spirit on their part ; they know that we are not afraid
of them. And now I '11 just step into Chadwick's, and
tell him what I Ve done ; and then I '11 go up to the
palace, and answer this petition of theirs."

The warden's mind was very full, — ^fuU nearly to over-
charging itself ; and had it done so, — ^had he allowed
himself to speak the thoughts which were working
within him, he would indeed have astonished the arch-
deacon by the reprobation he would have expressed as
to the proceeding of which he had been so unwilling
a witness. But different feelings kept him silent ; he
was as yet afraid of differing from his son-in-law, — ^he
was anxious beyond measure to avoid even a semblance


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64 tttfi WARDEN.

of rupture with any of his order, and was painfully
fearful of having to come to an open quarrel with any
person on any subject. His life had hitherto been
so quiet, so free from strife ; his little early troubles
had required nothing but passive fortitude ; his subse-
quent prosperity had never forced upon him any active
cares, — ^had never brought him into disagreeable con-
tact with any one. He felt that he would give almost
anything, — ^much more than he knew he ought to give,
— ^to relieve himself from the storm which he feared
was coming. It was so hard that the pleasant waters
of his little stream should be disturbed and muddied
by rough hands ; that his quiet paths should be made
a battle-field ; that the unobtrusive comer of the world
which had been allotted to him, as though by Provi-
dence, should be invaded and desecrated, and all within
it made miserable and unsound.

Money he had none to give ; the knack of putting
guineas together had never belonged to him ; " but how
willingly, with what a foolish easiness, with what happy
alacrity, would he have abandoned the half of his in-
come for all time to come, could he by so doing have
quietly dispelled the clouds that were gathering over
him, — could he have thus compromised the matter be-
tween the reformer and the Conservative, between his
possible son-in-law, Bold, and his positive son-in-law,
the archdeacon.

And this compromise would not have been made
from any prudential motive of saving what would yet
remain, for Mr. Harding still felt little doubt but he
should be left for hfe in quiet possession of the good
things he had, if he chose to retain them. No ; he
would have done so from the sheer love of quiet, and


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from a horror of being made the subject of public talk.
He had very often been moved to pity, — ^to that in-
ward weeping of the heart for others' woes ; but none
had he ever pitied more than that old lord, whose
almost fabulous wealth, drawn from his church prefer-
ments, had become the subject of so much opprobrium,
of such public scorn ; that wretched clerical octogena-
rian Croesus, whom men would not allow to die in
peace, — ^whom all the world united to decry and to

Was he to suffer such a fate ? Was his humble name
to be bandied in men*s mouths, as the gormandiser of
the resources of the poor, as of one who had filched
from the charity of other ages wealth which had been
intended to relieve the old and the infirm? Was he
to be gibbeted in the press, to become a byword for
oppression, to be named as an example of the greed of
the English church? Should it ever be said that he
had robbed those old men, whom he so truly and so
tenderly loved in his heart of hearts? As he slowly
paced, hour after hour, under those noble lime-trees,
turning these sad thoughts within him, he became all
but fixed in his resolve that some great step must be
taken to relieve him from the risk of so terrible a fate.

In the meanwhile, the archdeacon, with contented
mind and unruffled spirit, went about his business.
He said a word or two to Mr. Chadwick, and then
finding, as he expected, the petition Ipng in his father's
hbrary, he wrote a short answer to the men, in which he
told them that they had no evils to redress, but rather
great mercies for which to be thankful ; and having
seen the bishop sign it, he got into his brougham and re-
turned home to Mrs. Grantly, and Plumstead Episcopi.



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THE warden's tea PARTY.

After much painful doubting, on one thing only
could Mr. Harding resolve. He determined that at
any rate he would take no offence, and that he would
make this question no cause of quarrel either with Bold
or with the bedesmen. In furtherance of this resolu-
tion, he himself wrote a note to Mr. Bold, the same
afternoon, inviting him to meet a few friends and hear
some music on an evening named in the next week.
Had not this little party been promised to Eleanor, in
his present state of mind he would probably have
avoided such gaiety ; but the promise had been given,
the invitations were to be written, and when Eleanor
consulted her father on the subject, she was not ill
pleased to hear him say, ** Oh, I was thinking of Bold,
so I. took it into my head to write to him myself; but
you must write to his sister."

Mary Bold was older than her brother, and, at the
time of our story, was just over thirty. She was not
an unattractive young woman, though by no means
beautiful. Her great merit was the kindhness of her
disposition. She was not very clever, nor very ani-
mated, nor had she apparently the energy of her
brother; but she was guided by a high principle of
right and wrong ; her temper was sweet, and her faults


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THE warden's tea PARTY. 67

were fewer in number than her virtues. Those who
casually met Mary Bold thought Kttle of her ; but those
who knew her well loved her well, and the longer they
knew her the more they loved her. Among those who
were fondest of her was Eleanor Harding ; and though
Eleanor had never openly talked to her of her brother,
each understood the other's feelings about him. The
brother and sister were sitting together when the two
notes were brought in.

" How odd," said Mary, " that they should send two
notes. Well, if Mr. Harding becomes fashionable, the
world is going to change."

Her brother understood immediately the nature and
intention of the peace-offering ; but it was not so easy
for him to behave well in the matter as it was for Mr.
Harding. It is much less difficult for the sufferer to
be generous than for the oppressor. John Bold felt
that he could not go to the warden's party. He never
loved Eleanor better than he did now ; he had never
so strongly felt how anxious he was to make her his
wife as now, when so many obstacles to his doing so
appeared in view. Yet here was her father himself,
as it were, clearing away those very obstacles, and still
he felt that he could not go to the house any more as
an open friend.

As he sat thinking of these things with the note in
his hand, his sister was waiting for his decision.

" Well," said she, *' I suppose we must write separate
answers, and both say we shall be very happy."

" You '11 go, of course, Mary," said he ; to which
she readily assented. " I cannot," he continued, look-
ing serious and gloomy. " I wish I could, with all my


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" Ab4 why not, John? " said she. She had as yet
heard nothing of the new-found abuse which her
brother was about to reform ; — at least nothing which
connected it with her brother^s name.

He sat thinking for a while till he determined that it
would be best to tell her at once what it was that he
was about. It must be done sooner or later.

" I fear I cannot go to Mr. Harding's house any more
as a friend, just at present."

"Oh, John! Why not? Ah; you Ve quarrelled
with Eleanor!"

" No, indeed," said he ; "I Ve no quarrel with her
as yet."

" What is it, John? " said she, looking at him with an
anxious, loving face, for she knew well how much of
his heart was there in that house which he said he
could no longer enter.

" Why," said he at last, " I Ve taken up the case of
these twelve old men of Hiram's Hospital, and of
course that brings me into contact with Mr. Harding.
I may have to oppose him, interfere with him, — ^per-
haps injure him."

Mary looked at him steadily for some time before
she committed herself to reply, and then merely asked
him what he meant to do for the old men.

" Why, it 's a long story, and I don^t know that I can
make you understand it. John Hiram made a will,
and left his property in charity for certain poor old
men, and the proceeds, instead of going to the bene-
fit of these men, goes chiefly into the pocket of the
warden, and the bishop's steward."

" And you mean to take away from Mr. Harding his
share of it? "


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THE warden's tea PARTY. 6$

" I don't know what I mean yet. I mean to inquire
about it. I mean to see who is entitled to this prop-
erty. I mean to see, if I can, that justice be done to
the poor of the city of Barchester generally, who are,
m fact, the legatees imder the will. I mean, in short,
to put the matter right, if I can."

" And why are you to do this, John? "

" You might ask the same question of anybody else,"
said he ; " and according to that, the duty of righting
these poor men would belong to nobody. If we are
to act on that principle, the weak are never to be pro-
tected, injustice is never to be opposed, and no one is
to struggle for the poor!" And Bold began to com-
fort himself in the warmth of his own virtue.

" But is there no one to do this but you, who have
known Mr. Harding so long? Surely, John, as a friend,
as a young friend, so much younger than Mr. Hard-
ing "

" That 's woman's logic, all over, Mary. What has
age to do with it? Another man might plead that he
was too old ; and as to his friendship, if the thing itself
be right, private motives should never be allowed to
interfere. Because I esteem Mr. Harding, is that a
reason that I should neglect a duty which I owe to
these old men? Or should I give up a work which
my conscience tells me is a good one, because I regret
the loss of his society? "

"And Eleanor, John? " said the sister, looking timidly
into her brother's face.

" Eleanor, that is. Miss Harding, if she thinks fit, — *
that is, if her father,— or rather, if she, — or, indeed, he,

— ^if they find it necessary . But there is no ne*

cessity now to talk about Eleanor Harding. This I


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Will say, that if she has the kind of spirit for which I
give her credit, she will not condemn me for doing
what I think to be a duty." And Bold consoled him-
self with the consolation of a Roman.

Mary sat silent for a while, till at last her brother
reminded her that the notes must be answered, and
she got up, and placed her desk before her, took out
her pen and paper, wrote on it slowly, —

** Pakenham Villas, Tuesday morning.
" My dear Eleanor,

" T »»

and then stopped and looked at her brother.

" Well, Mary, why don't you write it? "

" Oh, John," said she, " dear John, pray think better
of this."

" Think better of what? " said he.

" Of this about the hospital,— of all this about Mr.
Harding, — of what you say about those old men.
Nothing can call upon you, — ^no duty can require you
to set yourself against your oldest, your best friend.
Oh, John, think of Eleanor. You 'U break her heart
and your own."

" Nonsense, Mary ; Miss Harding's heart is as safe
as yours."

" Pray, pray, for my sake, John, give it up. You
know how dearly you love her." And she came and
knelt before him on the rug. " Pray give it up. You
are going to make yourself, and her, and her father
miserable. You are going to make us all miserable.
And for what? For a dream of justice. You will nevei
make those twelve men happier than they now are."


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THE warden's tea PARTY. 7 1

" You don't understand it, my dear girl," said he,
smoothing her hair with his hand.

" I do understand it, John. I understand that this
is a chimera, — a dream that you have got. I know
well that no duty can require you to do this mad,^
this suicidal thing. I know you love Eleanor Harding
with all your heart, and I tell you now that she loves
you as well. If there was a plain, a positive duty be-
fore you, I would be the last to bid you neglect it for
any woman's love ; but this ; oh, think again, be-
fore you do anything to make it necessary that you
and Mr. Harding should be at variance." He did
not answer, as she knelt there, leaning on his knees,
but by his face she thought that he was inclined to
yield. " At any rate let me say that you will go to this
party. At any rate do not break with them while
your mind is in doubt." And she got up, hoping to
conclude her note in the way she desired.

" My mind is not in doubt," at last he said, rising.
" I could never respect myself again, were I to give
way now, because Eleanor Harding is beautiful. I do
love her. I would give a hand to hear her tell me
what you have said, speaking on her behalf. But I
cannot for her sake go back from the task which I
have commenced. I hope she may hereafter acknowl-
edge and respect my motives, but I cannot now go as
a guest to her father's house." And the Barchester
Brutus went out to fortify his own resolution by medi-
tations on his own virtue.

Poor Mary Bold sat down and sadly finished her
note, sa)ang that she would herself attend the party,
but that her brother was unavoidably prevented from
doing so. I fear that she did not admire as she


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should have done the self-devotion of his singular

The party went off as such parties do. There were
fat old ladies in fine silk dresses, and slim young
ladies in gauzy muslin frocks; old gentlemen stood
up with their backs to the empty fireplace, looking by
no means so comfortable as they would have done
in their own arm-chairs at home ; and young gentle-
men, rather stiff about the neck, clustered near the
door, not as yet sufiiciently in courage to attack the
muslin frocks, who awaited the battle, drawn up in a
semicircular array. The warden endeavoured to in-
duce a charge, but failed signally, not having the tact
of a general ; his daughter did what she could to com-
fort the forces under her command, who took in re-
freshing rations of cake and tea, and patiently looked
for the coming engagement. But she herself, Eleanor,
had no spirit for- the work; the only enemy whose
lance she cared to encoimter was not there, and she
and others were somewhat dull.

Loud above all voices was heard the clear sonorous
tones of the archdeacon as he dilated to brother par-
sons of the danger of the church, of the fearful rumours
of mad reforms even at Oxford, and of the damnable
heresies of Dr. Whiston.

Soon, however, sweeter sounds began timidly to make
themselves audible. Little movements were made in
a quarter notable for round stools and music stands.
Wax candles were arranged in sconces, big books were
brought from hidden recesses, and the work of the

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Online LibraryAnthony Trollope[The chronicles of Barsetshire] → online text (page 5 of 18)