The Warden, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XIII
The Warden’s Decision

The meeting between Eleanor and her father was not so stormy as that described in the last chapter, but it was hardly more successful. On her return from Bold’s house she found her father in a strange state. He was not sorrowful and silent as he had been on that memorable day when his son-in-law lectured him as to all that he owed to his order; nor was he in his usual quiet mood. When Eleanor reached the hospital, he was walking to and fro upon the lawn, and she soon saw that he was much excited.

‘I am going to London, my dear,’ he said as soon as he saw her.

‘London, papa!’

‘Yes, my dear, to London; I will have this matter settled some way; there are some things, Eleanor, which I cannot bear.’

‘Oh, papa, what is it?’ said she, leading him by the arm into the house. ‘I had such good news for you, and now you make me fear I am too late. And then, before he could let her know what had caused this sudden resolve, or could point to the fatal paper which lay on the table, she told him that the lawsuit was over, that Bold had commissioned her to assure her father in his name that it would be abandoned — that there was no further cause for misery, that the whole matter might be looked on as though it had never been discussed. She did not tell him with what determined vehemence she had obtained this concession in his favour, nor did she mention the price she was to pay for it.

The warden did not express himself peculiarly gratified at this intelligence, and Eleanor, though she had not worked for thanks, and was by no means disposed to magnify her own good offices, felt hurt at the manner in which her news was received. ‘Mr Bold can act as he thinks proper, my love,’ said he; ‘if Mr Bold thinks he has been wrong, of course he will discontinue what he is doing; but that cannot change my purpose.’

‘Oh, papa!’ she exclaimed, all but crying with vexation; ‘I thought you would have been so happy — I thought all would have been right now.’

‘Mr Bold,’ continued he, ‘has set great people to work — so great that I doubt they are now beyond his control. Read that, my dear.’ The warden, doubling up a number of The Jupiter, pointed to the peculiar article which she was to read. It was to the last of the three leaders, which are generally furnished daily for the support of the nation, that Mr Harding directed her attention. It dealt some heavy blows on various clerical delinquents; on families who received their tens of thousands yearly for doing nothing; on men who, as the article stated, rolled in wealth which they had neither earned nor inherited, and which was in fact stolen from the poorer clergy. It named some sons of bishops, and grandsons of archbishops; men great in their way, who had redeemed their disgrace in the eyes of many by the enormity of their plunder; and then, having disposed of these leviathans, it descended to Mr Harding.

‘We alluded some weeks since to an instance of similar injustice, though in a more humble scale, in which the warden of an almshouse at Barchester has become possessed of the income of the greater part of the whole institution. Why an almshouse should have a warden we cannot pretend to explain, nor can we say what special need twelve old men can have for the services of a separate clergyman, seeing that they have twelve reserved seats for themselves in Barchester Cathedral. But be this as it may, let the gentleman call himself warden or precentor, or what he will, let him be never so scrupulous in exacting religious duties from his twelve dependents, or never so negligent as regards the services of the cathedral, it appears palpably clear that he can be entitled to no portion of the revenue of the hospital, excepting that which the founder set apart for him; and it is equally clear that the founder did not intend that three-fifths of his charity should be so consumed.

‘The case is certainly a paltry one after the tens of thousands with which we have been dealing, for the warden’s income is after all but a poor eight hundred a year: eight hundred a year is not magnificent preferment of itself, and the warden may, for anything we know, be worth much more to the church; but if so, let the church pay him out of funds justly at its own disposal.

‘We allude to the question of the Barchester almshouse at the present moment, because we understand that a plea has been set up which will be peculiarly revolting to the minds of English churchmen. An action has been taken against Mr Warden Harding, on behalf of the almsmen, by a gentleman acting solely on public grounds, and it is to be argued that Mr Harding takes nothing but what he received as a servant of the hospital, and that he is not himself responsible for the amount of stipend given to him for his work. Such a plea would doubtless be fair, if anyone questioned the daily wages of a bricklayer employed on the building, or the fee of the charwoman who cleans it; but we cannot envy the feeling of a clergyman of the Church of England who could allow such an argument to be put in his mouth.

‘If this plea be put forward we trust Mr Harding will be forced as a witness to state the nature of his employment; the amount of work that he does; the income which he receives; and the source from whence he obtained his appointment. We do not think he will receive much public sympathy to atone for the annoyance of such an examination.’

As Eleanor read the article her face flushed with indignation, and when she had finished it, she almost feared to look up at her father.

‘Well, my dear,’ said he, ‘what do you think of that — is it worth while to be a warden at that price?’

‘Oh, papa; — dear papa!’

‘Mr Bold can’t un-write that, my dear — Mr Bold can’t say that that sha’n’t be read by every clergyman at Oxford; nay, by every gentleman in the land’: and then he walked up and down the room, while Eleanor in mute despair followed him with her eyes. ‘And I’ll tell you what, my dear,’ he continued, speaking now very calmly, and in a forced manner very unlike himself; ‘Mr Bold can’t dispute the truth of every word in that article you have just read — nor can I.’ Eleanor stared at him, as though she scarcely understood the words he was speaking. ‘Nor can I, Eleanor: that’s the worst of all, or would be so if there were no remedy. I have thought much of all this since we were together last night’; and he came and sat beside her, and put his arm round her waist as he had done then. ‘I have thought much of what the archdeacon has said, and of what this paper says; and I do believe I have no right to be here.’

‘No right to be warden of the hospital, papa?’

‘No right to be warden with eight hundred a year; no right to be warden with such a house as this; no right to spend in luxury money that was intended for charity. Mr Bold may do as he pleases about his suit, but I hope he will not abandon it for my sake.’

Poor Eleanor! this was hard upon her. Was it for this she had made her great resolve! For this that she had laid aside her quiet demeanour, and taken upon her the rants of a tragedy heroine! One may work and not for thanks, but yet feel hurt at not receiving them; and so it was with Eleanor: one may be disinterested in one’s good actions, and yet feel discontented that they are not recognised. Charity may be given with the left hand so privily that the right hand does not know it, and yet the left hand may regret to feel that it has no immediate reward. Eleanor had had no wish to burden her father with a weight of obligation, and yet she had looked forward to much delight from the knowledge that she had freed him from his sorrows: now such hopes were entirely over: all that she had done was of no avail; she had humbled herself to Bold in vain; the evil was utterly beyond her power to cure!

She had thought also how gently she would whisper to her father all that her lover had said to her about herself, and how impossible she had found it to reject him: and then she had anticipated her father’s kindly kiss and close embrace as he gave his sanction to her love. Alas! she could say nothing of this now. In speaking of Mr Bold, her father put him aside as one whose thoughts and sayings and acts could be of no moment. Gentle reader, did you ever feel yourself snubbed? Did you ever, when thinking much of your own importance, find yourself suddenly reduced to a nonentity? Such was Eleanor’s feeling now.

‘They shall not put forward this plea on my behalf,’ continued the warden. ‘Whatever may be the truth of the matter, that at any rate is not true; and the man who wrote that article is right in saying that such a plea is revolting to an honest mind. I will go up to London, my dear, and see these lawyers myself, and if no better excuse can be made for me than that, I and the hospital will part.’

‘But the archdeacon, papa?’

‘I can’t help it, my dear; there are some things which a man cannot bear — I cannot bear that’; and he put his hand upon the newspaper.

‘But will the archdeacon go with you?’

To tell the truth, Mr Harding had made up his mind to steal a march upon the archdeacon. He was aware that he could take no steps without informing his dread son-in-law, but he had resolved that he would send out a note to Plumstead Episcopi detailing his plans, but that the messenger should not leave Barchester till he himself had started for London; so that he might be a day before the doctor, who, he had no doubt, would follow him. In that day, if he had luck, he might arrange it all; he might explain to Sir Abraham that he, as warden, would have nothing further to do with the defence about to be set up; he might send in his official resignation to his friend the bishop, and so make public the whole transaction, that even the doctor would not be able to undo what he had done. He knew too well the doctor’s strength and his own weakness to suppose he could do this, if they both reached London together; indeed, he would never be able to get to London, if the doctor knew of his intended journey in time to prevent it.

‘No, I think not,’ said he. ‘I think I shall start before the archdeacon could be ready — I shall go early tomorrow morning.’

‘That will be best, papa,’ said Eleanor, showing that her father’s ruse was appreciated.

‘Why yes, my love. The fact is, I wish to do all this before the archdeacon can — can interfere. There is a great deal of truth in all he says — he argues very well, and I can’t always answer him; but there is an old saying, Nelly: “ Everyone knows where his own shoe pinches!” He’ll say that I want moral courage, and strength of character, and power of endurance, and it’s all true; but I’m sure I ought not to remain here, if I have nothing better to put forward than a quibble: so, Nelly, we shall have to leave this pretty place.’

Eleanor’s face brightened up, as she assured her father how cordially she agreed with him.

‘True, my love,’ said he, now again quite happy and at ease in his manner. ‘What good to us is this place or all the money, if we are to be ill-spoken of?’

‘Oh, papa, I am so glad!’

‘My darling child! It did cost me a pang at first, Nelly, to think that you should lose your pretty drawing-room, and your ponies, and your garden: the garden will be the worst of all — but there is a garden at Crabtree, a very pretty garden.’

Crabtree Parva was the name of the small living which Mr Harding had held as a minor canon, and which still belonged to him. It was only worth some eighty pounds a year, and a small house and glebe, all of which were now handed over to Mr Harding’s curate; but it was to Crabtree glebe that Mr Harding thought of retiring. This parish must not be mistaken for that other living, Crabtree Canonicorum, as it is called. Crabtree Canonicorum is a very nice thing; there are only two hundred parishioners; there are four hundred acres of glebe; and the great and small tithes, which both go to the rector, are worth four hundred pounds a year more. Crabtree Canonicorum is in the gift of the dean and chapter, and is at this time possessed by the Honourable and Reverend Dr Vesey Stanhope, who also fills the prebendal stall of Goosegorge in Barchester Chapter, and holds the united rectory of Eiderdown and Stogpingum, or Stoke Pinquium, as it should be written. This is the same Dr Vesey Stanhope whose hospitable villa on the Lake of Como is so well known to the elite of English travellers, and whose collection of Lombard butterflies is supposed to be unique.

‘Yes,’ said the warden, musing, ‘there is a very pretty garden at Crabtree; but I shall be sorry to disturb poor Smith.’ Smith was the curate of Crabtree, a gentleman who was maintaining a wife and half a dozen children on the income arising from his profession.

Eleanor assured her father that, as far as she was concerned, she could leave her house and her ponies without a single regret. She was only so happy that he was going — going where he would escape all this dreadful turmoil.

‘But we will take the music, my dear.’

And so they went on planning their future happiness, and plotting how they would arrange it all without the interposition of the archdeacon, and at last they again became confidential, and then the warden did thank her for what she had done, and Eleanor, lying on her father’s shoulder, did find an opportunity to tell her secret: and the father gave his blessing to his child, and said that the man whom she loved was honest, good, and kind-hearted, and right-thinking in the main — one who wanted only a good wife to put him quite upright —‘a man, my love,’ he ended by saying, ‘to whom I firmly believe that I can trust my treasure with safety.’

‘But what will Dr Grantly say?’

‘Well, my dear, it can’t be helped — we shall be out at Crabtree then.’

And Eleanor ran upstairs to prepare her father’s clothes for his journey; and the warden returned to his garden to make his last adieux to every tree, and shrub, and shady nook that he knew so well.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43