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by Anthony Trollope
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes
Anthony Trollope, born in London on April 24, 1815, was one of the most successful of Victorian novelists, especially with the books known as the 'Chronicles of Barsetshire', based in the imaginary English county. During his service as a Post Office official Trollope is credited with having initiated the introduction of street post-boxes.
For more works by Anthony Trollope, see The Index
I. - Hiram's Hospital
The Rev. Septimus Harding was a beneficed clergyman residing in the cathedral town of Barchester.
Mr. Harding had married early in life, and was the father of two daughters. The elder, Susan, had been married some twelve years since to the Rev. Dr. Theophilus Grantly, son of the bishop, archdeacon of Barchester, and rector of Plumstead Episcopi, and a few months after her marriage her father became precentor of Barchester Cathedral. The younger daughter, Eleanor, was twenty-four years of age.
Now there are peculiar circumstances connected with the precentorship which must be explained. In the year 1434 there died at Barchester one John Hiram, who had made money in the town as a wool-stapler, and in his will he left the house in which he died and certain meadows and closes near the town for the support of twelve superannuated wool-carders; he also appointed that an alms-house should be built for their abode, with a fitting residence for a warden, which warden was also to receive a certain sum annually out of the rents of the said meadows and closes. He, moreover, willed that the precentor of the cathedral should have the option of being also warden of the alms-house, if the bishop approved.
From that day to this the charity had gone on and prospered - at least, the charity had gone on, and the estates had prospered. The bedesmen received one shilling and fourpence a day and a comfortable lodging. The stipend of the precentor was £80 a year. The income arising from the wardenship of the hospital was £800, besides the value of the house.
Murmurs had been heard in Barchester - few indeed and far between - that the proceeds of John Hiram's property had not been fairly divided; the thing had been whispered, and Mr. Harding had heard it. And Mr. Harding, being an open-handed, just-minded man, had, on his instalment, declared his intention of adding twopence a day to each man's pittance.
Mr. Harding was a small man, now verging on sixty years. His warmest admirers could not say that he had ever been an industrious man; the circumstances of his life had not called on him to so; and yet he could hardly be called an idler. He had greatly improved the choir of Barchester, and taken something more than his fair share in the cathedral services. He was generous to all, but especially to the twelve old men who were under his care. With an income of £800 a year and only one daughter, Mr. Harding should have been above the world, but he was not above Archdeacon Grantly, and was always more or less in debt to his son-in-law, who had to a certain extent assumed the management of the precentor's pecuniary affairs.
Mr. Harding had been precentor of Barchester for ten years when the murmurs respecting the proceeds of Hiram's estate again became audible. He was aware that two of his old men had been heard to say that if everyone had his own, they might each have their hundred pounds a year, and live like gentlemen, instead of a beggarly one shilling and sixpence a day. One of this discontented pair, Abel Handy, had been put into the hospital by Mr. Harding himself; he had been a stonemason in Barchester, and had broken his thigh by a fall from a scaffolding. (Dr. Grantly had been very anxious to put into it instead an insufferable clerk of his at Plumstead, who had lost all his teeth, and whom the archdeacon hardly knew how to get rid of by other means.) There was living at Barchester a young man, a surgeon, named John Bold, and both Mr. Harding and Dr. Grantly were well aware that to him was owing the pestilent rebellious feeling which had shown itself in the hospital; and the renewal, too, of that disagreeable talk about Hiram's estates which was again prevalent in Barchester. Nevertheless, Mr. Harding and Mr. Bold were acquainted with each other, and were friends in spite of the great disparity in their years; for John Bold - whose father had been a physician in London, who had bought property in Barchester and retired to die there - was not more than twenty-seven years old at this time.
John Bold was a clever man, but, having enough to live on since his father's death, he had not been forced to work for bread. In three years he had not taken three fees, but he frequently bound up the bruises and set the limbs of such of the poorer classes as professed his way of thinking. Bold was a strong reformer. His passion was the reform of all abuses, and he was thoroughly sincere in his patriotic endeavours to mend mankind. No wonder that Dr. Grantly regarded Bold as a firebrand and a demagogue, and would have him avoided as the plague. But the old Doctor and Mr. Harding had been fast friends and young Johnny Bold used to play as a boy on Mr. Harding's lawn.
Eleanor Harding had not plighted her troth to John Bold, but she could not endure that anyone should speak harshly of him; she cared little to go to houses where she would not meet him, and, in fact, she was in love. Nor was there any reason why Eleanor Harding should not love John Bold. His character was in all respects good; he had sufficient income to support a wife, and, above all, he was in love with her. Mr. Harding himself saw no reason why his daughter should not love John Bold.
II. - The Barchester Reformer
Bold had often expressed his indignation at the misappropriation of church funds in general, in the hearing of his friend the precentor, but the conversation had never referred to anything at Barchester.
He heard from different quarters that Hiram's bedesmen were treated as paupers, whereas the property to which they were, in effect, heirs, was very large, and being looked on as the upholder of the rights of the poor of Barchester, he was instigated by a lawyer, whom he had previously employed, to call upon Mr. Chadwick, the steward of the episcopal estates, for a statement as to the funds of the estate.
It was against Chadwick that his efforts were to be directed, but Bold soon found that if he interfered with Mr. Chadwick as steward, he must interfere with Mr. Harding as warden; and though he regretted the situation in which this would place him, he was not the man to flinch from his undertaking from personal motives.
Having got a copy of John Hiram's will, and mastered it, Bold next ascertained the extent and value of the property, and then made out a schedule of what he was informed was the present distribution of its income. Armed with these particulars, he called on Mr. Chadwick, who naturally declined to answer any questions and referred him to his attorneys in London.
Bold at once repaired to the hospital. The day was now far advanced, but he knew that Mr. Harding dined in the summer at four, that Eleanor was accustomed to drive in the evening, and that he might therefore probably find Mr. Harding alone. It was between seven and eight when he reached the precentor's garden, and as he raised the latch he heard the notes of Mr. Harding's violoncello; advancing before the house and across the lawn, he found him playing, and not without an audience. The musician was seated in a garden chair, and around sat, and lay, ten of the twelve old men who dwelt with him beneath John Hiram's roof. Bold sat down on the soft turf to listen, or rather to think how, after such harmony, he might best introduce a theme of so much discord. He felt that he had a somewhat difficult task, and he almost regretted the final leave-taking of the last of the old men, slow as they were in going through their adieus.
The precentor remarked on the friendliness of the visit. "One evening call," said he, "is worth ten in the morning. It's all formality in the morning; real social talk never begins till after dinner. That's why I dine early, so as to get as much as I can of it."
"Quite true, Mr. Harding," said the other; "but I fear I've reversed the order of things, and I owe you much apology for troubling you on business at such an hour. I wish to speak to you about the hospital."
Mr. Harding looked blank and annoyed. But he only said, "Well, well, anything I can tell you I shall be most happy - "
"It's about the accounts."
"Then, my dear fellow, I can tell you nothing, for I'm as ignorant as a child. All I know is that they pay me £800 a year. Go t Chadwick; he knows all about the accounts."
"But, Mr. Harding, I hope you won't object to discuss with me what I have to say about the hospital."
Mr. Harding gave a deep, long-drawn sigh. He did object, very strongly object, to discuss any such subject with John Bold, but he had not the business tact of Mr. Chadwick, and did not know how to relieve himself from the coming evil.
"I fear there is reason to think that John Hiram's will is not carried out to the letter, Mr. Harding, and I have been asked to see into it."
"Very well, I've no objection on earth; and now we need not say another word about it."
"Only one word more, Mr. Harding. Chadwick has referred me to lawyers. In what I do I may appear to be interfering with you, and I hope you will forgive me for doing so."
"Mr. Bold," said the other, speaking with some solemnity, "if you act justly, say nothing in this matter but the truth, and use no unfair weapons in carrying out your purposes, I shall have nothing to forgive. I presume you think I am not entitled to the income I receive from the hospital, and that others are entitled to it. Whatever some may do, I shall never attribute to you base motives because you hold an opinion opposed to my own and adverse to my interests; pray do what you consider to be your duty; I can give you no assistance, neither will I offer you any obstacle. Let me, however, suggest to you that you can in no wise forward your views, nor I mine, by any discussion between us. Here comes Eleanor and the ponies, and we'll go in to tea."
Bold felt that he could not sit down at ease with Mr. Harding and his daughter after what had passed, and therefore excused himself with much awkward apology; and, merely raising his hat and bowing as he passed Eleanor and the pony chair, left her in disappointed amazement at his departure.
III. - Iphigenia
The bedesmen heard a whisper that they were entitled to one hundred pounds a year, and signed a petition, which Abel Handy drew up, to the bishop as visitor, praying his lordship to see justice done to the legal recipients of John Hiram's charity. John Bold was advised to institute formal proceedings against Mr. Harding and Mr. Chadwick. Archdeacon Grantly took up the cause of the warden, and obtained a legal opinion from the attorney general, Sir Abraham Haphazard, that Mr. Harding and Mr. Chadwick being only paid servants, the action should not have been brought against them, but that the defendants should have been either the corporation of Barchester, or possibly the dean and chapter, or the bishop. That all-powerful organ of the press, the daily Jupiter, launched a leading thunderbolt against the administration of Hiram's Hospital, which made out the warden to be a man unjust, grasping - and the responsibility for this attack rested upon John Bold's friend Tom Towers, of the Temple.
Bold kept away from the warden's house, but he met Miss Harding one day in the cathedral close. He tried to explain and apologised.
"Mr. Bold," said she, "you may be sure of one thing: I shall always judge my father to be right, and those who oppose him I shall judge to be wrong." And then, curtsying low, she sailed on, leaving her lover in anything but a happy state of mind.
To her father Eleanor owned that she had loved John Bold once, but would not, could not do so now, when he proved himself the enemy of her father.
But the warden, wretched as he was at the attacks of the Jupiter, declared that Bold was no enemy of his, and encouraged her love, and then he spoke to her of happier days when their trials would all be over.
That night Eleanor decided that she would extricate her father from his misery; she would sacrifice herself as Iphigenia did for Agamemnon. She would herself personally implore John Bold to desist from his undertaking and stop the lawsuit; she would explain to him her father's sorrows, and tell him how her father would die if he were thus dragged before the public and exposed to such unmerited ignominy; she would appeal to his old friendship, and, if need were, kneel to him for the favour she would ask; but before she did this the idea of love must be banished. There must be no bargain in the matter. She could not appeal to his love, nor allow him to do so. Should he declare his passion he must be rejected.
She rose refreshed in the morning, and after breakfast started out, and arrived at Bold's door; where John's sister Mary greeted her warmly.
"John's out now, and will be for the next two hours, and he returns to London by the mail train to-night."
"Mary, I must see your brother before he goes back, and beg from him a great favour." Miss Harding spoke with a solemn air, and then went on and opened to her friend all her plan for saving her father from a sorrow which would, if it lasted, bring him to his grave.
While they were yet discussing the matter, Bold returned, and Eleanor was forced into sudden action.
"Mr. Bold," said she, "I have come here to implore you to abandon this proceeding, to implore you to spare my father."
"Eleanor, I will do anything; only let me tell you how I love you!"
"No, no, no," she almost screamed. "This is unmanly of you, Mr. Bold. Will you leave my father to die in peace in his quiet home?" And seizing him by his arm, she clung to him with fixed tenacity, and reiterated her appeal with hysterical passion.
"Promise me, promise me!" said Eleanor; "say that my father is safe - one word will do. I know how true you are; say one word, and I will let you go."
"I will," said he, at length; "I do. All I can do I will do."
"Then may God Almighty bless you for ever and ever!" said Eleanor; and, with her face in Mary Bold's lap, she wept and sobbed like a child.
In a while she was recovered, and got up to go; and Mary, under a pretence of fetching her bonnet, left the two together in the room.
And now, with a volley of impassioned love, John Bold poured forth the feelings of his heart; and Eleanor repeated with every shade of vehemence, "No, no, no!" But let her be never so vehement, her vehemence was not respected now; all her "No, no, noes" were met with counter asseverations, and at last were overpowered. Her defences were demolished, all her maiden barriers swept away, and Eleanor capitulated, or rather marched out with the honours of war, vanquished evidently, but still not reduced to the necessity of confessing it. Certainly she had been victorious, certainly she had achieved her object, certainly she was not unhappy. Eleanor as she returned home felt that she had now nothing further to do but to add to the budget of news for her father that John Bold was her accepted lover.
IV. - The Warden Resigns
When Eleanor informed her father of the end of the lawsuit the warden did not express himself peculiarly gratified at the intelligence. His own mind was already made up. A third article had appeared in the Jupiter, calling on Mr. Harding to give an account of his stewardship, and how it was that he consumed three-fifths of Hiram's charity. "I tell you what, my dear," he said, while Eleanor stared at him as though she scarcely understood the words he was speaking, "I can't dispute the truth of these words. I do believe I have no right to be here. No right to be warden with £800 a year; no right to spend in luxury money that was intended for charity. I will go up to London, my dear, and see these lawyers myself. There are some things which a man cannot bear - " and he put his hand upon the newspaper.
And to London Mr. Harding went, stealing a march upon the archdeacon, who with Mrs. Grantly pursued him twenty-four hours later. By that time the warden had obtained an interview with the great Sir Abraham Haphazard. "What I want you, Sir Abraham, to tell me is this," said Mr. Harding. "Am I, as warden, legally and distinctly entitled to the proceeds of the property after the due maintenance of the twelve bedesmen?"
Sir Abraham declared that he couldn't exactly say in so many words that Mr. Harding was legally entitled to, etc., etc., and ended in expressing a strong opinion that, as the other side had given notice of withdrawing the suit, it would be madness to raise any further question on the matter.
"I can resign," said Mr. Harding, slowly.
"What! throw it up altogether?" said the attorney general. "Believe me, it is sheer Quixotism."
But Mr. Harding's mind was made up. He knew that the attorney general regarded him as a fool, but Eleanor, he was sure, would exult in what he had done, and his old friend, the bishop, he trusted, would sympathise with him. Back at his hotel in St. Paul's Churchyard Mr. Harding had to face the archdeacon. In vain Dr. Grantly argued. "I shall certainly resign this wardenship," said Mr. Harding. The letter of resignation was posted to the bishop, and the warden returned home. The bishop at once wrote to him full of affection, condolence, and praise, and besought him to come and live at the palace.
It was hard for Mr. Harding to make the bishop understand that this would not suit him, and that the only real favour he could confer was the continuation of his independent friendship; but at last even this was done. "At any rate," thought the bishop, "he will come and dine with me from time to time, and if he be absolutely starving I shall see it." It was settled that Mr. Harding should still be the precentor of the cathedral, and a small living within the walls of the city was given to him. It was the smallest possible parish, containing a part of the cathedral close and a few old houses adjoining. The church was no bigger than an ordinary room - perhaps twenty-seven feet long by eighteen wide - but still it was a perfect church. Such was the living of St. Cuthbert's at Barchester, of which Mr. Harding became rector, with a clear income of £75 a year.
Mr. Harding allowed himself no rest till everything was prepared for his departure from the hospital.
For his present use he took a lodging in Barchester, and thither were conveyed such articles as he wanted for daily use. Mrs. Grantly had much wished that her sister would reside at Plumstead, but Eleanor strongly resisted this proposal. She had not desired that her father should give up the hospital in order that she might live at Plumstead rectory and he alone in his Barchester lodgings. So she got a little bedroom for herself behind the sitting-room, and just over the little back parlour of the chemist, with whom they were to lodge. There was somewhat of a savour of senna softened by peppermint about the place; but, on the whole, the lodgings were clean and comfortable.
Nothing could induce the bishop to fill up the vacancy at Hiram's Hospital caused by Mr. Harding's retirement. It is now some years since Mr. Harding left it, and the warden's house is tenantless and the warden's garden a wretched wilderness.
Mr. Harding is neither a discontented nor an unhappy man; he still inhabits the lodgings to which he went on leaving the hospital, but he now has them to himself. Three months after that time Eleanor became Mrs. Bold, and of course removed to her husband's house.
The archdeacon would not be persuaded to grace the marriage ceremony with his presence, but he allowed his wife and children to be there. The marriage took place at the palace, and the bishop himself officiated. It was the last occasion on which he ever did so, and it is not probable that he will ever do so again.
Mr. Harding's time is spent chiefly at his daughter's or at the palace, but he keeps his lodgings.
Every other day a message is brought to him from the bishop. "The bishop's compliments, and his lordship is not very well to-day, and he hopes Mr. Harding will dine with him." This bulletin as to the old man's health is a myth; for, though he is over eighty, he is never ill. Mr. Harding does dine with him very often, which means going to the palace at three and remaining till ten.
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