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The Warden Anthony Trollope

IV. Hiram's Bedesmen

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'Take hold, you old cripple,' said Handy, thrusting the pen into poor Billy's hand: 'there, so--ugh! you old fool, you've been and smeared it all--there--that'll do for you--that's as good as the best name as ever was written': and a big blotch of ink was presumed to represent Billy Gazy's acquiescence.

'Now, Jonathan,' said Handy, turning to Crumple.

'A hundred a year's a nice thing, for sartain,' again argued Crumple. 'Well, neighbour Skulpit, how's it to be?'

'Oh, please yourself,' said Skulpit: 'please yourself, and you'll please me.'

The pen was thrust into Crumple's hand, and a faint, wandering, meaningless sign was made, betokening such sanction and authority as Jonathan Crumple was able to convey.

'Come, job,' said Handy, softened by success, 'don't let 'em have to say that old Bunce has a man like you under his thumb--a man that always holds his head in the hospital as high as Bunce himself, though you're never axed to drink wine, and sneak, and tell lies about your betters as he does.'

Skulpit held the pen, and made little flourishes with it in the air, but still hesitated.

'And if you'll be said by me,' continued Handy, 'you'll not write your name to it at all, but just put your mark like the others,' --the cloud began to clear from Skulpit's brow--'we all know you can do it if you like, but maybe you wouldn't like to seem uppish, you know.'

'Well, the mark would be best,' said Skulpit. 'One name and the rest marks wouldn't look well, would it?'

'The worst in the world,' said Handy; 'there--there': and stooping over the petition, the learned clerk made a huge cross on the place left for his signature.

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'That's the game,' said Handy, triumphantly pocketing the petition; 'we're all in a boat now, that is, the nine of us; and as for old Bunce, and his cronies, they may--' But as he was hobbling off to the door, with a crutch on one side and a stick on the other, he was met by Bunce himself.

'Well Handy, and what may old Bunce do?' said the gray-haired, upright senior.

Handy muttered something, and was departing; but he was stopped in the doorway by the huge frame of the newcomer.

'You've been doing no good here, Abel Handy,' said he, ''tis plain to see that; and 'tisn't much good, I'm thinking, you ever do.'

'I mind my own business, Master Bunce,' muttered the other, 'and do you do the same. It ain't nothing to you what I does--and your spying and poking here won't do no good nor yet no harm.'

'I suppose then, job,' continued Bunce, not noticing his opponent, 'if the truth must out, you've stuck your name to that petition of theirs at last.'

Skulpit looked as though he were about to sink into the ground with shame.

'What is it to you what he signs?' said Handy. 'I suppose if we all wants to ax for our own, we needn't ax leave of you first, Mr Bunce, big a man as you are; and as to your sneaking in here, into Job's room when he's busy, and where you're not wanted--'

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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