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The Warden Anthony Trollope

IV. Hiram's Bedesmen

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'I've knowed job Skulpit, man and boy, sixty years,' said Bunce, looking at the man of whom he spoke, 'and that's ever since the day he was born. I knowed the mother that bore him, when she and I were little wee things, picking daisies together in the close yonder; and I've lived under the same roof with him more nor ten years; and after that I may come into his room without axing leave, and yet no sneaking neither.'

'So you can, Mr Bunce,' said Skulpit; 'so you can, any hour, day or night.'

'And I'm free also to tell him my mind,' continued Bunce, looking at the one man and addressing the other; 'and I tell him now that he's done a foolish and a wrong thing. He's turned his back upon one who is his best friend; and is playing the game of others, who care nothing for him, whether he be poor or rich, well or ill, alive or dead. A hundred a year? Are the lot of you soft enough to think that if a hundred a year be to be given, it's the likes of you that will get it?'--and he pointed to Billy Gazy, Spriggs, and Crumple. 'Did any of us ever do anything worth half the money? Was it to make gentlemen of us we were brought in here, when all the world turned against us, and we couldn't longer earn our daily bread? A'n't you all as rich in your ways as he in his?'--and the orator pointed to the side on which the warden lived. 'A'n't you getting all you hoped for, ay, and more than you hoped for? Wouldn't each of you have given the dearest limb of his body to secure that which now makes you so unthankful?'

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'We wants what John Hiram left us,' said Handy. 'We wants what's ourn by law; it don't matter what we expected. What's ourn by law should be ourn, and by goles we'll have it.'

'Law!' said Bunce, with all the scorn he knew how to command--'law! Did ye ever know a poor man yet was the better for law, or for a lawyer? Will Mr Finney ever be as good to you, job, as that man has been? Will he see to you when you're sick, and comfort you when you're wretched? Will he--'

'No, nor give you port wine, old boy, on cold winter nights! he won't do that, will he?' asked Handy; and laughing at the severity of his own wit, he and his colleagues retired, carrying with them, however, the now powerful petition.

There is no help for spilt milk; and Mr Bunce could only retire to his own room, disgusted at the frailty of human nature. Job Skulpit scratched his head--Jonathan Crumple again remarked, that, 'for sartain, sure a hundred a year was very nice'--and Billy Gazy again rubbed his eyes, and lowly muttered that 'he didn't know.'

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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