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The Warden Anthony Trollope

IX. The Conference

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'Why should it not be known?' asked the warden.

'What a question for a man to ask!' said the archdeacon, throwing up his hands in token of his surprise; 'but it is like you--a child is not more innocent than you are in matters of business. Can't you see that if we tell them that no action will lie against you, but that one may possibly lie against some other person or persons, that we shall be putting weapons into their hands, and be teaching them how to cut our own throats?'

The warden again sat silent, and the bishop again looked at him wistfully: 'The only thing we have now to do,' continued the archdeacon, 'is to remain quiet, hold our peace, and let them play their own game as they please.'

'We are not to make known then,' said the warden, 'that we have consulted the attorney-general, and that we are advised by him that the founder's will is fully and fairly carried out.'

'God bless my soul!' said the archdeacon, 'how odd it is that you will not see that all we are to do is to do nothing: why should we say anything about the founder's will? We are in possession; and we know that they are not in a position to put us out; surely that is enough for the present.'

Mr Harding rose from his seat and paced thoughtfully up and down the library, the bishop the while watching him painfully at every turn, and the archdeacon continuing to pour forth his convictions that the affair was in a state to satisfy any prudent mind.

'And The Jupiter?' said the warden, stopping suddenly.

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'Oh! The Jupiter,' answered the other. 'The Jupiter can break no bones. You must bear with that; there is much, of course, which it is our bounden duty to bear; it cannot be all roses for us here,' and the archdeacon looked exceedingly moral; 'besides, the matter is too trivial, of too little general interest to be mentioned again in The Jupiter, unless we stir up the subject.' And the archdeacon again looked exceedingly knowing and worldly wise.

The warden continued his walk; the hard and stinging words of that newspaper article, each one of which had thrust a thorn as it were into his inmost soul, were fresh in his memory; he had read it more than once, word by word, and what was worse, he fancied it was as well known to everyone as to himself. Was he to be looked on as the unjust griping priest he had been there described? Was he to be pointed at as the consumer of the bread of the poor, and to be allowed no means of refuting such charges, of clearing his begrimed name, of standing innocent in the world, as hitherto he had stood? Was he to bear all this, to receive as usual his now hated income, and be known as one of those greedy priests who by their rapacity have brought disgrace on their church? And why? Why should he bear all this? Why should he die, for he felt that he could not live, under such a weight of obloquy? As he paced up and down the room he resolved in his misery and enthusiasm that he could with pleasure, if he were allowed, give up his place, abandon his pleasant home, leave the hospital, and live poorly, happily, and with an unsullied name, on the small remainder of his means.

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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