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The Warden Anthony Trollope

XI. Iphigenia

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He began to talk, asked after her health--said something about London being very stupid, and more about Barchester being very pleasant; declared the weather to be very hot, and then inquired after Mr Harding.

'My father is not very well,' said Eleanor.

John Bold was very sorry, so sorry: he hoped it was nothing serious, and put on the unmeaningly solemn face which people usually use on such occasions.

'I especially want to speak to you about my father, Mr Bold; indeed, I am now here on purpose to do so. Papa is very unhappy, very unhappy indeed, about this affair of the hospital: you would pity him, Mr Bold, if you could see how wretched it has made him.'

'Oh, Miss Harding!'

'Indeed you would--anyone would pity him; but a friend, an old friend as you are--indeed you would. He is an altered man; his cheerfulness has all gone, and his sweet temper, and his kind happy tone of voice; you would hardly know him if you saw him, Mr Bold, he is so much altered; and--and--if this goes on, he will die.' Here Eleanor had recourse to her handkerchief, and so also had her auditors; but she plucked up her courage, and went on with her tale. 'He will break his heart, and die. I am sure, Mr Bold, it was not you who wrote those cruel things in the newspaper--'

John Bold eagerly protested that it was not, but his heart smote him as to his intimate alliance with Tom Towers.

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'No, I am sure it was not; and papa has not for a moment thought so; you would not be so cruel--but it has nearly killed him. Papa cannot bear to think that people should so speak of him, and that everybody should hear him so spoken of:--they have called him avaricious, and dishonest, and they say he is robbing the old men, and taking the money of the hospital for nothing.'

'I have never said so, Miss Harding. I--'

'No,' continued Eleanor, interrupting him, for she was now in the full flood-tide of her eloquence; 'no, I am sure you have not; but others have said so; and if this goes on, if such things are written again, it will kill papa. Oh! Mr Bold, if you only knew the state he is in! Now papa does not care much about money.'

Both her auditors, brother and sister, assented to this, and declared on their own knowledge that no man lived less addicted to filthy lucre than the warden.

'Oh! it's so kind of you to say so, Mary, and of you too, Mr Bold. I couldn't bear that people should think unjustly of papa. Do you know he would give up the hospital altogether, only he cannot. The archdeacon says it would be cowardly, and that he would be deserting his order, and injuring the church. Whatever may happen, papa will not do that: he would leave the place tomorrow willingly, and give up his house, and the income and all if the archdeacon--'

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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