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The Warden Anthony Trollope

XVII. Sir Abraham Haphazard

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'I can resign,' said Mr Harding, slowly playing away with his right hand, as though the bow were beneath the chair in which he was sitting.

'What! throw it up altogether?' said the attorney-general, gazing with utter astonishment at his client.

'Did you see those articles in The Jupiter?' said Mr Harding, piteously, appealing to the sympathy of the lawyer.

Sir Abraham said he had seen them. This poor little clergyman, cowed into such an act of extreme weakness by a newspaper article, was to Sir Abraham so contemptible an object, that he hardly knew how to talk to him as to a rational being.

'Hadn't you better wait,' said he, 'till Dr Grantly is in town with you? Wouldn't it be better to postpone any serious step till you can consult with him?'

Mr Harding declared vehemently that he could not wait, and Sir Abraham began seriously to doubt his sanity.

'Of course,' said the latter, 'if you have private means sufficient for your wants, and if this--'

'I haven't a sixpence, Sir Abraham,' said the warden.

'God bless me! Why, Mr Harding, how do you mean to live?'

Mr Harding proceeded to explain to the man of law that he meant to keep his precentorship--that was eighty pounds a year; and, also, that he meant to fall back upon his own little living of Crabtree, which was another eighty pounds. That, to be sure, the duties of the two were hardly compatible; but perhaps he might effect an exchange. And then, recollecting that the attorney-general would hardly care to hear how the service of a cathedral church is divided among the minor canons, stopped short in his explanations.

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Sir Abraham listened in pitying wonder. 'I really think, Mr Harding, you had better wait for the archdeacon. This is a most serious step--one for which, in my opinion, there is not the slightest necessity; and, as you have done me the honour of asking my advice, I must implore you to do nothing without the approval of your friends. A man is never the best judge of his own position.'

'A man is the best judge of what he feels himself. I'd sooner beg my bread till my death than read such another article as those two that have appeared, and feel, as I do, that the writer has truth on his side.'

'Have you not a daughter, Mr Harding--an unmarried daughter?'

'I have,' said he, now standing also, but still playing away on his fiddle with his hand behind his back. 'I have, Sir Abraham; and she and I are completely agreed on this subject.'

'Pray excuse me, Mr Harding, if what I say seems impertinent; but surely it is you that should be prudent on her behalf. She is young, and does not know the meaning of living on an income of a hundred and sixty pounds a year. On her account give up this idea. Believe me, it is sheer Quixotism.'

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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