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The Warden Anthony Trollope

XX. Farewell

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The men all declared that they would from henceforth be entirely guided by Mr Harding's opinion in their affairs.

'Some gentleman will probably take my place here very soon, and I strongly advise you to be prepared to receive him in a kindly spirit and to raise no further question among yourselves as to the amount of his income. Were you to succeed in lessening what he has to receive, you would not increase your own allowance. The surplus would not go to you; your wants are adequately provided for, and your position could hardly be improved.'

'God bless your reverence, we knows it,' said Spriggs.

'It's all true, your reverence,' said Skulpit. 'We sees it all now.'

'Yes, Mr Harding,' said Bunce, opening his mouth for the first time; 'I believe they do understand it now, now that they've driven from under the same roof with them such a master as not one of them will ever know again--now that they're like to be in sore want of a friend.'

'Come, come, Bunce,' said Mr Harding, blowing his nose and manoeuvring to wipe his eyes at the same time.

'Oh, as to that,' said Handy, 'we none of us never wanted to do Mr Harding no harm; if he's going now, it's not along of us; and I don't see for what Mr Bunce speaks up agen us that way.'

'You've ruined yourselves, and you've ruined me too, and that's why,' said Bunce.

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'Nonsense, Bunce,' said Mr Harding; 'there's nobody ruined at all. I hope you'll let me leave you all friends, I hope you'll all drink a glass of wine in friendly feeling with me and with one another. You'll have a good friend, I don't doubt, in your new warden; and if ever you want any other, why after all I'm not going so far off but that I shall sometimes see you'; and then, having finished his speech, Mr Harding filled all the glasses, and himself handed each a glass to the men round him, and raising his own said:

'God bless you all! you have my heartfelt wishes for your welfare. I hope you may live contented, and die trusting in the Lord jesus Christ, and thankful to Almighty God For the good things he has given you. God bless you, my friends!' and Mr Harding drank his wine.

Another murmur, somewhat more articulate than the first, passed round the circle, and this time it was intended to imply a blessing on Mr Harding. It had, however, but little cordiality in it. Poor old men! how could they be cordial with their sore consciences and shamed faces? how could they bid God bless him with hearty voices and a true benison, knowing, as they did, that their vile cabal had driven him from his happy home, and sent him in his old age to seek shelter under a strange roof-tree? They did their best, however; they drank their wine, and withdrew.

As they left the hall-door, Mr Harding shook hands with each of the men, and spoke a kind word to them about their individual cases and ailments; and so they departed, answering his questions in the fewest words, and retreated to their dens, a sorrowful repentant crew.

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The Warden
Anthony Trollope

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