The Conference

On the following morning the archdeacon was with his father betimes, and a note was sent down to the warden begging his attendance at the palace. Dr. Grantly, as he cogitated on the matter, leaning back in his brougham as he journeyed into Barchester, felt that it would be difficult to communicate his own satisfaction either to his father or his father-in-law. He wanted success on his own side and discomfiture on that of his enemies. The bishop wanted peace on the subject; a settled peace if possible, but peace at any rate till the short remainder of his own days had spun itself out; but Mr. Harding required, not only success and peace, but he also demanded that he might stand justified before the world.

The bishop, however, was comparatively easy to deal with; and before the arrival of the other, the dutiful son had persuaded his father that all was going on well, and then the warden arrived.

It was Mr. Harding’s wont, whenever he spent a morning at the palace, to seat himself immediately at the bishop’s elbow, the bishop occupying a huge arm-chair fitted up with candlesticks, a reading table, a drawer, and other paraphernalia, the position of which chair was never moved, summer or winter; and when, as was very usual, the archdeacon was there also, he confronted the two elders, who thus were enabled to fight the battle against him together; and together submit to defeat, for such was their constant fate.

Our warden now took his accustomed place, having greeted his son-in-law as he entered, and then affectionately inquired after his friend’s health. There was a gentleness about the bishop to which the soft womanly affection of Mr. Harding particularly endeared itself, and it was quaint to see how the two mild old priests pressed each other’s hands, and smiled and made little signs of love.

“Sir Abraham’s opinion has come at last,” began the archdeacon. Mr. Harding had heard so much, and was most anxious to know the result.

“It is quite favourable,” said the bishop, pressing his friend’s arm. “I am so glad.”

Mr. Harding looked at the mighty bearer of the important news for confirmation of these glad tidings.

“Yes,” said the archdeacon, “Sir Abraham has given most minute attention to the case; indeed, I knew he would; most minute attention, and his opinion is—and as to his opinion on such a subject being correct, no one who knows Sir Abraham’s character, can doubt—his opinion is, that they hav’n’t got a leg to stand on.”

“But as how, archdeacon?”

“Why, in the first place:——but you’re no lawyer, warden, and I doubt you won’t understand it; the gist of the matter is this:—under Hiram’s will two paid guardians have been selected for the hospital; the law will say two paid servants, and you and I won’t quarrel with the name.”

“At any rate I will not if I am one of the servants,” said Mr. Harding. “A rose, you know——”

“Yes, yes,” said the archdeacon, impatient of poetry at such a time. “Well, two paid servants, we’ll say; one to look after the men, and the other to look after the money. You and Chadwick are these two servants, and whether either of you be paid too much, or too little, more or less in fact than the founder willed, it’s as clear as daylight that no one can fall foul of either of you for receiving an allotted stipend.”

“That does seem clear,” said the bishop, who had winced visibly under the words servants and stipend, which, however, appeared to have caused no uneasiness to the archdeacon.

“Quite clear,” said he, “and very satisfactory. In point of fact, it being necessary to select such servants for the use of the hospital, the pay to be given to them must depend on the rate of pay for such services, according to their market value at the period in question; and those who manage the hospital must be the only judges of this.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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