Mr. Harding was a sadder man than he had ever yet been when he returned to his own house. He had been wretched enough on that well-remembered morning when he was forced to expose before his son-in-law the publisher’s account for ushering into the world his dear book of sacred music; when after making such payments as he could do unassisted, he found that he was a debtor of more than three hundred pounds: but his sufferings then were as nothing to his present misery;—then he had done wrong, and he knew it, and was able to resolve that he would not sin in like manner again; but now he could make no resolution, and comfort himself by no promises of firmness. He had been forced to think that his lot had placed him in a false position, and he was about to maintain that position against the opinion of the world and against his own convictions.

He had read with pity, amounting almost to horror, the strictures which had appeared from time to time against the Earl of Guildford as master of St. Cross, and the invectives that had been heaped on rich diocesan dignitaries and overgrown sinecure pluralists. In judging of them, he judged leniently; the whole bias of his profession had taught him to think that they were more sinned against than sinning, and that the animosity with which they had been pursued was venomous and unjust; but he had not the less regarded their plight as most miserable. His hair had stood on end and his flesh had crept as he read the things which had been written; he had wondered how men could live under such a load of disgrace; how they could face their fellow-creatures while their names were bandied about so injuriously and so publicly—and now this lot was to be his—he, that shy retiring man, who had so comforted himself in the hidden obscurity of his lot, who had so enjoyed the unassuming warmth of his own little corner, he was now to be dragged forth into the glaring day, and gibbeted before ferocious multitudes. He entered his own house a crest-fallen, humiliated man, without a hope of over-coming the wretchedness which affected him.

He wandered into the drawing-room where was his daughter; but he could not speak to her now, so he left it, and went into the bookroom. He was not quick enough to escape Eleanor’s glance, or to prevent her from seeing that he was disturbed; and in a little while she followed him. She found him seated in his accustomed chair, with no book open before him, no pen ready in his hand, no ill-shapen notes of blotted music lying before him as was usual, none of those hospital accounts with which he was so precise and yet so unmethodical: he was doing nothing, thinking of nothing, looking at nothing; he was merely suffering.

“Leave me, Eleanor, my dear,” he said, “leave me, my darling, for a few minutes, for I am busy.”

Eleanor saw well how it was, but she did leave him, and glided silently back to her drawing-room. When he had sat awhile, thus alone and unoccupied, he got up to walk again—he could make more of his thoughts walking than sitting, and was creeping out into his garden, when he met Bunce on the threshold.

“Well, Bunce,” said he, in a tone that for him was sharp, “what is it? do you want me?”

“I was only coming to ask after your reverence,” said the old bedesman, touching his hat; “and to inquire about the news from London,” he added after a pause.

The warden winced, and put his hand to his forehead and felt bewildered.

“Attorney Finney has been there this morning,” continued Bunce, “and by his looks I guess he is not so well pleased as he once was, and it has got abroad somehow that the archdeacon has had down great news from London, and Handy and Moody are both as black as devils; and I hope,” said the man, trying to assume a cheery tone, “that things are looking up, and that there’ll be an end soon to all this stuff which bothers your reverence so sorely.”

“Well, I wish there may be, Bunce.”

“But about the news, your reverence?” said the old man, almost whispering.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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