The Warden Resigns

The party met the next morning at breakfast; and a very sombre affair it was—very unlike the breakfasts at Plumstead Episcopi.

There were three thin, small, dry bits of bacon, each an inch long, served up under a huge old plated cover; there were four three-cornered bits of toast, and four square bits of buttered toast; there was a loaf of bread, and some oily-looking butter; and on the side-board there were the remains of a cold shoulder of mutton. The archdeacon, however, had not come up from his rectory to St. Paul’s Churchyard to enjoy himself and therefore nothing was said of the scanty fare.

The guests were as sorry as the viands—hardly anything was said over the breakfast-table. The archdeacon munched his toast in ominous silence, turning over bitter thoughts in his deep mind. The warden tried to talk to his daughter, and she tried to answer him; but they both failed. There were no feelings at present in common between them. The warden was thinking only of getting back to Barchester, and calculating whether the archdeacon would expect him to wait for him; and Mrs. Grantly was preparing herself for a grand attack which she was to make on her father, as agreed upon between herself and her husband during their curtain confabulation of that morning.

When the waiter had creaked out of the room with the last of the teacups, the archdeacon got up and went to the window, as though to admire the view. The room looked out on a narrow passage which runs from St. Paul’s Churchyard to Paternoster Row; and Dr. Grantly patiently perused the names of the three shopkeepers whose doors were in view. The warden still kept his seat at the table, and examined the pattern of the table-cloth; and Mrs. Grantly, seating herself on the sofa, began to knit.

After awhile the warden pulled his Bradshaw out of his pocket, and began laboriously to consult it. There was a train for Barchester at 10 A.M. That was out of the question, for it was nearly ten already. Another at 3 P.M.; another, the night-mail train, at 9 P.M. The three o’clock train would take him home to tea, and would suit very well.

“My dear,” said he, “I think I shall go back home at three o’clock to-day. I shall get home at half-past eight. I don’t think there’s anything to keep me in London.”

“The archdeacon and I return by the early train to-morrow, papa; won’t you wait and go back with us?”

“Why, Eleanor will expect me to-night; and I’ve so much to do; and——”

“Much to do!” said the archdeacon sotto voce; but the warden heard him.

“You’d better wait for us, papa.”

“Thank ye, my dear! I think I’ll go this afternoon.” The tamest animal will turn when driven too hard, and even Mr. Harding was beginning to fight for his own way.

“I suppose you won’t be back before three?” said the lady, addressing her husband.

“I must leave this at two,” said the warden.

“Quite out of the question,” said the archdeacon, answering his wife, and still reading the shopkeepers’ names; “I don’t suppose I shall be back till five.”

There was another long pause, during which Mr. Harding continued to study his “Bradshaw.”

“I must go to Cox and Cumming,” said the archdeacon at last.

“Oh, to Cox and Cumming,” said the warden. It was quite a matter of indifference to him where his son- in-law went.

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