On the morning after Mr. Harding’s return home, he received a note from the bishop full of affection, condolence, and praise. “Pray come to me at once,” wrote the bishop, “that we may see what had better be done; as to the hospital, I will not say a word to dissuade you; but I don’t like your going to Crabtree: at any rate, come to me at once.”

Mr. Harding did go to him at once; and long and confidential was the consultation between the two old friends. There they sat together the whole long day, plotting to get the better of the archdeacon, and to carry out little schemes of their own, which they knew would be opposed by the whole weight of his authority.

The bishop’s first idea was, that Mr. Harding, if left to himself, would certainly starve—not in the figurative sense in which so many of our ladies and gentlemen do starve on incomes from one to five hundred a year; not that he would be starved as regarded dress coats, port wine, and pocket-money; but that he would positively perish of inanition for want of bread.

“How is a man to live, when he gives up all his income?” said the bishop to himself. And then the good- natured little man began to consider how his friend might be best rescued from a death so horrid and painful.

His first proposition to Mr. Harding was, that they should live together at the palace. He, the bishop, positively assured Mr. Harding that he wanted another resident chaplain: not a young, working chaplain, but a steady, middle-aged chaplain; one who would dine and drink a glass of wine with him, talk about the archdeacon, and poke the fire. The bishop did not positively name all these duties, but he gave Mr. Harding to understand that such would be the nature of the service required.

It was not without much difficulty that Mr. Harding made his friend see that this would not suit him; that he could not throw up the bishop’s preferment, and then come and hang on at the bishop’s table; that he could not allow people to say of him that it was an easy matter to abandon his own income, as he was able to sponge on that of another person. He succeeded, however, in explaining that the plan would not do, and then the bishop brought forward another which he had in his sleeve. He, the bishop, had in his will left certain moneys to Mr. Harding’s two daughters, imagining that Mr. Harding would himself want no such assistance during his own lifetime. This legacy amounted to three thousand pounds each, duty free; and he now pressed it as a gift on his friend.

“The girls, you know,” said he, “will have it just the same when you’re gone—and they won’t want it sooner—and as for the interest during my lifetime, it isn’t worth talking about. I have more than enough.”

With much difficulty and heartfelt sorrow, Mr. Harding refused also this offer. No; his wish was to support himself, however poorly,—not to be supported on the charity of any one. It was hard to make the bishop understand this; it was hard to make him comprehend that the only real favour he could confer was the continuation of his independent friendship; but at last even this was done. At any rate, thought the bishop, he will come and dine with me from time to time, and if he be absolutely starving I shall see it.

Touching the precentorship, the bishop was clearly of opinion that it could be held without the other situation—an opinion from which no one differed; and it was therefore soon settled among all the parties concerned, that Mr. Harding should still be the precentor of the cathedral.

On the day following Mr. Harding’s return, the archdeacon reached Plumstead full of Mr. Cumming’s scheme regarding Puddingdale and Mr. Quiverful. On the very next morning he drove over to Puddingdale, and obtained the full consent of the wretched clerical Priam, who was endeavouring to feed his poor Hecuba and a dozen of Hectors on the small proceeds of his ecclesiastical kingdom. Mr. Quiverful had no doubts as to the legal rights of the warden; his conscience would be quite clear as to accepting the income; and as to the Jupiter, he begged to assure the archdeacon that he was quite indifferent to any emanations from the profane portion of the periodical press.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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