12. Slope Versus Harding
Two or three days after the party, Mr Harding received a note, begging him to call on Mr
Slope, at the palace, at an early hour the following morning. There was nothing uncivil in
the communication, and yet the tone of it was thoroughly displeasing. It was as follows:
"My dear Mr Harding, Will you favour me by calling on me at the palace to-morrow
morning at 9.30am. The bishop wishes me to speak to you touching the hospital. I hope
you will excuse my naming so early an hour. I do so as my time is greatly occupied. If,
however, it is positively inconvenient to you, I will change it to 10. You will, perhaps, be
kind enough to give me a note in reply.
"Believe me to be, My dear Mr Harding, Your assured friend, OBH. SLOPE
"The Palace, Monday morning, "20th August, 185-"
Mr Harding neither could nor would believe anything of the sort; and he thought,
moreover, that Mr Slope was rather impertinent to call himself by such a name. His
assured friend, indeed! How many assured friends generally fall to the lot of a man in
this world? And by what process are they made? And how much of such process had
taken place as yet between Mr Harding and Mr Slope? Mr Harding could not help
asking himself these questions as he read and re-read the note before him. He
answered it, as follows:
"Dear Sir,--I will call at the palace to-morrow at 9.30 AM as you desire.
"Truly yours, S. HARDING"
And on the following morning, punctually at half-past nine, he knocked at the palace
door, and asked for Mr Slope.
The bishop had one small room allotted to him on the ground-floor, and Mr Slope had
another. Into this latter Mr Harding was shown, and asked to sit down. Mr Slope was not
yet there. The ex-warden stood up at the window looking into the garden, and could not
help thinking how very short a time had passed since the whole of that house had been
open to him, as though he had been a child of the family, born and bred in it. He
remembered how the old servants used to smile as they opened the door to him; how
the familiar butler would say, when he had been absent for a few hours longer than
usual: 'A sight of you, Mr Harding, is good for sore eyes;' how the fussy housekeeper
would swear that he couldn't have dined, or couldn't have breakfasted, or couldn't have
lunched. And then, above all, he remembered the pleasant gleam of inward satisfaction
which always spread itself over the old bishop's face, whenever his friend entered his