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.'