The Warden HTML version

The Bishop of Barchester
Bold at once repaired to the hospital. The day was now far advanced, but he knew that
Mr Harding dined in the summer at four, that Eleanor was accustomed to drive in the
evening, and that he might therefore probably find Mr Harding alone. It was between
seven and eight when he reached the slight iron gate leading into the precentor's garden,
and though, as Mr Chadwick observed, the day had been cold for June, the evening was
mild, and soft, and sweet. The little gate was open. As he raised the latch he heard the
notes of Mr Harding's violoncello from the far end of the garden, and, advancing before
the house and across the lawn, he found him playing: and not without an audience. The
musician was seated in a garden-chair just within the summer-house, so as to allow the
violoncello which he held between his knees to rest upon the dry stone flooring; before
him stood a rough music desk, on which was open a page of that dear sacred book, that
much-laboured and much-loved volume of church music, which had cost so many
guineas; and around sat, and lay, and stood, and leaned, ten of the twelve old men who
dwelt with him beneath old John Hiram's roof. The two reformers were not there. I will
not say that in their hearts they were conscious of any wrong done or to be done to their
mild warden, but latterly they had kept aloof from him, and his music was no longer to
their taste. It was amusing to see the positions, and eager listening faces of these well-to-
do old men. I will not say that they all appreciated the music which they heard, but they
were intent on appearing to do so; pleased at being where they were, they were
determined, as far as in them lay, to give pleasure in return; and they were not
unsuccessful. It gladdened the precentor's heart to think that the old bedesmen whom he
loved so well admired the strains which were to him so full of almost ecstatic joy; and he
used to boast that such was the air of the hospital, as to make it a precinct specially fit for
the worship of St Cecilia.
Immediately before him, on the extreme corner of the bench which ran round the
summer-house, sat one old man, with his handkerchief smoothly lain upon his knees, who
did enjoy the moment, or acted enjoyment well. He was one on whose large frame many
years, for he was over eighty, had made small havoc--he was still an upright, burly,
handsome figure, with an open, ponderous brow, round which clung a few, though very
few, thin gray locks. The coarse black gown of the hospital, the breeches, and buckled
shoes became him well; and as he sat with his hands folded on his staff, and his chin
resting on his hands, he was such a listener as most musicians would be glad to welcome.
This man was certainly the pride of the hospital. It had always been the custom that one
should be selected as being to some extent in authority over the others; and though Mr
Bunce, for such was his name, and so he was always designated by his inferior brethren,
had no greater emoluments than they, he had assumed, and well knew how to maintain,
the dignity of his elevation. The precentor delighted to call him his sub-warden, and was
not ashamed, occasionally, when no other guest was there, to bid him sit down by the
same parlour fire, and drink the full glass of port which was placed near him. Bunce
never went without the second glass, but no entreaty ever made him take a third.