Antony Trollope: The Warden

Chap­ter I
Hiram's Hos­pi­tal

T

HE Rev. Sep­ti­mus Hard­ing was, a few years since, a beneficed cler­gy­man re­sid­ing in the cathe­dral town of ––––; let us call it Barch­ester. Were we to name Wells or Sal­is­bury, Ex­eter, Here­ford, or Glouces­ter, it might be pre­sumed that some­thing per­son­al was in­tend­ed; and as this tale will refer main­ly to the cathe­dral dig­ni­taries of the town in ques­tion, we are anx­ious that no per­son­al­i­ty may be sus­pect­ed. Let us pre­sume that Barch­ester is a quiet town in the West of Eng­land, more re­mark­able for the beau­ty of its cathe­dral and the an­tiq­ui­ty of its mon­u­ments than for any com­mer­cial pros­per­i­ty; that the west end of Barch­ester is the cathe­dral close, and that the aris­toc­ra­cy of Barch­ester are the bish­op, dean, and canons, with their re­spec­tive wives and daugh­ters.

Early in life Mr Hard­ing found him­self lo­cat­ed at Barch­ester. A fine voice and a taste for sa­cred music had de­cid­ed the po­si­tion in which he was to ex­er­cise his call­ing, and for many years he per­formed the easy but not high­ly paid du­ties of a minor canon. At the age of forty a small liv­ing in the close vicin­i­ty of the town in­creased both his work and his in­come, and at the age of fifty he be­came pre­cen­tor of the cathe­dral.

Mr Hard­ing had mar­ried early in life, and was the fa­ther of two daugh­ters. The el­dest, Susan, was born soon after his mar­riage; the other, Eleanor, not till ten years later.

At the time at which we in­tro­duce him to our read­ers he was liv­ing as pre­cen­tor at Barch­ester with his youngest daugh­ter, then twen­ty-four years of age; hav­ing been many years a wid­ow­er, and hav­ing mar­ried his el­dest daugh­ter to a son of the bish­op a very short time be­fore his in­stal­la­tion to the of­fice of pre­cen­tor.

Scan­dal at Barch­ester af­firmed that had it not been for the beau­ty of his daugh­ter, Mr Hard­ing would have re­mained a minor canon; but here prob­a­bly Scan­dal lied, as she so often does; for even as a minor canon no one had been more pop­u­lar among his rev­erend brethren in the close than Mr Hard­ing; and Scan­dal, be­fore she had repro­bat­ed Mr Hard­ing for being made pre­cen­tor by his friend the bish­op, had loud­ly blamed the bish­op for hav­ing so long omit­ted to do some­thing for his friend Mr Hard­ing. Be this as it may, Susan Hard­ing, some twelve years since, had mar­ried the Rev. Dr Theophilus Grant­ly, son of the bish­op, archdea­con of Barch­ester, and rec­tor of Plum­stead Epis­copi, and her fa­ther be­came, a few months later, pre­cen­tor of Barch­ester Cathe­dral, that of­fice being, as is not un­usu­al, in the bish­op's gift.

Now there are pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances con­nect­ed with the pre­cen­tor­ship which must be ex­plained. In the year 1434 there died at Barch­ester one John Hiram, who had made money in the town as a wool-sta­pler, and in his will he left the house in which he died and cer­tain mead­ows and clos­es near the town, still called Hiram's Butts, and Hiram's Patch, for the sup­port of twelve su­per­an­nu­at­ed wool-carders, all of whom should have been born and bred and spent their days in Barch­ester; he also ap­point­ed that an alms-house should be built for their abode, with a fit­ting res­i­dence for a war­den, which war­den was also to re­ceive a cer­tain sum an­nu­al­ly out of the rents of the said butts and patch­es. He, more­over, willed, hav­ing had a soul alive to har­mo­ny, that the pre­cen­tor of the cathe­dral should have the op­tion of being also war­den of the almshous­es, if the bish­op in each case ap­proved.

From that day to this the char­i­ty had gone on and pros­pered—at least, the char­i­ty had gone on, and the es­tates had pros­pered. Wool-card­ing in Barch­ester there was no longer any; so the bish­op, dean, and war­den, who took it in turn to put in the old men, gen­er­al­ly ap­point­ed some hang­ers-on of their own; worn-out gar­den­ers, de­crepit grave-dig­gers, or oc­to­ge­nar­i­an sex­tons, who thank­ful­ly re­ceived a com­fort­able lodg­ing and one shilling and fourpence a day, such being the stipend to which, under the will of John Hiram, they were de­clared to be en­ti­tled. For­mer­ly, in­deed,—that is, till with­in some fifty years of the pre­sent time,—they re­ceived but six­pence a day, and their break­fast and din­ner was found them at a com­mon table by the war­den, such an ar­range­ment being in stricter con­for­mi­ty with the ab­so­lute word­ing of old Hiram's will: but this was thought to be in­con­ve­nient, and to suit the tastes of nei­ther war­den nor be­des­men, and the daily one shilling and fourpence was sub­sti­tut­ed with the com­mon con­sent of all par­ties, in­clud­ing the bish­op and the cor­po­ra­tion of Barch­ester.

Such was the con­di­tion of Hiram's twelve old men when Mr Hard­ing was ap­point­ed war­den; but if they may be con­sid­ered as well-to-do in the world ac­cord­ing to their con­di­tion, the happy war­den was much more so. The patch­es and butts which, in John Hiram's time, pro­duced hay or fed cows, were now cov­ered with rows of hous­es; the value of the prop­er­ty had grad­u­al­ly in­creased from year to year and cen­tu­ry to cen­tu­ry, and was now pre­sumed by those who knew any­thing about it, to bring in a very nice in­come; and by some who knew noth­ing about it, to have in­creased to an al­most fab­u­lous ex­tent.

The prop­er­ty was farmed by a gen­tle­man in Barch­ester, who also acted as the bish­op's stew­ard,—a man whose fa­ther and grand­fa­ther had been stew­ards to the bish­ops of Barch­ester, and farm­ers of John Hiram's es­tate. The Chad­wicks had earned a good name in Barch­ester; they had lived re­spect­ed by bish­ops, deans, canons, and pre­cen­tors; they had been buried in the precincts of the cathe­dral; they had never been known as grip­ing, hard men, but had al­ways lived com­fort­ably, main­tained a good house, and held a high po­si­tion in Barch­ester so­ci­ety. The pre­sent Mr Chad­wick was a wor­thy scion of a wor­thy stock, and the ten­ants liv­ing on the butts and patch­es, as well as those on the wide epis­co­pal do­mains of the see, were well pleased to have to do with so wor­thy and lib­er­al a stew­ard.

For many, many years,—records hard­ly tell how many, prob­a­bly from the time when Hiram's wish­es had been first fully car­ried out,—the pro­ceeds of the es­tate had been paid by the stew­ard or farmer to the war­den, and by him di­vid­ed among the be­des­men; after which di­vi­sion he paid him­self such sums as be­came his due. Times had been when the poor war­den got noth­ing but his bare house, for the patch­es had been sub­ject to floods, and the land of Barch­ester butts was said to be un­pro­duc­tive; and in these hard times the war­den was hard­ly able to make out the daily dole for his twelve de­pen­dents. But by de­grees things mend­ed; the patch­es were drained, and cot­tages began to rise upon the butts, and the war­dens, with fair­ness enough, re­paid them­selves for the evil days gone by. In bad times the poor men had had their due, and there­fore in good times they could ex­pect no more. In this man­ner the in­come of the war­den had in­creased; the pic­turesque house at­tached to the hos­pi­tal had been en­larged and adorned, and the of­fice had be­come one of the most cov­et­ed of the snug cler­i­cal sinecures at­tached to our church. It was now whol­ly in the bish­op's gift, and though the dean and chap­ter, in for­mer days, made a stand on the sub­ject, they had thought it more con­ducive to their hon­our to have a rich pre­cen­tor ap­point­ed by the bish­op, than a poor one ap­point­ed by them­selves. The stipend of the pre­cen­tor of Barch­ester was eighty pounds a year. The in­come aris­ing from the war­den­ship of the hos­pi­tal was eight hun­dred, be­sides the value of the house.

Mur­murs, very slight mur­murs, had been heard in Barch­ester,—few in­deed, and far be­tween,—that the pro­ceeds of John Hiram's prop­er­ty had not been fair­ly di­vid­ed: but they can hard­ly be said to have been of such a na­ture as to have caused un­easi­ness to any­one: still the thing had been whis­pered, and Mr Hard­ing had heard it. Such was his char­ac­ter in Barch­ester, so uni­ver­sal was his pop­u­lar­i­ty, that the very fact of his ap­point­ment would have qui­et­ed loud­er whis­pers than those which had been heard; but Mr Hard­ing was an open-hand­ed, just-mind­ed man, and feel­ing that there might be truth in what had been said, he had, on his in­stal­ment, de­clared his in­ten­tion of adding twopence a day to each man's pit­tance, mak­ing a sum of six­ty-two pounds eleven shillings and fourpence, which he was to pay out of his own pock­et. In doing so, how­ev­er, he dis­tinct­ly and re­peat­ed­ly ob­served to the men, that though he promised for him­self, he could not promise for his suc­ces­sors, and that the extra twopence could only be looked on as a gift from him­self, and not from the trust. The be­des­men, how­ev­er, were most of them older than Mr Hard­ing, and were quite sat­is­fied with the se­cu­ri­ty on which their extra in­come was based.

This mu­nif­i­cence on the part of Mr Hard­ing had not been un­op­posed. Mr Chad­wick had mild­ly but se­ri­ous­ly dis­suad­ed him from it; and his strong-mind­ed son-in-law, the archdea­con, the man of whom alone Mr Hard­ing stood in awe, had ur­gent­ly, nay, ve­he­ment­ly, op­posed so im­politic a con­ces­sion: but the war­den had made known his in­ten­tion to the hos­pi­tal be­fore the archdea­con had been able to in­ter­fere, and the deed was done.

Hiram's Hos­pi­tal, as the re­treat is called, is a pic­turesque build­ing enough, and shows the cor­rect taste with which the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal ar­chi­tects of those days were im­bued. It stands on the banks of the lit­tle river, which flows near­ly round the cathe­dral close, being on the side fur­thest from the town. The Lon­don road cross­es the river by a pret­ty one-arched bridge, and, look­ing from this bridge, the stranger will see the win­dows of the old men's rooms, each pair of win­dows sep­a­rat­ed by a small but­tress. A broad grav­el walk runs be­tween the build­ing and the river, which is al­ways trim and cared for; and at the end of the walk, under the para­pet of the ap­proach to the bridge, is a large and well-worn seat, on which, in mild weath­er, three or four of Hiram's be­des­men are sure to be seen seat­ed. Be­yond this row of but­tress­es, and fur­ther from the bridge, and also fur­ther from the water which here sud­den­ly bends, are the pret­ty oriel win­dows of Mr Hard­ing's house, and his well-mown lawn. The en­trance to the hos­pi­tal is from the Lon­don road, and is made through a pon­der­ous gate­way under a heavy stone arch, un­nec­es­sary, one would sup­pose, at any time, for the pro­tec­tion of twelve old men, but great­ly con­ducive to the good ap­pear­ance of Hiram's char­i­ty. On pass­ing through this por­tal, never closed to any­one from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m., and never open af­ter­wards, ex­cept on ap­pli­ca­tion to a huge, in­tri­cate­ly hung mediæval bell, the han­dle of which no unini­ti­at­ed in­trud­er can pos­si­bly find, the six doors of the old men's abodes are seen, and be­yond them is a slight iron screen, through which the more happy por­tion of the Barch­ester elite pass into the Ely­si­um of Mr Hard­ing's dwelling.

Mr Hard­ing is a small man, now verg­ing on sixty years, but bear­ing few of the signs of age; his hair is rather griz­zled, though not gray; his eye is very mild, but clear and bright, though the dou­ble glass­es which are held swing­ing from his hand, un­less when fixed upon his nose, show that time has told upon his sight; his hands are del­i­cate­ly white, and both hands and feet are small; he al­ways wears a black frock coat, black knee-breech­es, and black gaiters, and some­what scan­dalis­es some of his more hy­per­cler­i­cal brethren by a black neck-hand­ker­chief.

Mr Hard­ing's warmest ad­mir­ers can­not say that he was ever an in­dus­tri­ous man; the cir­cum­stances of his life have not called on him to be so; and yet he can hard­ly be called an idler. Since his ap­point­ment to his pre­cen­tor­ship, he has pub­lished, with all pos­si­ble ad­di­tions of vel­lum, ty­pog­ra­phy, and gild­ing, a col­lec­tion of our an­cient church music, with some cor­rect dis­ser­ta­tions on Pur­cell, Crotch, and Nares. He has great­ly im­proved the choir of Barch­ester, which, under his do­min­ion, now ri­vals that of any cathe­dral in Eng­land. He has taken some­thing more than his fair share in the cathe­dral ser­vices, and has played the vi­o­lon­cel­lo daily to such au­di­ences as he could col­lect, or, faute de mieux, to no au­di­ence at all.

We must men­tion one other pe­cu­liar­i­ty of Mr Hard­ing. As we have be­fore stat­ed, he has an in­come of eight hun­dred a year, and has no fam­i­ly but his one daugh­ter; and yet he is never quite at ease in money mat­ters. The vel­lum and gild­ing of "Hard­ing's Church Music" cost more than any one knows, ex­cept the au­thor, the pub­lish­er, and the Rev. Theophilus Grant­ly, who al­lows none of his fa­ther-in-law's ex­trav­a­gances to es­cape him. Then he is gen­er­ous to his daugh­ter, for whose ser­vice he keeps a small car­riage and pair of ponies. He is, in­deed, gen­er­ous to all, but es­pe­cial­ly to the twelve old men who are in a pe­cu­liar man­ner under his care. No doubt with such an in­come Mr Hard­ing should be above the world, as the say­ing is; but, at any rate, he is not above Archdea­con Theophilus Grant­ly, for he is al­ways more or less in debt to his son-in-law, who has, to a cer­tain ex­tent, as­sumed the ar­range­ment of the pre­cen­tor's pe­cu­niary af­fairs.

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