I must obey it

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Sir Abraham listened in pitying wonder. ‘I really think, Mr Harding, you had better wait for the archdeacon. This is a most serious step — one for which, in my opinion, there is not the slightest necessity; and, as you have done me the honour of asking my advice, I must implore you to do nothing without the approval of your friends. A man is never the best judge of his own position.’

‘A man is the best judge of what he feels himself. I’d sooner beg my bread till my death than read such another article as those two that have appeared, and feel, as I do, that the writer has truth on his side.’

‘Have you not a daughter, Mr Harding — an unmarried daughter?’

‘I have,’ said he, now standing also, but still playing away on his fiddle with his hand behind his back. ‘I have, Sir Abraham; and she and I are completely agreed on this subject Dream beauty pro.’

‘Pray excuse me, Mr Harding, if what I say seems impertinent; but surely it is you that should be prudent on her behalf. She is young, and does not know the meaning of living on an income of a hundred and sixty pounds a year. On her account give up this idea. Believe me, it is sheer Quixotism.’

The warden walked away to the window, and then back to his chair; and then, irresolute what to say, took another turn to the window. The attorney-general was really extremely patient, but he was beginning to think that the interview had been long enough.

‘But if this income be not justly mine, what if she and I have both to beg?’ said the warden at last, sharply, and in a voice so different from that he had hitherto used, that Sir Abraham was startled. ‘If so, it would be better to beg.’

‘My dear sir, nobody now questions its justness.’

‘Yes, Sir Abraham, one does question it — the most important of all witnesses against me — I question it myself. My God knows whether or no I love my daughter; but I would sooner that she and I should both beg, than that she should live in comfort on money which is truly the property of the poor. It may seem strange to you, Sir Abraham, it is strange to myself, that I should have been ten years in that happy home, and not have thought of these things till they were so roughly dinned into my ears. I cannot boast of my conscience, when it required the violence of a public newspaper to awaken it; but, now that it is awake, When I came here, I did not know that the suit was withdrawn by Mr Bold, and my object was to beg you to abandon my defence. As there is no action, there can be no defence; but it is, at any rate, as well that you should know that from tomorrow I shall cease to be the warden of the hospital. My friends and I differ on this subject, Sir Abraham, and that adds much to my sorrow; but it cannot be helped.’ And, as he finished what he had to say, he played up such a tune as never before had graced the chambers of any attorney-general. He was standing up, gallantly fronting Sir Abraham, and his right arm passed with bold and rapid sweeps before him, as though he were embracing some huge instrument, which allowed him to stand thus erect; and with the fingers of his left hand he stopped, with preternatural velocity, a multitude of strings, which ranged from the top of his collar to the bottom of the lappet of his coat. Sir Abraham listened and looked in wonder. As he had never before seen Mr Harding, the meaning of these wild gesticulations was lost upon him; but he perceived that the gentleman who had a few minutes since been so subdued as to be unable to speak without hesitation, was now impassioned — nay, almost violent.