“Nothing is remarkable that you say, sweet one!”
My Lady smiled approval of the sentiment, and went on.
“And am I Vice-Wardeness?”
“If you choose to use that title,” said the Warden:
“but ‘Your Excellency’ will be the proper style of address. And I trust
that both ‘His Excellency’ and ‘Her Excellency’ will observe the
Agreement I have drawn up. The provision I am most anxious about
is this.” He unrolled a large parchment scroll, and read aloud the words
“‘item, that we will be kind to the poor.’ The Chancellor worded it
for me,” he added, glancing at that great Functionary.
“I suppose, now, that word ‘item’ has some deep legal meaning?”
“Undoubtedly!” replied the Chancellor, as articulately as he could with
a pen between his lips. He was nervously rolling and unrolling several
other scrolls, and making room among them for the one the Warden had
just handed to him. “These are merely the rough copies,” he explained:
“and, as soon as I have put in the final corrections–” making a
great commotion among the different parchments, “–a semi-colon or
two that I have accidentally omitted–” here he darted about, pen in
hand, from one part of the scroll to another, spreading sheets of
blotting-paper over his corrections, “all will be ready for signing.”
“Should it not be read out, first?” my Lady enquired.
“No need, no need!” the Sub-Warden and the Chancellor exclaimed at the
same moment, with feverish eagerness.
“No need at all,” the Warden gently assented. “Your husband and I have
gone through it together. It provides that he shall exercise the full
authority of Warden, and shall have the disposal of the annual revenue
attached to the office, until my return, or, failing that, until Bruno
comes of age: and that he shall then hand over, to myself or to Bruno
as the case may be, the Wardenship, the unspent revenue, and the
contents of the Treasury, which are to be preserved, intact, under his
All this time the Sub-Warden was busy, with the Chancellor’s help,
shifting the papers from side to side, and pointing out to the Warden
the place whew he was to sign. He then signed it himself, and my Lady
and the Chancellor added their names as witnesses.
“Short partings are best,” said the Warden. “All is ready for my
journey. My children are waiting below to see me off” He gravely kissed
my Lady, shook hands with his brother and the Chancellor, and left the
[Image…’What a game!’]
The three waited in silence till the sound of wheels announced
that the Warden was out of hearing: then, to my surprise, they broke
into peals of uncontrollable laughter.
“What a game, oh, what a game!” cried the Chancellor. And he and the
Vice-Warden joined hands, and skipped wildly about the room. My Lady
was too dignified to skip, but she laughed like the neighing of a
horse, and waved her handkerchief above her head: it was clear to her
very limited understanding that something very clever had been done,
but what it was she had yet to learn.
“You said I should hear all about it when the Warden had gone,”
she remarked, as soon as she could make herself heard.
“And so you shall, Tabby!” her husband graciously replied, as he
removed the blotting-paper, and showed the two parchments lying side by
side. “This is the one he read but didn’t sign: and this is the one he
signed but didn’t read! You see it was all covered up, except the place
for signing the names–”
“Yes, yes!” my Lady interrupted eagerly, and began comparing the two
“‘Item, that he shall exercise the authority of Warden, in the Warden’s
absence.’ Why, that’s been changed into ‘shall be absolute governor for
life, with the title of Emperor, if elected to that office by the
people.’ What! Are you Emperor, darling?”
“Not yet, dear,” the Vice-Warden replied. “It won’t do to let this
paper be seen, just at present. All in good time.”
My Lady nodded, and read on. “‘Item, that we will be kind to the poor.’
Why, that’s omitted altogether!”
“Course it is!” said her husband. “We’re not going to bother about the