Here comes the Warden." And he picked up from the floor a wandering scrap of manuscript, on which I just caught the words 'after which Election duly holden the said Sibimet and Tabikat his wife may at their pleasure assume Imperial--' before, with a guilty look, he crumpled it up in his hand.
A CUNNING CONSPIRACY.
The Warden entered at this moment: and close behind him came the Lord Chancellor, a little flushed and out of breath, and adjusting his wig, which appeared to have been dragged partly off his head.
"But where is my precious child?" my Lady enquired, as the four took their seats at the small side-table devoted to ledgers and bundles and bills.
"He left the room a few minutes ago with the Lord Chancellor," the Sub-Warden briefly explained.
"Ah!" said my Lady, graciously smiling on that high official. "Your Lordship has a very taking way with children! I doubt if any one could gain the ear of my darling Uggug so quickly as you can!" For an entirely stupid woman, my Lady's remarks were curiously full of meaning, of which she herself was wholly unconscious.
The Chancellor bowed, but with a very uneasy air. "I think the Warden was about to speak," he remarked, evidently anxious to change the subject.
But my Lady would not be checked. "He is a clever boy," she continued with enthusiasm, "but he needs a man like your Lordship to draw him out!"
The Chancellor bit his lip, and was silent. He evidently feared that, stupid as she looked, she understood what she said this time, and was having a joke at his expense. He might have spared himself all anxiety: whatever accidental meaning her words might have, she herself never meant anything at all.
"It is all settled!" the Warden announced, wasting no time over preliminaries. "The Sub-Wardenship is abolished, and my brother is appointed to act as Vice-Warden whenever I am absent. So, as I am going abroad for a while, he will enter on his new duties at once."
"And there will really be a Vice after all?" my Lady enquired.
"I hope so!" the Warden smilingly replied.
My Lady looked much pleased, and tried to clap her hands: but you might as well have knocked two feather-beds together, for any noise it made. "When my husband is Vice," she said, "it will be the same as if we had a hundred Vices!"
"Hear, hear!" cried the Sub-Warden.
"You seem to think it very remarkable," my Lady remarked with some severity, "that your wife should speak the truth!"
"No, not remarkable at all!" her husband anxiously explained. "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.