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13. CHAPTER XIII: THE RUBBISH CART (continued)
'The same thing is going on throughout the whole country!' 'Work is now required from every man who receives wages!' and had he been living all his life receiving wages and doing no work? Had he in truth so lived as to be now in his old age justly reckoned as rubbish fit only to be hidden away in some huge dust hole? The school of men to whom he professes to belong, the Grantlys, the Gwynnes, and the old high set of Oxford divines, are afflicted with no such self-accusations as these which troubled Mr Harding. They, as a rule, are as satisfied with the wisdom and propriety of their own conduct as can be any Mr Slope, or any Dr Proudie, with his own. But unfortunately for himself, Mr Harding had little of this self-reliance. When he heard himself designated as rubbish by the Slopes of the world, he had no other recourse than to make inquiry within his own bosom as to the truth of the designation. Alas, alas! the evidence seemed generally to go against him.
He had professed to himself in the bishop's parlour that in these coming sources of the sorrow of the age, in these fits of sad regret from which the latter years of few reflecting men can be free, religion would suffice to comfort him. Yes, religion could console him for the loss of any worldly good; but was his religion of that active sort which would enable him so to repent of misspent years as to pass those that were left to him in a spirit of hope for the future? And such repentance itself, is it not a work of agony and of tears? It is very easy to talk of repentance; but a man has to walk over hot ploughshares before he can complete it; to be skinned alive as was St Bartholomew; to be stuck full of arrows as was St Sebastian; to lie broiling on a gridiron like St Lorenzo! How if his past life required such repentance as this? had he the energy to go through with it?
Mr Harding after leaving the palace, walked slowly for an hour or so beneath the shady elms of the close, and then betook himself to his daughter's house. He had at any rate made up his mind that he would go out to Plumstead to consult Dr Grantly, and that he would in the first instance tell Eleanor what had occurred.
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