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- The American Senator - 2/115 -


the great-grandfather of the present man, had not been dead above twenty years. He was the man of whom the older inhabitants of Dillsborough and the neighbourhood still thought and still spoke when they gave vent to their feelings in favour of gentlemen. And yet the old squire in his latter days had been able to do little or nothing for them,--being sometimes backward as to the payment of money he owed among them. But he had lived all his days at Bragton Park, and his figure had been familiar to all eyes in the High Street of Dillsborough and at the front entrance of the Bush. People still spoke of old Mr. Reginald Morton as though his death had been a sore loss to the neighbourhood.

And there were in the country round sundry yeomen, as they ought to be called,--gentlemen-farmers as they now like to style themselves,--men who owned some acres of land, and farmed these acres themselves. Of these we may specially mention Mr. Lawrence Twentyman, who was quite the gentleman-farmer. He possessed over three hundred acres of land, on which his father had built an excellent house. The present Mr. Twentyman, Lawrence Twentyman, Esquire, as he was called by everybody, was by no means unpopular in the neighbourhood. He not only rode well to hounds but paid twenty-five pounds annually to the hunt, which entitled him to feel quite at home in his red coat. He generally owned a racing colt or two, and attended meetings; but was supposed to know what he was about, and to have kept safely the five or six thousand pounds which his father had left him. And his farming was well done; for though he was, out-and-out, a gentleman-farmer, he knew how to get the full worth in work done for the fourteen shillings a week which he paid to his labourers,--a deficiency in which knowledge is the cause why gentlemen in general find farming so expensive an amusement. He was a handsome, good-looking man of about thirty, and would have been a happy man had he not been too ambitious in his aspirations after gentry. He had been at school for three years at Cheltenham College, which, together with his money and appearance and undoubted freehold property, should, he thought, have made his position quite secure to him; but, though he sometimes called young Hampton of Hampton Wick "Hampton," and the son of the rector of Dillsborough "Mainwaring," and always called the rich young brewers from Norrington "Botsey,"--partners in the well-known firm of Billbrook & Botsey; and though they in return called him "Larry" and admitted the intimacy, still he did not get into their houses. And Lord Rufford, when he came into the neighbourhood, never asked him to dine at the Bush. And--worst of all,--some of the sporting men and others in the neighbourhood, who decidedly were not gentlemen, also called him "Larry." Mr. Runciman always did so. Twenty or twenty-five years ago Runciman had been his father's special friend, before the house had been built and before the days at Cheltenham College. Remembering this Lawrence was too good a fellow to rebuke Runciman; but to younger men of that class he would sometimes make himself objectionable. There was another keeper of hunting stables, a younger man, named Stubbings, living at Stanton Corner, a great hunting rendezvous about four miles from Dillsborough; and not long since Twentyman had threatened to lay his whip across Stubbings' shoulders if Stubbings ever called him "Larry" again. Stubbings, who was a little man and rode races, only laughed at Mr. Twentyman who was six feet high, and told the story round to all the hunt. Mr. Twentyman was more laughed at than perhaps he deserved. A man should not have his Christian name used by every Tom and Dick without his sanction. But the difficulty is one to which men in the position of Mr. Lawrence Twentyman are often subject.

Those whom I have named, together with Mr. Mainwaring the rector, and Mr. Surtees his curate, made up the very sparse aristocracy of Dillsborough. The Hamptons of Hampton Wick were Ufford men, and belonged, rather to Norrington than Dillsborough. The Botseys, also from Norrington, were members of the U.R.U., or Ufford and Rufford United Hunt Club; but they did not much affect Dillsborough as a town. Mr. Mainwaring, who has been mentioned, lived in another brick house behind the church, the old parsonage of St. John's. There was also a Mrs. Mainwaring, but she was an invalid. Their family consisted of one son, who was at Brasenose at this time. He always had a horse during the Christmas vacation, and if rumour did not belie him, kept two or three up at Oxford. Mr. Surtees, the curate, lived in lodgings in the town. He was a painstaking, clever, young man, with aspirations in church matters, which were always being checked by his rector. Quieta non movere was the motto by which the rector governed his life, and he certainly was not at all the man to allow his curate to drive him into activity.

Such, at the time of our story, was the little town of Dillsborough.

CHAPTER II

The Morton Family

I can hardly describe accurately the exact position of the Masters family without first telling all that I know about the Morton family; and it is absolutely essential that the reader should know all the Masters family intimately. Mr. Masters, as I have said in the last chapter, was the attorney in Dillsborough, and the Mortons had been for centuries past the squires of Bragton.

I need not take the reader back farther than old Reginald Morton. He had come to the throne of his family as a young man, and had sat upon it for more than half a century. He had been a squire of the old times, having no inclination for London seasons, never wishing to keep up a second house, quite content with his position as quire of Bragton, but with considerable pride about him as to that position. He had always liked to have his house full, and had hated petty oeconomies. He had for many years hunted the county at his own expense, the amusement at first not having been so expensive as it afterwards became. When he began the work, it had been considered sufficient to hunt twice a week. Now the Rufford and Ufford hounds have four days, and sometimes a bye. It went much against Mr. Reginald Morton's pride when he was first driven to take a subscription.

But the temporary distress into which the family fell was caused not so much by his own extravagance as by that of two sons, and by his indulgence in regard to them. He had three children, none of whom were very fortunate in life. The eldest, John, married the daughter of a peer, stood for Parliament, had one son, and died before he was forty, owing something over 20,000 pounds. The estate was then worth 7,000 pounds a year. Certain lands not lying either in Bragton or Mallingham were sold, and that difficulty was surmounted, not without a considerable diminution of income. In process of time the grandson, who was a second John Morton, grew up and married, and became the father of a third John Morton, the young man who afterwards became owner of the property and Secretary of Legation at Washington. But the old squire outlived his son and his grandson, and when he died had three or four great-grand-children playing about the lawns of Bragton Park. The peer's daughter had lived, and had for many years drawn a dower from the Bragton property, and had been altogether a very heavy incumbrance.

But the great trial of the old man's life, as also the great romance, had arisen from the career of his second son, Reginald. Of all his children, Reginald had been the dearest to him. He went to Oxford, and had there spent much money; not as young men now spend money, but still to an extent that had been grievous to the old squire. But everything was always paid for Reginald. It was necessary, of course, that he should have a profession, and he took a commission in the army. As a young man he went to Canada. This was in 1829, when all the world was at peace, and his only achievement in Canada was to marry a young woman who is reported to have been pretty and good, but who had no advantages either of fortune or birth. She was, indeed, the daughter of a bankrupt innkeeper in Montreal. Soon after this he sold out and brought his wife home to Bragton. It was at this period of the squire's life that the romance spoken of occurred. John Morton, the brother with the aristocratic wife, was ten or twelve years older than Reginald, and at this time lived chiefly at Bragton when he was not in town. He was, perhaps, justified in regarding Bragton as almost belonging to him, knowing as he did that it must belong to him after his father's lifetime, and to his son after him. His anger against his brother was hot, and that of his wife still hotter. He himself had squandered thousands, but then he was the heir. Reginald, who was only a younger brother, had sold his commission. And then he had done so much more than this! He had married a woman who was not a lady! John was clearly of opinion that at any rate the wife should not be admitted into Bragton House. The old squire in those days was not a happy man; he had never been very strong-minded, but now he was strong enough to declare that his house-door should not be shut against a son of his,--or a son's wife, as long as she was honest. Hereupon the Honourable Mrs. Morton took her departure, and was never seen at Bragton again in the old squire's time. Reginald Morton came to the house, and soon afterwards another little Reginald was born at Bragton Park. This happened as long ago as 1835, twenty years before the death of the old squire.

But there had been another child, a daughter, who had come between the two sons, still living in these days, who will become known to any reader who will have patience to follow these pages to the end. She married, not very early in life, a certain Sir William Ushant, who was employed by his country in India and elsewhere, but who found, soon after his marriage, that the service of his country required that he should generally leave his wife at Bragton. As her father had been for many years a widower, Lady Ushant became the mistress of the house.

But death was very busy with the Mortons. Almost every one died, except the squire himself and his daughter, and that honourable dowager, with her income and her pride who could certainly very well have been spared. When at last, in 1855, the old squire went, full of years, full of respect, but laden also with debts and money troubles, not only had his son John, and his grandson John, gone before him, but Reginald and his wife were both lying in Bragton Churchyard.

The elder branch of the family, John the great-grandson, and his little sisters, were at once taken away from Bragton by the honourable grandmother. John, who was then about seven years old, was of course the young squire, and was the owner of the property. The dowager, therefore, did not undertake an altogether unprofitable burden. Lady Ushant was left at the house, and with Lady Ushant, or rather immediately subject to her care, young Reginald Morton, who was then nineteen years of age, and who was about to go to Oxford. But there immediately sprang up family lawsuits, instigated by the honourable lady on behalf of her grandchildren, of which Reginald Morton was the object. The old man had left certain outlying properties to his grandson Reginald, of which Hoppet Hall was a part. For eight or ten years the lawsuit was continued, and much money was expended. Reginald was at last successful, and became the undoubted owner of Hoppet Hall; but in


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