The American Senator
3. The Masters Family
At six o'clock one November morning, Mr. Masters, the attorney, was sitting at
home with his family in the large parlour of his house, his office being on the
other side of the passage which cut the house in two and was formally called the
hall. Upstairs, over the parlour, was a drawing-room; but this chamber, which
was supposed to be elegantly furnished, was very rarely used. Mr. and Mrs.
Masters did not see much company, and for family purposes the elegance of the
drawing-room made it unfit. It added, however, not a little to the glory of Mrs.
Masters' life. The house itself was a low brick building in the High Street, at the
corner where the High Street runs into the market-place, and therefore, nearly
opposite to the Bush. It had none of the elaborate grandeur of the inn nor of the
simple stateliness of Hoppet Hall, but, nevertheless, it maintained the character
of the town and was old, substantial, respectable, and dark.
"I think it a very spirited thing of him to do, then," said Mrs. Masters.
"I don't know, my dear. Perhaps it is only revenge."
"What have you to do with that? What can it matter to a lawyer whether it's
revenge or anything else? He's got the means, I suppose?"
"I don't know, my dear."
"What does Nickem say?"
"I suppose he has the means," said Mr. Masters, who was aware that if he told
his wife a fib on the matter, she would learn the truth from his senior clerk, Mr.
Samuel Nickem. Among the professional gifts which Mr. Masters possessed, had
not been that great gift of being able to keep his office and his family distinct from
each other. His wife always knew what was going on, and was very free with her
advice; generally tendering it on that side on which money was to be made, and
doing so with much feminine darkness as to right or wrong. His Clerk, Nickem,
who was afflicted with no such darkness, but who ridiculed the idea of scruple in
an attorney, often took part against him. It was the wish of his heart to get rid of
Nickem; but Nickem would have carried business with him and gone over to
some enemy, or, perhaps have set up in some irregular manner on his own
bottom; and his wife would have given him no peace had he done so, for she
regarded Nickem as the mainstay of the house.
"What is Lord Rufford to you?" asked Mrs. Masters.
"He has always been very friendly."
"I don't see it at all. You have never had any of his money. I don't know that you
are a pound richer by him."
"I have always gone with the gentry of the county."
"Fiddlesticks! Gentry! Gentry are very well as long as you can make a living out
of them. You could afford to stick up for gentry till you lost the Bragton property."
This was a subject that was always sore between Mr. Masters and his wife. The
former Mrs. Masters had been a lady--the daughter of a neighbouring clergyman;
and had been much considered by the family at Bragton. The present Mrs.