The American Senator HTML version

2. 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
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