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moderate number of acres was attached. The house stood within easy distance of Wilmington, and Captain Stourton at once sent his eldest boy to the grammar school in that town.
William was the eldest of the family, then came Margaret, Lucy, and Katie, and then John, who was long considered “the baby," owing to his having no successor to dispute the title with him. Years flew by, during which the farm prospered, the children grew, and all seemed smiling around them. Margaret, who had arrived at sixteen, was a very nice-looking girl, tall and slight, and with a very sensible, pleasing expression of countenance ; her two younger sisters were all that their parents could desire in children of their age. William had attained his eighteenth year, and the highest class in the school. His inclinations had at one time been rather divided between the University and the Army, but finally he decided in favour of the first, and he expected to get an Exhibition, and go to Oxford. John was also at school, but looked forward to entering the Navy shortly.
But, alas ! these hopes and plans for the future received a check equally sudden and grievous. A mercantile house in which the greater part of Captain Stourton's fortune was embarked most unexpectedly failed ; undreamed-of liabilities started up on all sides; and the happy and prosperous family at Witham were in a moment brought to the very
verge of ruin.
Nothing could be more beautiful than the way in which they bore this terrible trial. Great sympathy was shown for them ; tradespeople sending in things for which they could not expect payment, servants offering to stay on reduced wages, and many friends coming forward with substantial help.
The Wilmington lawyer, an old and valued friend of the Stourtons, took the case in hand, and found that their income would be reduced to about two hundred a year, but this included Captain Stourton's half-pay. Except for the kindness of a distant relation, Sir Edward Stourton, the family would have been in a very pitiable condition. Of course Witham Grange was immediately given up, and they removed to a small cottage at Teesdale, a village about six miles from Wilmington.
Sir Edward undertook to pay John's school expenses until he was prepared for the Navy, and also to give him his outfit. William took the vacant second mastership at the grammar school, and as he was clever and steady, and a great favourite with the head-master, he was likely to do well. And so passed on several years of a more contracted but scarcely less happy family life.
HE little drawing-room at Teesdale looked very cheerful one evening about six years
after the Stourtons first settled there. The night was somewhat cold, and Captain Stourton was sitting by the fire, enjoying the luxury of a newspaper, which had been sent in by a neighbour. Mrs. Stourton was knitting ; Margaret was at the table, busily studying German, with dictionary and note-book by her side ; and Lucy was writing a letter.
Getting on, my dear ?" said Mrs. Stourton to Margaret.
“Yes, I hardly ever have to refer to the dictionary now; and, Mamma, I don't think you heard that Miss Schlechter said that the last exercises and translations I sent her were all very well done;" and Margaret looked up with a pretty bright smile, colouring a little at reporting such commendations. She laughed as she caught the absurd expression of Lucy's face.
“What is the matter with you, Lucy ?" she inquired. “Well, if
the matter is, I am sorry to see how very conceited those German proceedings are fast making you ; but don't begin to argue about it, or I shall not have time to finish my letter (which is an extremely important one) before tea."
“Or, rather, you are afraid of the difficulty of supporting such an assertion as you have just made,” replied Margaret, merrily.
“That's right, Madge, don't allow her to be so saucy," said her father.
* Ah, Papa, I confess I am sorry to see that you, like the rest, are blind to Margaret's imperfections.”
“Hold your naughty tongue, and let me go on with my paper."
“Oh, willingly," and, with a shrug of her shoulders, Lucy again devoted herself to her writing.
For more than a month, Katie, the third daughter, had been with some friends at the sea-side. She was not in good health, and had on this account caused her parents much anxiety. John was somewhere off Sydney, when he last wrote ; well and happy, and delighted with his profession. William had been a clergyman nearly six months. He had been a great comfort to his parents. His college career was most satisfactory. He had been extremely fortunate in obtaining pupils after he got his Exhibition, and was elected to a scholarship which enabled him to pass through college with
out putting his family to any expense on his account.
But, somehow or other, during the last two years the Stourtons certainly had not grown richer. Captain Stourton, who was often ailing, had latterly been much less well. He was strongly advised to try a different air in England, or to go to some German baths, but his means would not allow of either the one or the other.
Katie had required many things which she could not have without great pinching on the part of the rest of the family. There was no capital to fall back upon, so that, when once in debt, it was a very hard matter to get clear again.
Margaret and Lucy often talked over these things with heavy hearts, but help had come (as they said in looking back) on more than one occasion when least expected. Yes; they would trust and hope. Their chief cause of anxiety was their father's failing health. If they could but devise some means for giving him change of air and scene, they would willingly bear additional privations themselves.
The German studies had been interrupted by the entrance of the maid-servant, who brought in a note for Margaret, and then turning to Captain Stourton, said
“If you please, sir, Mrs. Asheton has sent two brace of partridges and a hare, by Peter Thomson."
“Oh! very kind, very kind,” said Captain Stour