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With Roberts to Pretoria: A Tale of The South African War

301 pages
Library of Alexandria
IT was a sad morning at the Rectory of Waverfield, in Somersetshire. The living was not a valuable one, but the rector, John Harberton, possessed a private income derived from shares in a bank in the Midlands, that had hitherto been considered a stable and flourishing institution. That morning one of the first items in the paper that met his eye was: "Failure of the Birmingham and Coventry Banking Company. Reported heavy liabilities. Wide-spread dismay." "It is a great misfortune, my dear," the rector said, after the first exclamations of surprise and lamentation had ceased. "Still, thank God, we have our church income remaining; that cannot be touched, and we are more fortunate than many others. Naturally it will make a great difference to us, but we can do without many of the things to which we have been hitherto accustomed. Of course we must sell our horses, the brougham, and dog-cart, and content ourselves with the pony and carriage. Fortunately the girls have nearly finished their education, and it has been already arranged that our good friend here, Miss Millar, should leave at midsummer. It is a comfort to think, Miss Millar, that our misfortune will not affect you." "Not at all, sir," the governess said. "I have already arranged with the lady, to whom you recommended me, to enter her service at the end of the summer holidays; but I most deeply regret that such a misfortune has happened to you, and had the girls been younger I would gladly have remained to finish their education, without there being any question of salary between us." "You are very good, Miss Millar, but happily the matter has already been arranged. The greatest difficulty will be about you, Yorke. I am afraid that there will be no possibility whatever of sending you back to Rugby." "Don't worry about me, father," the lad said, with an effort at cheerfulness, though the thought of leaving the school he loved was a painful one indeed. "I shall get on all right somehow; and you know there was never any chance of my doing anything brilliant. Though I don't say that I shall not be sorry to leave Rugby, that is nothing beside your having to give up the horses and carriage and all sorts of other things." "It will, of course, make a wide difference to us, Yorke," his father said gravely; "but this must be faced in the right spirit. Our lot has been an exceptionally pleasant one up to the present time, and I hope that none of us will repine. I shall henceforth be as other clergymen having nothing but my stipend to depend upon." "But will nothing be saved out of the wreck, John?" Mrs. Harberton asked. "It would be as well to assume at once, Annie that it will be all lost; and I can only trust that, when matters are gone into, all depositors who have trusted in the bank will be paid in full. Fortunately it is a limited concern, and the money I have invested elsewhere will be sufficient to pay the amount uncalled-up on our shares. Had it been otherwise, our home might have been sold up; as it is, we shall be able to keep all the surroundings to which we are accustomed. I shall at once give notice to the coachman and gardener. The boy must be kept on. He can look after the pony, and do the rough work in the garden with the aid of a man hired for a day occasionally. One of the maids must, of course, go. We shall see how well we can manage, and I hope we shall be able to keep on the other two. We shall have to practise many little economies.