Archibald Marshall.

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Archibald Marshall has written four stories dealing

with the fortunes of the "Clintons of Kencote."

They are—




















I. — Tme Sale ...... 13

II. — The Contest

• 25

III. — Little Kemsale


IV. —The Shooting Party .


V. — Armitage Brown


VI. — Hillgrove Towers


VII. — A Momentous Interview

■ 75

VIII.— Barton's Farm .


IX. — Garden Notes .


X. — The Heir Apparent .


XL — The Chancel Pew


XII. — More Garden Notes .


XIII. — The Voice of Kencote


XIV. — Sunday Morning


XV. — Sunday Afternoon .


XVI. — The Ice Broken


XVII. — Experiments


XVIIL— Persuasion


XIX. — Kemsale Rectory


XX. — The Herons' Nest


XXI. — Recognition


XXII. — Having it Out .


XXIII. — Six Months later

• 237

XXIV.— A Country Walk


XXV. — A Difference of Principle

2 5 3

XXVI. — Father and Son v _ >





xxyiii4/fiJ£i^kT?ij^5/.\-..' . x . . 277

XXVIII. — More Festivities

. 286

XXIX. — The Old and the New

. 296

XXX. — Help in Trouble

. 307

XXXI. — An Engagement

■ 3i4

XXXII. — The Syndicate .

. 323

XXXIII. — The End of a Dream

- 333

XXXIV.— The War ....

■ 342

XXXV. — The Old is Better .

. 35i

XXXVI. — Those at Home .

. 363

XXXVII.— Farewells

i 374



At first sight one would have thought that some sort of
fete was in progress. On the great stretch of level lawn
in front oi the house stood a white marquee, with flags
flapping at either end of it. The September sky was
brightly blue. It was just the day for a flower-show, or
a Primrose League festival, and just the place.

The house was one of those enormous country palaces
that make one wonder what sort of life those who built
them can have had in mind for themselves. It had the
dignity of size and proportion, but little beauty other-
wise. In front of it was about half an acre of gravel ;
in front of that a squared lawn of about an acre ; and in
front of that again, on a slightly lower level, and divided
from the lawn by a balustrade, was a formal garden of
a desolating ugliness, covering about two acres. The box-
edged beds were disposed in a vast and complicated pattern,
and each contained some plant chosen for the colour of
its leaves or flowers, and for its low and tidy habit of

With that two-acre carpet expensive ugliness ended
and beauty began. The open ground was flanked with
the graceful growth of huge beeches, through which the
carriage roads approached the house on either side.
Behind it the woods, now just beginning to show their
autumn variety of colour, rose in a wide amphitheatre, and
the white stone house with its many windows looked out
across the levelled ground on to a wide-sweeping expanse
of meadow and woodland, that ended only with a line of
low hills thirty miles away.

The great house not only of a parish but a county,
Kemsale had been accustomed to extend its amenities to
all sorts of festive and patriotic demands. The marquee


ii Rank and Riches

was not hir^d for, such: occasions, but was kept until it
was wanted in one or another of the buildings* as exten-
sive as/a ^ji^.c'e: iha't^ixisled-for the service of the house.
Then : k was put up by' some of the small army of men
employed about the place, and after it had served its tem-
porary purpose taken down again, and the grass carefully
rolled and watered, so that its billiard-table smoothness
should not be marred by the least irregularity of
colour or surface. The lawn was not even used for
games, the ground for which was elsewhere. To keep
it and the gravel smooth, and to fill and tend the con-
torted beds of the carpet garden, so that at certain seasons
of the year, during the greater part of which the house
was shut up, its design should be coloured, occupied the
attention of many men. They lived by this work, and
those of them who had families fed and educated them
on the money they were paid for it. Some of them
occupied cottages on the estate, with little gardens of
their own, as unlike as possible to the one that they
laboured six days in the week to tend. So that the lawn
and the carpet of Kemsale may be said to have been
endowed with houses and land as well as with money. And
yet, of those who had paid the price of all this steady
labour, that had gone on for years and years, hardly one
had ever rested his gaze with pleasure on its results,
though many had done so on the lovely stretch of country
that lay below and beyond. It was kept up because it was
there, and had always been kept up. And the scores of
rooms in the great house, all richly or comfortably or
conveniently furnished, the greater number of which their
owners never visited, were also kept up, and endowed
again, as it were, with regular well-paid service, for the
sake of the few occasions in the year in which they were
filled or partly rilled with guests ; and because they were
part of the state attached to such a house as this.

But now, at last, on this bright September day, all the
complicated and expensive machinery that had been
kept oiled and wound up through generations was in
process of disintegration. The marquee on the lawn
indicated festivity, it is true, but as far as it concerned
the great house it was a festivity sadder than any mourn-
ing. Those who had eaten and drunk in it, and were
now spreading over the lawn and overflowing with admir-
ing comment into the untrodden walks of the carpet

The Sale 15

garden, were the birds of prey that had settled upon
Kemsale. They had been invited to settle on it, and fed
and filled as a reward for doing so. They were to pick
it clean of all it contained, and leave it staring in its large
emptiness over the wide country of which it had been the
crown and centre, until some sort of machinery should be
put into it again, and it should reflect a life that might
in some respects resemble the old one, but could never
be quite the same.

Kemsale was being sold up — lock, stock, and barrel, as the
phrase goes. This was the third day in which luncheon had
been spread in the great marquee for the benefit of those
who had come from all over the country to bid for its
hoarded contents ; and the sale would last for three days
more, with increasing competition and excitement amongst
the buyers, as the catalogue worked slowly down from
the upper floors to the valuable " lots " from the lower.

The upper floors — even the great range of attics behind
the balustrade of the roof — had already yielded surprises
in plenty to the buyers, though few bargains ; lor this
sale had been too widely known and too eagerly anticipated
to serve the bargain-hunters. The house, as it stood, had
been furnished from roof to basement for over two hundred
3'ears, and the basis of its furnishing had been the contents
of a much older, though smaller, house, the place of which
it had taken. In the course of subsequent additions to its
stock of household gear, good things had receded from
places of honour, and taken up posts of retiring usefulness
instead. Sometimes they had been discarded altogether,
for no more than a reparable weakness, and relegated to
lumber rooms, until now the long years had brought them
to light again, more valuable in their partial destruction
than when they had left the hands of their makers, strong
and whole. Servants' bedrooms had yielded their scroll-
backed chairs, their mahogany tall-boys, toilet-mirrors,
brass fenders, and copper coal-scuttles, which had been
put into them new two hundred years before, as the ordinary
furniture of the time, and had come out old, to enter on a
new career as articles of price, fit for the best rooms of
other houses. From the broad corridors and hive of rooms
on the second floor — bachelors' rooms, nurseries, rooms of
■dependents above the rank of servants — had come a rich
succession of treasures amongst the steady flow of old and
solid furniture. The engravings alone would have formed

16 Rank and Riches

an embracing collection — mezzotints bought at the time of
their publication for a few guineas, kept, perhaps, in port-
folios for a time, then framed by the score and hung up
to decorate bare walls, and afterwards forgotten, now sell-
ing for scores and hundreds apiece ; etchings picked up by
some dilettante of the family making the Grand Tour, and
treated in the same way — Albrecht Diirers, Lucas Van
Leydens, Rembrandts, Marc Antonios amongst them ; deli-
cate prints in coloured stipple after eighteenth-century
artists who would have been forgotten but for the repro-
ductions of their work, now more valuable than the original
paintings — all these had been the normal yield, and their
total price had run up to many thousands, though the list
had been hurried through for the sake of richer treas-
ures still to come. There had been great store of old
china too, lotted and catalogued from these upper floors,
every piece of it of value, and some here and there of
great value ; old cut glass ; old clocks ; old inkstands and
tra}^s and writing-table toys ; old dressing-table sets ; old
carpets and rugs and curtains, faded and worn, but eagerly
bid for. Each room had become richer as the years had
passed, as more important rooms had been refurnished,
and their superseded contents moved up to the less im-
portant* The things from the upper floors alone would
have set up a dealer in antiquities for life, and filled his
shop to overflowing.

That is the light in which they were looked at by those
who competed so eagerly to possess them. They would
come to be scattered all over the country, and so scattered
would give infinitely more pleasure to their numerous
purchasers than they had given to their old owners. And
yet, in truth, as each was knocked down and its price
entered up by the busy auctioneer's clerk, virtue was
slowly and inexombly departing from these inanimate
things. They had come together through long years, filled
their natural place in the furnishing of a noble house,
given to each of its many rooms its own character. They
had had life, made up of old memories and associations,
and that life was dissolving. However carefully and lav-
ishly the house might be filled again, it could never have
the meaning that these things had given to it.

Now, on the third day of the sale, they were coming
down to the rooms of the first floor, and here there were
things to be sold more valuable than had been sold before,

The Sale 17

and more bound up with the intimate lives of those who
had used them. A gong boomed out from the porch in
front of the house ; the figures that were spread out on
the lawn and in the garden came flowing towards it.
With well-fed alacrity they settled themselves behind the
long tables in the ball-room, while the auctioneer slipped
into his high seat under the musicians' gallery, and two
men in baize aprons brought in a large mirror which they
carried round the space left between the tables.

" Now then, gentlemen, we'll go on where we left off,
page twenty-five in the catalogue : From the Blue Boudoir,
Lot 494, Fine Gilt Chippendale Mirror. What offers ?
Oh, come now, I hope the good lunch you've enjoyed hasn't
blinded your eyes. This is a collector's piece, gentlemen.
Famous waterfall design, Chippendale's best period, and
not a scratch or a mark on it. Probably bought from the
maker himself, and been hanging here ever since. That's
better ; but let's take the business seriously, gentlemen.
We've got a lot to get through."

At this time a carnage was driving up the long road
through the woods that led from the east gates. The tall
bay horses trotted up the gentle slope that rose all the
way to the house as if it were level ground. The coach-
man and footman wore liveries of black cloth with dark
green facings. The whole equipage was well turned out,
in a sober but highly polished sort of way, as if in the
particular establishment to which it belonged fine horses
and easy carriages were the chosen means of conveyance,
and not an old-fashioned survival destined to give way
to motor-cars when they should be worn out. It belonged
to Edward Clinton, Squire of Kencote, ten miles away,
who had driven fine horses all his life, and up to his
present age of seventy-one had never ridden in a motor-
car, nor intended to.

He and Mrs. Clinton were in the carriage, and with
them was Lady Grace Ettien, the Squire's kinswoman,
who had been born in the house to which they were driving,
thirty years before, and lived in it the greater part of
her life. It was not a pleasant drive for any of the three
of them, in spite of the glory of the autumn woods and
the softness of the sun-soaked air.

Grace Ettien was a sw T eet-faced woman, tall and slender,
with features rather too much of the aquiline type for
beauty, but pleasant to look on for all that. She sat on

is Rank and Riches

the back seat of the carriage. The Squire was recovering
from a sharp attack of rheumatism, or he would have
been driving his phaeton, as he still preferred to do when
he went abroad. He sat in his corner, his white beard
spreading over his buttoned-up shooting-cape, the skin
under his eyes a little loose, but his cheeks firm and fresh-
coloured still — a big, handsome old man, only a trifle out
of repair for the moment, and by no means yet to be
considered in his fit place leaning back against the cushions
of a carriage driven by a servant. Mrs. Clinton, although
her hair was as white as her husband's, looked a good deal
younger than he. Her face was fresh-coloured too, as
became a woman who had lived all her life in the country.
The Squire had been a stay-at-home since his youth, and
she had stayed at home with him, although at times she
would have preferred not always to stay at home. She
was rather short, and might have been considered dumpy,
but that she held herseif.erect, even sitting in her carriage,
and had a look of energy, both mental and physical. Her
face was round, and very kind. Just now, like that of
her husband, it showed deep concern.

They had been discussing the sale to which they were
driving, and certain of the circumstances that had led up
to it ; but the Squire, who did not consider that when a
thing had been said once it need not be said several times
more, now broke out again.

" Ton my word, Kemsale ought to be ashamed of him-
self. It makes my blood boil to come here and think of
what has happened and what is happening now. I shan't
come into the house, Grace. I don't think I could. To
think of what it used to be in your grandfather's time,
and now that going on in it ! There's only one word for
it : it's criminal. Criminal."

Kemsale was the title by which Lord Meadshire had
been known until he had succeeded his grandfather, ten
years or so before. He was known to his friends and
relations as " Kern," but the Squire was much too angry
with him to use any such abbreviation at present.

Grace Ettien leaned forward. " Poor Kem ! " she said.
" I know he feels it, Cousin Edward. If he is here, and
you see him, don't make it too hard for him."

" Feels it ! " snorted the Squire. " I should think he
did feel it. No man in his position has a right to behave
as he has done. When your grandfather was alive he was

The Sale 19

the chief man in the county ; and his father and grand-
father before him. Actually — ten years ago — the owner
of Kemsale was Lord Lieutenant of Meadshire. And now 1
Kemsale sold up ! Sold up ! And the Marquis of Mead-
shire no better than a beggar. Pshaw ! It doesn't bear
thinking about."

He threw himself back in his corner of the carriage.
He had been talking like this during the best part of the
long drive, and as the horses were trotting up the last
rise that led to the house the two ladies may have hoped
that he had exhausted the subject, painful enough to
them, for the time being. But he still had something to
say, something that he had been searching for during
all his long repetitive tirades, that would sum up what
he felt about this startling disintegration, that would bring
it into the sphere of morals, and justify the deep-seated
dismay with which he regarded it.

" Kemsale has been using what doesn't belong to him,"
he said, and his hearers knew that his words had a mean-
ing deeper than the literal. " Property in his position is
a trust, and he has broken it."

The carriage drew up before the porch, as it had drawn
up many times before, bringing its occupants to pleasant
private or semi-public gatherings very different from this
one. The two ladies alighted from it. The Squire
looked with pained disgust upon the litter in front of
the house, the vans and carts that were already beginning
to take things away, and the men who went to and fro,
with no respect for the sanctities attaching to such a place
as this, laughing and talking and smoking, as if the
downfall of a noble family were a mere incident in their
customary activities. The Squire had an impulse almost
of rage towards them ; these things were so very real and
so very important to him. He got out of the carriage,
assisted by the footman. " I can't sit still here," he said
angrily. " I shall walk about outside. If you want me,
I shan't be far off."

He went off, leaning on his stick, without further words,
and the two women, looking after him for a moment, turned
and went into the house.

With a frown at the marquee, in which eating and drinking
were still going on, the Squire made his way across the
lawn towards the carpet garden. He had no desire to
review that conventional hideosity, but below it there

20 Rank and Riches

were 'other beautiful gardens, the privacy of which might
remind him of all that was passing away, and solace the
actual pain that he was feeling. But when he came to the
balustrade the steps and slopes that he would have to
negotiate deterred him from going farther in this direction,
and he made his way slowly round to the stables which
flanked the house to the west.

As he went under the archway that led to the great stable-
yard he felt an additional pang. He had loved horses all
his life, and as a boy and a young man he had so often
trodden these stones with light step, eager for the busy life
that had its centre here. The stables of Kemsale had
been kept up on a scale greater even than those at Ken-
cote, important as those had been. There had always been
something interesting and exciting to see there, and in his
youth he had never visited the house without visiting the
stables. It was the old associations that had brought him
to them now, rather than any desire to see what might be
going on ; for the Kemsale horses had already been sold,
and he anticipated no pleasure from visiting the place where
they had been.

The pang he felt was not wholly, nor perhaps in the
main, on his own account. He had been too fortunate in
life to dwell on past happiness with the half-sweet, half-
painful longing which visits those whose days have declined
to dullness. His own satisfactions would hardly be touched
by the withdrawal of Kemsale from his orbit. Nor did
he wince in sympathy with the man who had had all this
and had thrown it away. As far as that went the punish-
ment was just and fitting. It was the break-up of an
institution that he felt so deeply, and above all the sur-
prising suddenness with which it had come about. Ten
years of folly and lavish spending, and all this state and
circumstance, so admirably indicative of honourable condi-
tion, had come tumbling down like a house of cards, when
it had seemed to have been founded on an impregnable
rock. If that could happen where the place had been so
high and so apparently well-guarded, was there real safety
anywhere ? He did not tell himself that his own old line
was in danger. There was none visible there, either in his
own time or in that of his immediate heirs. But full con-
fidence had been sapped. He felt the same sort of dis-
comfort that many people must have felt after the Titanic
disaster, when they stepped on board a great ocean liner,

The Sale 21

no longer with a sense of safety so assured that it need
not even be dwelt upon. Kemsale, with all that it had
meant in this little corner of the world and in the country
at large, had come to an end. The Marquis of Meadshire
had his title left to him, and very little else in the world
besides ; and what was his title worth, unsupported by the
land that had given it virtue ? Not so much as his own
ancient Squiredom. He found it impossible to grasp the
magnitude of the catastrophe. It was like a nightmare, so
monstrous as to bring a sense of its own impossibility even
before the waking. Surely such things as this could
not be ! If they were allowed, then nothing could be ex-
pected to stand firm. He saw rocks all around him,
although for him and his there were no rocks anywhere
within sight, and his course was over clear and smooth
waters. His perplexity increased ; he was very deeply

" Hullo, Edward ! Glad to see you about again. Pretty
dismal sort of place this to come to nowadays, though."

He looked up to see the man who was at the root of
his perplexity standing before him, with a friendly smile
on his face, and he grew so red with shame and anger
that the smile faded away, and Lord Meadshire looked
down on the ground in confusion.

But only for a moment. He looked up again and
laughed. " Why, any one would think that it was you
who was being sold up, to look at you," he said. " Surety,
my dear Edward, if I can put up with it, you can."

He stood before him in a long frieze motoring coat, his
goggles pushed up on to his forehead underneath his
dusty cap. The long grey raking machine that had brought
him many miles in an incredibly short space of time was
still throbbing behind him with its bonnet open, and his
chauffeur was doing something to the engine. It added
enormously to the Squire's furious disgust with him that
he should stand there looking like a chauffeur himself, or
at least obviously in accord with the oily stinking machinery
that was taking all the dignity out of progression in these
modem days. But something in his look as he had turned
down his glance for that brief moment prevented his
breaking out against him, as otherwise he would have done.
He turned his back instead, and limped out of the yard,
his stick striking the cobbles sharply.

Lord Meadshire threw a glance at him, and then, with

22 Rank and Riches

the smile that was seldom absent from his face, took off
his coat and threw it into the car, and followed him, un-
hooking his goggles as he did so.

He was a man of rather more than forty, and looked
his full age. He was tail and heavily built, with rounded
shoulders and long thin legs. His face was amiable and
had once been handsome, but it was blotched now, and
stamped with the marks of intemperance. His voice, as
he called after his cousin, was husky.

" Wait a minute, Edward. Are you going in to the
sale ? "

The Squire turned round sharply. " No, I'm not," he
said, and was about to add more, but Meadshire broke
in on him : " Well, I don't know that I want to either.
I suppose you brought Grace over. How i's the dear girl ?
It's a jar for her, this sort of thing, isn't it ? Still, we
shall both be much better off in the Heron's Nest than
ever we were here. Have you been over there lately,
Edward ? It's all finished now, and ready to put the things
into. It will be as pretty a little place as 'ever you saw,
when we've finished with it."

He spoke without a trace of awkwardness, and as if he
were quite unaware of the antagonism that was seeking an

Online LibraryArchibald MarshallRank and riches → online text (page 1 of 33)