Blanche and Helen - 4 after the Party
My Mum came into the kitchen as they were getting ready to leave, and offered to help me clean up. The others had all gone off somewhere so we were quite on our own.
“Well, what did you think of that?” I asked.
“I must admit that I find it all rather confusing. The whole purpose of the party was to tell us that people should think about buying their own houses - but I can’t, for some reason, think that Mr. Warrington was saying that for our benefit only. I think he must stand to benefit in some way.”
"Will you consider buying?"
“There is no way William and I could get enough money together to buy our house. And then all the extra expenses on top - fixing the leaking roof, paying the rates, where would the money come for those? No, I can tell you we won’t be doing what he wants.”
“And what about the idea of people scratching around in their gardens looking for Roman coins?”
“Well, I expect the local children will be only too pleased to have a go at that, for an hour or two, and when they find nought, that will be the end of it. But again, I wonder what he is going to get out of it? Much more than he was letting on, I’d reckon.”
“Had you met Mrs. Warrington before?”
“Toffy nosed cow. She could hardly keep her distaste of us using her precious cups to herself. I nearly broke one on purpose, just to see how she would react. He was so determined and so full of himself that it makes me nervous. When somebody gets like that, it seems that they might stop at nothing to get what they want. He can’t pressure anyone to do things they don’t want to, can he?”
“No, but what had occurred to me, is that if you refuse to try to buy your house, he might try to it. Then he would be your landlord rather than Lord Howard. And how would you like that?”
“Do you really think he has got money for buying up lots of property? This house isn’t all that grand. Mind you it is bigger than what most of us have - but it is a terraced house all the same.”
“But you can see from the furniture and antiques in the house that they have money. I rather expect that Mrs. Warrington’s family is rich - and her father who died might well have left her quite a lot of money of her own. And she is caring for her mother now. Maybe that means that they have control of the mother’s money too.”
“She didn’t seem to be in evidence, did she?”
“She wasn’t feeling well so decided to stay in her room. Probably just an excuse so she didn’t have to pretend to be friendly. If you think Mrs. Warrington is snooty - her mother is ten times worse. It is a wonder that she has agreed to live in this back neck of the woods at all. She is used to cavorting in foreign places like Paris.”
“And I was hoping to set eyes on that French maid she has. But she was no doubt entertaining her mistress, and thought herself too good to be waiting on us. I noticed that your Fred looked a bit keenly on Mrs. Morrison ,” said Mum.
“Ah but he is an eligible bachelor, and there aren’t a lot of those around here. And I got the impression when I was talking to her that she might want to marry again.”
The dishes being finished, Mum said goodbye until later.
From conversations between the Warringtons, I couldn’t help but get the impression that Mr. Warrington was very impatient and frustrated by the lack of response from his neighbours about his scheme.
I knew there had been a few angry refusals - the most vitriolic one from John Donaldson, who accused him of skull-duggery and of being an upstart incomer - trying to take over their part of the world. He suggested in very clear terms how he wished he and his la-de-da family would go back wherever they came from. He said he already owns his house, which has been in the family for over fifty years. And he had no desire to invest by buying anyone else's house.
Another rather negative response came from Mr. James Sayer, the publican at Travellers' Call. He wasn’t at the meeting, of course, but he said he had heard about it and felt there was much more to the suggestion than was implied at the meeting, and he hoped that Mr. Warrington knew what he was doing. He certainly was not interested in being a party to the plan.
Almost the full month had gone by when two letters came through our door. The first, and in very plain writing and using few words was from Squire Higgenbottom who is a local farmer. He implied that he might be interested and that he would like to know more about it.
The next, I was surprised to see was from Helen and she also suggested that she might be interested, and wished to meet again to find out more. Mr. Warrington was very pleased about that.
He decided to call a meeting of all the interested parties again at his house on Friday evening in a week’s time which would make it July 10th. He also invited the various business partners that he think might be willing to put up capital for his lending association. He said, “We need to have legal representation too, and those with financial understanding,” so he invited Robert Taylor, who has already indicated that he is willing to be part of the scheme, and his son Robert, who is his clerk. Then there is Herbert Hoole, a banker’s clerk, whom he has a drink with some evenings. I was pleased to hear he also invited Joel Wainwright, somewhat of a local hero with the success of his published book about Marple, who is a chartered accountant, but I hope he will say things about the area, and his bird watching interests.
He also said he would invite the Calico Print Manager, John Edward Cochrane, and James Arden, as the manager of the Co-operative Society in Marple Bridge. He thought they would give a reassurance to the others, who know them as honest men. And he included various friends of his from his Manchester clubs, Henry Almond, and James Massey, who works as an engineer in Romiley. John Froggart who has his own business, might come, and his wife Sarah, so that Helen won’t be the only woman present. He also mentioned Arthur Pass, a friend whose head is full of ideas, as he put it - as he is an inventor - but also likes a firm business proposition. He wrote the invitations and had me take them to the post straight away. I know he also hopes the local people will realise that he is serious in his purpose, and some of the more timid neighbours might consider the scheme again.
As far as the other part of his project went, I heard Mr. Warrington say he wished he had never bothered mentioning it. There was a constant stream of grubby children coming to ther door the first week after the meeting with bits of bent metal, nails and broken pots. Nothing of any interest or any value and they acted surprised and not at all pleased when he turned them away without a penny.
I heard him say that he sent out a letter of introduction to Lord Howard of Glossop, asking if he was correct in assuming that the property would be available for purchase. He had a reply very quickly from his business man, Mr. Charles Arthur Abraham, agreeing that the land is for sale, and that specific details would be forthcoming. He confirmed that the reason for the selling of the land was partly because Lord Howard is involved in building the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich, a project he started twenty years ago, which has run into difficulties - and he needs extra funds to continue it.
Mrs. Warrington informed me today that she and her mother and Alice, the French maid, will all be going back to Prestwich for the month of August. I will still be coming here regularly to tidy the house and make Mr. Warrington’s meals, and I must admit, the idea of being alone with him makes me very nervous.
On my Sunday afternoon off, I went up to Ivy Cottage to see Fred, and after lunch, we went off for a long walk in the hills. I decided to pump him for information about how the neighbours were dealing with by employer’s new meeting plan.
“What is your landlady, Margaret Hammersley’s opinion on the house buying situation?” I asked him
I should explain the rather complicated situation. Margaret is actually Helen’s older sister although Helen says they are not close. She acts as housekeeper for their great uncle John Donaldson, well past 85, and has done since she was a teenager. She never married, and John has officially adopted her and made her his only heir. Helen of course inherited money from her late husband, Benjamin, so she didn’t need to feel jealous of Margaret’s expectations. But because of the family connection, there was a lot of bad feeling. Their grandfather, David, was John’s brother, and he left all his earthly goods to Helen’s mother, his only child. She in turn felt bad that her uncle had missed out, so she left the house to John, with instructions that when he died, it should pass to Margaret, as the rest of the children were well provided for – Helen by Benjamin and the other brother, Samuel, has a large farm in Chrlesworth.
Helen also told me that when she got engaged to Benjamen ten years ago, Margaret would hardly speak to her. The whole family had known Benjamin, as he farmed just down at Ernocroft - not much over a mile away, but Margaret was much more Benjamin’s age than Helen was, yet it was Helen he picked.
“I hear Squire Higgenbottom is planning on getting involved. But I myself am going too, not because of buying the houses, but because Helen asked me to accompany her, so she wouldn’t have to go there on her own.”
“I know you fancy her, Fred. I've seen the way you look at her.”
“She has no interest in me at all, but what worries me is that I get the impression that she quite fancies your employer, even though he is well and truly married.”
“What reason did she give for asking you to go along?”
“She said she was hoping I’d accompany her there, and help her with the more complex financial issues that no doubt they will be discussing. Several of her friends suggested that she would be better with a man to help advise her about the technical aspects.”
“You don’t know about things like that. Did you tell her that?
“I said I don’t know much about mortgages and solicitors and things like that. I’ve never owned a property, nor do I intend to get involved in this scheme. She said she realised that but thought I would be useful as her adviser so they would be less likely to try to take advantage of her as a woman on her own. Some men are like that you know and I think I would include your employer in that lot.”
“Did you give her any advice straight off – like to keep well out of it?”
“I said she should have in her mind the sort of amount of money that she could spend before the meeting, and then not let them talk her into going above it. I know that much about business. You should have your arguments planned ahead of time.”
“Yes, that’s a good point.
“She said she would visit Mr. Frank Taylor, the Bank Agent in Marple Bridge, on Friday morning, and discuss it with him too.”
“By the way, have you found any treasure in your garden yet?”
“Not me, for sure. I asked Helen and Rosie about it. Rosie said, “We dug and dug that first day, and didn’t find a thing, so we haven’t tried again.”
“ Anyway, I’d best be off. Bye for now Fred.”