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Illingworth House: 50 - Popular And Hated

...Grimnstone's life revolved round sucking up to those above him and putting down those below, and when he couldn't rise, he made sure those below him didn't either...

Continuing his story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning family John Waddington-Feather tells of a monumentally nasty character.

Grimstone never set his cap at any woman. He was as solitary as an oyster and never married, but he sowed bushels of wild oats. He was utterly self-centred and worked life clinically to his own advantage all the time. Life for him was first making wealth, then enjoying it at others' expense, one long rat race he'd entered as a boy under his father's tutelage.

Like Harry Clemence, his life revolved round sucking up to those above him and putting down those below, and when he couldn't rise, he made sure those below him didn't either. He certainly kept the clerks and secretaries in their place at his office. The chief clerk feared him and the rest jumped to whenever he appeared.

But the wives of Keighworth's business fraternity adored him and through them he played their husbands like fish. They were delighted when he pushed business their way - having made sure they'd pushed more his way first.

But he wasn't universally liked. Major Kingham-Jones, for example, hated his guts and there were others. The major knew that Victoria was going regularly to him for advice, advice on how to handle her rapidly dwindling assets. And as Rosemary blossomed into full womanhood, he began lusting after her till she fled for help to Grimstone, too.

Like Grimstone, Percy Kingham-Jones was a member of the exclusive Keighworth Club, which he joined soon after he arrived in town. Grimstone always went there on the evenings he stayed late at the office, to have his supper and play cards till bedtime; and it was at the club he first crossed swords with the major.

Kingham-Jones was a compulsive gambler and shortly after he arrived found himself one evening at the same table as Grimstone, who, as the evening wore on, wasn't at all happy with the way the games were going. Years of practice had made the major a skilled dealer. He could deal a hand of cards lightning quick, too quick for Grimstone, who challenged him.

"Would you mind if this hand were dealt again - by me?" he asked pointedly after one tricksy deal.

Surprised and angry, the major asked if Grimstone were questioning his fairness.

"I'm questioning nothing, Major," he replied coolly. "Only I like to see my cards dealt more slowly. My eyesight isn't as good as it was," he added drily.

The major exploded. "What damned impertinence!" he yelled. "Anyone else here not satisfied with my dealing?" He glared around challenging the rest to gainsay him, but once Grimstone had thrown down the glove, they followed suit. They wanted the hand dealt again.

The major's reputation was never the same. Whenever Grimstone was in the club, he left and from then on they were sworn enemies.

His wife Victoria had bought a coffee shop in town on her return north, and she ran it very successfully. It was filled each day with Keighworth's upper-crustians. The wives of businessmen: accountants, bankers, stockbrokers, millmasters, all gathered there, and so did Grimstone for his morning coffee break. He had his own table reserved for him near the window looking out onto the main street below, where he could observe Keighworth's comings and goings. Sufficiently removed behind net curtains for his own privacy or if any of the coffee set wanted to speak to him in private.

In time he became at once the most popular yet the most hated man in town. But Grimstone never minded being unpopular. The son of a pawnbroker, he'd was entirely insensitive to other people's feelings. Indeed, he relished tormenting most those who disliked him most. Major Kingham-Jones suffered from his forked tongue, right up to the time Grimstone levered him out of town.

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