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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 45

Sir Abe Illingworth's funeral is one of the biggest events in Keighworth history.

John Waddingtton-Feather continues his utterly absorbing story concerning the tangled lives of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Abe Illingworth's funeral was held the following week and the town wallowed in it. Keighworth enjoyed its funerals, having its final fling at death before it caught up with them. Folk came from far and near, most of them strangers to Ann and John. Before he'd become too frail to attend Lodge nights, Sir Abe had been a loyal freemason like his father and grandfather before him. Worshipful brothers of all degrees and from all parts of the county turned up. So did the mayor, the bench and the rest of Keighworth's upper-crustians. Ann and John struggled to arrange his funeral, but it developed a momentum of its own. Keighworth hadn't seen a funeral like it for years - nor did it ever after. It was the end of an era for the town.

Rodney Clemence showed up, but not his father. He was persona non grata in Keighworth. Rodney didn't appear until the day of the funeral, blossoming forth in full uniform and hanging onto the coat tails of officers from Abe Illingworth's old regiment and the Grand Masters of various lodges. There were many old friends present: old men like Sir Abe, the last survivors of other mill dynasties. There was a passing at that funeral more universal than his own, an entire age.

Grimstone suddenly appeared (no one knew from where) to work out his last bit of spite in the town. He'd gone abroad when the Keighworth Insurance bubble burst and sold his flat. A younger partner ran his practice, which he sold later when he moved permanently abroad. He kept clear of Rosemary till he had to read the will and no one saw him at the service. At the committal he hugged the back of the mausoleum where Sir Abe was interred, so white and cadaverous he might have come up from the black hole waiting for the coffin.

The cortege drove from the church to an exclusive part of Keighworth Cemetery, where stood the Illingworth mausoleum lording it over the workers' graves surrounding it, as its occupants had lorded it over their workers in life. Sir Abe was the last to be interred there and as if acknowledging the fact, the heavens began spitting sleet.

Rosemary was well enough to attend and insisted on going to the mausoleum leaning heavily on John's arm. Rodney her son kept out of her way. As they drove to the mausoleum they had to pass John's mother's grave. He pointed it out and Rosemary stared at it, never taking her eyes from it till they'd passed.

By the time they left the car, it was blowing hard and the funeral party was almost hurled through the doors by the gale. They huddled round the black hole yawning at their feet. It focussed their minds more wonderfully on death than the sermon they'd heard in church. For some it was just too much and they let their eyes drift round the walls, where hung memorials going back a century and more, heavy slabs of marble carved with hollow panegyrics.

The place was large enough to take them all, including distant relatives who peered into crypt with morbid curiosity, as if expecting a glimpse of the coffins below. As they approached the black pit, two gravediggers hung back in the shadows discreetly waiting to carry the coffin to its final resting place.

The minister said the committal, then retired as the coffin was lowered. The Union Flag was taken away and folded by two corporals and a bugler played the Last Post. The military came to attention and saluted. The others shuffled and looked blank. Then the coffin disappeared from sight and they went back to Illingworth House for the funeral tea.

It was a cliquish affair. Mourners gathered in tight factions which never broke ranks; so tight, the waiters had to force their way through with their trays of food and drink. The Masonic brethren stood shoulder to shoulder in one group, the distant relatives in another, business associates in yet another and the military in a stiff circle. Rodney Clemence spent his time flitting between the military and the freemasons.

Ann, John and her mother sat apart near the conservatory looked after by Henry Johnson, but otherwise ignored. They were treated like pariahs by the rest as if they'd no business to be there. If the mourners paid their respects to anybody it was Rodney Clemence. In the meanwhile, Grimstone remained alone in the study. He'd written earlier saying
he'd see Rosemary and Ann after the funeral tea, but was returning abroad straight after.

He pretended to be fiddling with some papers on the desk as they entered and he looked up with a faint smile, till he saw John arming in Rosemary. The smile disappeared at once and he said, "I don't think it's necessary for Mr Greenwood to be here. He isn't mentioned in the will, Rosemary."

She cut him short with a curt, "Address me as 'Mrs Clemence' if you will, Grimstone. And the quicker we get through, the better." Then she added angrily. "What do you mean John isn't in the will? I know damn well he is. Uncle Abe told me."

The lawyer was put out by her attitude and looked across at the mirror to adjust his tie and sleek back his thin grey hair. He glared at her briefly then put on a pair of half-rimmed glasses and peered over them with his icy blue eyes. He cleared his throat then passed Rosemary and Ann copies of the will.

"Please to look at the date, " he began, raising his smile again.

Ann showed John her copy. The will was dated twenty years earlier in 1936. Grimstone read it out and let it sink it. Then he began reading the will slowly, line by line and finished with, "You see. It's as I said. There's no mention of him and as he's not a beneficiary, he shouldn't be here..."
This time Ann interrupted him. "There's something very wrong!" she blurted out. "Uncle Abe told both mummy and myself John was in his will! There must be another will."

"If there is another will I haven't seen it," Grimstone replied. "Perhaps you can tell me where to find it," he added sarcastically. "I can only go by what I've got."

The will left nearly every thing to John Illingworth. There was to be an annuity for Johnson if he was still in Sir Abe's service at the time of his
death, and one or two personal effect to go to friends. A codicil had been made in 1941 when his son was flying in the Battle of Britain. He must have feared anything could have happened then for the will read," In the event of my dear son, John Amos Luke Illingworth, pre-deceasing me, I bequeath all my estate to my niece Rosemary Clemence..." followed by a list of items and his signature, witnessed like the original one by Grimstone and his clerk.

Watching their faces, Grimstone smoothed his smile away with his long bony fingers, holding back his yellow grin. He was lying, of course. Sir Abe had let it be known he was leaving the bulk of his estate to John long before he died. There must be another will and Ann said so.

"What people say and what they do are very different things. As I've just said, I know nothing of another will but this." He let his words sink in, and then continued, "It's all quite straight forward. I'll try and speed things up, so that Sir Abe's properties and investments can be transferred to you...Mrs Clemence." He grinned impudently at Rosemary. "Sir Abe had most of his money invested in the Keighworth Insurance Company." He enjoyed telling her that. "There won't be much left..." he began but go no further.

"You've been abroad too long, Grimstone," Rosemary said. "He sold his shares last year. He smelled a rat he should have smelled long ago. It stank enough! You've been in bad odour all your life!"

"I'd advise you to watch what you say," he replied icily, buttoning up his overcoat. There was an awkward silence. "Well, if there's nothing further, I'll be off. The weather looks as if it's turning nasty again," he said, peering through the window, which the sleet was hammering. The lawn outside was already white and the hills beyond. He gave a curt nod at Rosemary and was about to leave, when she halted him with, "Wait! I haven't done yet."

Her affliction made her speak slowly and her words sounded chilling. He stopped at the door, holding the handle. "Yes?" he asked.

"I don't expect we shall meet again, Grimstone, thank God," she said. "But you'll hear me out this once before you go. You're nothing but a dirty little cheat and always were. You cheated my uncle all his life, his son and grandson, and now me. But you'll cheat us no longer. I shall instruct another lawyer to deal with Uncle Abe's estate as of now."

He shrugged his shoulders, but her words struck home and he could only sneer, "As you wish." He was livid and his pale face was flushed but he could do nothing but slide round the door and out of their lives.

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