John MacKintosh Chapter XVII - The Family at 'Greystones'
A biography, like a well-furnished and well- regulated house, should
have its window blinds and curtains, although there is nothing to conceal.
But, notwithstanding this, a friendly public may be permitted to visit the
family at 'Grey- stones,' without infringing their privacy. Mr. Mackintosh
had a genius for family life as well as for business, and no account of
him would be complete without a sketch of him in his home surroundings.
He lived on Savile Moor, in the beautiful but unpretentious residence of '
Greystones.' A long garden with green terraces on either side of the
centre walk, leads down to the entrance gates. Roses, the 'Hiawatha' and
'Dorothy Perkins' climb about the pillars of the portico. Mr. Mackintosh
knew every flower in the garden, and when winter approached, he would
write to his friends and describe the struggles of the last rose of
summer, or the first promise of spring, doing its best to bloom in the icy
blast that blew from the Yorkshire hills. In the last letter he ever wrote
he told of a red rose-bud in his garden, struggling to flower, which was
spared by him, 'though it was faded because it did its best to open.' He
loved the view of the wide- spreading moor and the hills beyond, visible
from the front windows of 'Greystones,' and he watched for the first snow
which whitened and clothed the heights weeks before snow fell in the
streets of Halifax.
His kindly influence in the home circle of the 'Clan Mackintosh' bound
the members together in the closest and most tender ties of family
affection. When he was asked if there was any Scotch blood in his veins he
would: answer with a laugh, "I expect my forefathers came down with
'Bonnie Prince Charlie' in his raid on England, and getting as far as
Preston, were lost and settled in these parts."
remembered brawny kilted relatives, who, when she was a child, came on
visits to her home, and all the songs she was taught to sing, were old
Scotch folk-lore songs.
Successful men are not always agreeable men in
such cases their household suffers much from their eccentricities. Mr.
Mackintosh was best beloved, and his genius was most admired, by the
members of his own family.
The clannishness of the Mackintosh's was
never exclusive, and visitors to 'Greystones' found themselves admitted at
once into the family circle. Some families make the visitor painfully
conscious that he is a stranger on a visit, and that there will be mutual
relief when it is over. But here was a different atmosphere; a cheerful
welcome awaited the guest and he was made to feel at home as soon as he
had crossed the threshold. Mrs. Mackintosh's gracious spirit makes her
most thoughtful for the comfort of her guests. There is no fuss, but every
want is quietly supplied. Nothing is a trouble to her that can give a
moment's pleasure to those whom she honours with her friendship. Her
refining influence is everywhere felt in the home, and Mr. Mackintosh owed
to her much of the brightness and charm of his surroundings. She who
helped him to rise to his high position, helped him to enjoy it when it
Time has dealt kindly with Mrs. Mackintosh. Quietly observing
her, one is astonished to think that, with her husband, she passed through
all the strain of those early business years. She seems to fit so
naturally into her surroundings that it is difficult to imagine her in any
other more strenuous life.
There was no display of any kind either in
the house or by the host and hostess. All the appointments of the home
suggested elegance and taste, but more than all else, homely comfort.
There was the absence of all constraint, and the guest was led insensibly
to act as though the entire establishment were his own. Looking back and
reflecting on the pleasant hours we have spent there, it appears to us
that this was precisely the object aimed at by both host and hostess. 'Greystones'
was 'Liberty Hall.'
When Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh happened to be out, and
the visitor was shown into the 'Morning Room,' there was much to interest
him, if he chose to wait. The room might easily be mistaken for the
Library, so many choice books and beautiful editions of standard works
abound. Here are also 'articles of virtu' rare and beautiful, gathered by
Mr. Mackintosh from many Lands. A few fine pictures adorn the Walls. Amid
such surroundings the time slips away imperceptibly, until the door
suddenly opens and the host walks in. As he enters the room he expresses
his regret that he was not at home when his visitor arrived, and offers
such a hearty welcome that his guest is glad to have stayed.
The personal appearance and the personality of Mr. Mackintosh were alike
pleasing. There was no 'hustle' about him, nor did he affect a curt and
peremptory manner like some successful men. Gentleness is a family
characteristic of the Mackintoshes, and Mr. Mackintosh was literally a
gentle-man, as Mrs. Mackintosh is a gentle-woman. He was clean shaven
except for a closely cropped moustache, his hair was tinged with grey, and
was growing thin on the upper portions of the head. His eyes were very
expressive, ready to light up with a smile that illumined his whole face
at the slightest provocation. He was alert in his movements, unless his
old enemy the gout was troubling him; .and one noticed this at once, for
he was built on generous lines. He was a big man, and he lived in a big
•county, and was the head of a big business, so nature gave him a big
body, a big brain and i big heart. But there was nothing gross about his
physical development; he was one of those comfortable looking men, good to
see and good to know; as a working man phrased it, "Worth a pound a week
to look at!" He carried a bit of sunshine about with him wherever he went,
and he speedily became the centre of interest, and the life of any small
party, whether young or old, that might gather around him.
The guest soon finds that it is pleasant to have a chat
with a man so widely travelled, for he had been everywhere, and had
gathered the 'harvest of a quiet eye,' and he told what he had seen in
clear, nervous English. He had also a fund of good stories, mostly of his
own experiences in various parts of the world. When current topics were
introduced he expressed his opinions without heat and with a glint of
humour that made them both interesting and amusing.
Though he was himself a non-smoker, his guest found
that he had provided a good. brand of cigars for those who could
appreciate them. They were offered with perfect friendliness, and when
accepted, the smoker was not regarded with veiled pity, nor did his host
assume superior airs and pass caustic comments on human frailties. He was
happy if he made his friend happy, and as he used to say, he 'enjoyed his
cigars most when other men smoked them.'
adjourning to the drawing-room we soon have the whole family present. The
eldest son and his wife, together with Mr. Mackintosh's two sisters, and
his brother-in-law will be there. Douglas has returned and we try to get
some, news out of him about the war, but it comes only in driblets. At
length a novel suggestion is made by one of his aunts;-" Let us all sit
round and cross-examine him in turn, and make him tell us!" Douglas
smilingly agrees, and he answers every question with the brevity of a
telegram. If all had been put into a letter the ' Censor' could have
passed it without one qualm of conscience! The youngest son has books and
ingenious toys which he is anxious to show the company.
The American Mail has brought some interesting
pictorial magazines and they are distributed amongst the guests and
members of the family. Presently Mr. Mackintosh enquires whether the
company would like to hear him read a selection from some humourous
author. He has previously marked the passages that have appealed to
himself. He was a good reader, who not only himself saw the humour of what
he read, but managed to convey it undiluted to his hearers.
When the reading is over the conversation bursts out
a-fresh, like a stream that has been temporarily obstructed and now is
again free to resume its course. There was not a dull moment nor a dull
face during the entire evening. Comic incidents and funny experiences
related by the host, and supplemented by the eldest son and the
brother-in-law, keep up the interest, and the guests find the stream of
talk flowing along so pleasantly and easily that they are tempted to
contribute their quota. All formality and constraint are banished; there
is good will and plenty of hearty merriment, in which everyone freely
Time slips away unconsciously; we are
surprised to discover that the hour is so late and we intimate that we
must be going as we have to cross the moor. But we find that this also has
been thought of, and the host informs us that he has 'ordered the car to
be round at 12 o'clock, so we must sit down and finish the programme.'
Many such evenings we recall with unfeigned pleasure
and of them we retain only happy memories. While there was many a good
Jest and not a little good humoured nonsense, there was never a hurtful
nor an unkind word spoken. We cannot wish for more pleasant and profitable
hours, than many we have spent at 'Greystones' with 'The Clan Mackintosh.'
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