The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 6

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Emma came home Saturday afternoon. Paul Conley met her at the Oyster Bay railroad station. She could not wait to get home and see her brother, whom she had not seen for three years. The moment Paul parked the motor car in front of the house, she did not even wait for Paul to open the car. She came bouncing out to get in the house.

“Where is he? Where is Mr. Spencer?” she asked Mr. Yates excitedly as he opened the front door. Mr. Yates did not even have to tell her. They heard him running down the stairs, and as soon as he got down the hallway, the two siblings hugged each other.

“Let me look at you. You have grown up to be a beautiful lady,” Spencer said. Emma blushed. She was tall, slim, and fashionable. Her blond hair was cut short, and she was wearing an ankle-length peach dress that seemed to swing with her as she moved. She had matching shoes to go with her outfit.

“What about you? You don’t look so bad. You look dashing,” Emma said. “How was Europe? I bet you had a marvelous time.”

“Yes, I did, but I missed you and your antics.”

“Well, I missed you too.”

They saw the footman with her suitcases. Emma said, “John, you can take them to my room.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

Spencer went toward the drawing room, and Emma followed him. “Where is everyone?” Emma asked Spencer.

“Mother went out to play bridge, and Father went to see Alistair Prescott,” Spencer said.

“Talking of Alistair Prescott, did you find out why they want you home,” Emma asked.

“Sure I did. You will not believe when I tell you what happened.”

“What was it?” Emma was curious.

“Let me get us a drink first, then I’ll tell you.” Spencer went to the sideboard and poured himself a Scotch. He turned to Emma.

“I’ll have one too,” Emma said. Spencer poured one for her. They brought their drinks towards the settee by the fireplace.

“Cheers,” Spencer said and raised his glass.

“Welcome home,” Emma raised her glass. “So what happened? I’m listening.”

They sat opposite each other, and Spencer narrated everything that happened the night after he got home. When he was finished, Emma looked pensive. She thought of how Spencer must have felt with that enormous wealth and the burden attached to it. She loved her brother very much. They were always close since they were little. Finally, she said, “So you really have to learn the business? What a challenge that must be since you don’t have a clue what you are going to do.”

“Exactly. I have to learn everything about the business. It’s the reason why I want to start at the bottom. Maybe I am wrong, but that is how I feel. I don’t want to go to the bank and take over when I have no clue what is going on. It’s not fair to everyone and not fair to me. How can I talk intelligently if I don’t know what I’m talking about? It is not right. It will not make any sense, and the employees will know it, and they will talk behind my back. No, it is not going to happen. I want to know everything about banking.”

“That was smart of you. What did Father think of the idea?”

“He and Alistair were flabbergasted, but I insisted, so I start Monday from the bottom. I’ll join the rank and file.”

“Good for you. I wish I could work, but I have to finish college first. I have another year, and then I will join the work force,” Emma said.

Before the Nineteenth Amendment took effect, women were still considered second-class citizens, denied the right to vote, and confined mainly to careers as wives and mothers. After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, they not only joined men in the voting booth but with their emancipation, women would overnight set startling new standards in fashion and behavior. Their styles changed from clothes that went down to their ankles and long hair all pinned up to short skirts and short “bobbed” haircuts.

“You do not have to work. You’ll have plenty of money,” Spencer said.

“That is not the point. I want to work. Women have to be independent.”

Spencer whistled. “You’ll be independently wealthy after the probate. Since when did this transformation come about?” he asked.

“The whole world is changing. Women are making contributions, and I want to be a part of it. I don’t intend to be a trophy lady sitting at home waiting for my man to give me everything I need. That is not for me.”

Spencer looked at his sister with admiration. “Wow! You’re someone to reckon with. I do admire your courage.”

“Thank you.”

Spencer finished his drink and got up from the settee.

“Anyway, I’m going riding. Would you care to join me, or are you too tired from your trip?”

“Oh no. Give me half an hour to change, and I’ll go with you. We can race to the playhouse.”

“You’re incorrigible.” Spencer laughed. His sister had not changed one bit, always challenging him. “OK, half an hour. I’ll change too. See you at the stable.

Emma ran upstairs, and Spencer rang the house bell. Mr. Yates appeared.

“Yates, I’m going riding with Miss Emma. Can you tell the groom to get our horses ready in half an hour?”

“Yes, Mr. Spencer. Right away.”

“Thank you, Yates.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” Mr. Yates went towards the servant’s quarter in the back, and Spencer went upstairs to change.

The following day, Mr. Yates packed some clothes for Spencer to go to the city and stay at their Fifth Avenue place since he would now be working at Wentworth Bank. He could always go back to Long Island on weekends if he wanted to. His parents would be staying at Wentworth Hall until the end of September as usual unless they were traveling. They would move back to the city from October 1 to the end of March.

His work week would be a long day since he intended to learn everything he could as he plunged ahead and so staying in the city made more sense. It would be a totally different lifestyle for him from now on, a sudden change from the carefree life he was engaged in while abroad. Now he had the enormous responsibility. For a young man who was not even thirty, he was faced with the big realization that he had to work harder than most men his age. Not that he needed to, but he had to even with his vast wealth. More so now because of his legacy. He could certainly leave everything to his father’s employees and let them run the whole thing, but he believed that was not what his grandfather desired. He wanted a young heir to perpetuate his legacy, and if his grandfather believed in his ability, he had every intention to prove that his grandfather was right.

He had to honor and protect the legacy that his grandfather handed to him. He had a duty to work diligently and protect his wealth. It came with a big responsibility that would weigh on his shoulder all his life. Since the night he was told he inherited the vast fortune from his grandfather, it had been on his mind. It kept him awake all night, thinking what he wanted to do and how to tackle this responsibility head-on. Nothing prepared him for this unexpected turn of events. His carefree life abroad certainly did not. He had a lot of learning to do. Can he do it? He would try his best to prove to himself that he could. Not just to his parents, but more importantly, to himself.

Smartly clad in his Savile Row suit that he bought in and brought from England, a starched white shirt, and regimental tie, Spencer went to see George at the executive office of Wentworth Bank on Monday morning his first day at work. His Savile Row suit was stylishly cut and handmade with perfect tailoring. They betrayed who he was, a wealthy young man. He was the quintessence of sartorial elegance. He disliked anything shoddy, and his weakness for fine clothes was one of his few indulgences that he cultivated while abroad. That he could not change nor wanted to change. It defined who he was. He always believed that a good impression made a vast difference in how his future employees would perceive him. Clothes always make a man and one can always tell who you are by your clothes.

They rode down the elevator to see Tom Cartwright, the branch manager of the Fifth Avenue branch. Tom Cartwright saw them as they entered the bank. Tom was not expecting them, and he was wondering why a sudden visit from George Wentworth, the bank president, and who was this tall, young, good-looking fellow with him? Tom ushered them into his office. It was a small office with just the essential furniture, two chairs for clients, a desk and a chair for Tom, a bookcase, and a console table.

As soon as they entered the office, Tom closed the door. “What can I do for both of you?” Tom said and looked at Spencer. George read his mind and introduced Spencer.

“Tom, meet my son. His name is Spencer,” George said. Tom was taken aback and didn’t know what to say. George turned to Spencer. “Spencer, I want you to meet Tom Cartwright, our branch manager.”

Spencer smiled and extended his hand. “Hello, Mr. Cartwright. Glad to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too, Spencer.” Tom noticed the firm handshake, a good sign. This kid was brought up properly, he thought. He didn’t know George had a son, but he was pretty new to the bank and had only been there for two years. He had never seen him before, nor could he remember an instance when George ever mentioned a son.

“I didn’t know you had a son. Where was he hiding all this time?” Tom jokingly said to George.

“He was abroad.”

“I see.”

Tom motioned to the chairs. “Have a seat.” George and Spencer both sat in the leather armchair in front of Tom’s desk. Tom waited. He still was not sure what this was all about. The kid probably wanted his job. However, he was too young to take his place. He hoped not, but you would never know. He began to wonder. After all, he was the son and heir to the boss.

“You are probably wondering why we are here,” George interrupted Tom’s trend of thoughts. “Spencer just came back from Europe a week ago, and I have decided to put him to work. I thought I could find a place for him in the bank.” He paused and waited for Tom’s reaction.

“Welcome aboard,” Tom said. He presumed Spencer would be working at the corporate office, and he probably had to report to Spencer.

George glanced at Spencer, who smiled. Spencer did not say a word. George continued, “He does not want to work at the corporate office.”

Tom was suddenly curious. “No? Why not? Where does he want to work?”

“Here,” George said and turned to Spencer. “You tell him.”

Spencer nodded. “Mr. Cartwright, I want to start at the bottom. I have no experience in banking or anywhere else, for that matter. I need some kind of experience. I want to understand how the bank works thoroughly. I want to be a teller.”

Tom’s jaw dropped. He could not help staring at Spencer. “Holy smoke! Why? Why would you want to do that? Most young men wanted to start at the top. You want to start at the bottom?”

“You might think I’m crazy. But I need to start somewhere. As I said, I don’t have any experience. None whatsoever. I’m not afraid nor ashamed to start at the bottom. It’s just temporary until I learn the basics,” Spencer said matter-of-factly.

“I’m sure you have a college degree from one of the top colleges.” Tom didn’t know which Ivy League school Spencer went to.

“I have. I went to Harvard.” Spencer looked at his father, but George let him do the talking.

“So there you are,” Tom said.

“It’s not that simple.”

“What do they teach at Harvard?”

“They teach a lot of business theories, but I still need actual business experience. I want to learn the whole banking system. There is something to be said about hands-on experience. No books can duplicate that. I have to start somewhere, and the most practical thing is to start from scratch. Like a kid learning to read, you learn your ABCs first, and that’s what I want to do.”

Tom scratched his head. He did not know what to make of this young man. From how he looks, he could be the president of this company right now or sit on the board, and no one would question it. After all, he was the grandson of the bank’s founder and the heir to the president. But here he was in front of him, applying for a teller’s job. He was totally dumbfounded. This was unheard of.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Tom asked Spencer, then looked at George.

“I said the same thing. Our attorney said the same thing. He was adamant,” George said.

“Really, sir, I want to do this. It’s rather unorthodox, but here’s what I propose. I’ll work as a teller for a month. Maybe a month and a half. Then I can move to the next step, which I told my father. I can go to the loan department next and be a loan officer. That way, I can learn all the rules and workings of giving out a loan. Once I figure everything, I can move to the accounting department and see how that department works. This way, I can see the whole process, and then I can figure out what works and what does not work. I can observe and make the necessary recommendations.”

“I see your point. I understand what you want to accomplish. If you feel comfortable doing the work of a teller, more power to you. I’m more than happy to put you on the floor. I give you a lot of credit.” Tom turned to George and said, “You have raised a fine young man.”

“Thank you. I’m sure the set-up will work fine for him and us,” George said. He stood, shook hands with Tom, and left to go to the executive office upstairs and let Tom handle Spencer.

And so it began. Tom took Spencer to the floor. All eyes were on Spencer, and he felt a bit uncomfortable. He did not know what to expect. Tom introduced him to the head teller, David Brennan. David, a red-haired son of an Irish immigrant, was a year younger than Spencer and had been with the bank for a couple of years. Tom hired David after he started as a branch manager.

“David, I want you to meet Spencer Wentworth,” Tom said.

David knotted his brow. “Wentworth? Any relation to the bank?” David asked.

“Yes, he is the son of George Wentworth, our president,” Tom said.

“Oh my! Glad to meet you,” David said and offered his hand.

“Nice meeting you too,” Spencer said and shook hands.

“What can I do for you, Spencer?” David asked.

Spencer looked at Tom, who said, “He will start working with us starting today.”

David’s jaw dropped. “You mean here, not upstairs.”

Spencer nodded. Tom said, “He wants to be a teller.”

“A teller?” David gave Spencer a questioning look. “I’ll be darned.”

“Never mind that. Just show him how things work here and see that he learns everything,” Tom said.

“OK, boss. No problem.”

Tom left them and went back to his office.

“Follow me,” David said, and they went to the back office where there was a working table. David picked up a deposit ticket and showed Spencer how to handle the deposit. Then he showed his new student how to count money, reconcile the daily receipt, and talk to customers. Spencer took few notes, listened carefully, and paid close attention while David Brennan explained everything on what had to be done from the time you start the day until you close at night.

“Any questions,” David asked after the lecture.

“I’m sure I can handle it. Easy enough. I have to practice counting the bill faster. Is there a trick to that?” Spencer asked.

“Yes, make sure everything is in the same direction. It’s easier that way.”

“Good to know. Thank you very much,” Spencer said.

“You’re welcome. By the way, can I ask you a stupid question if you don’t mind?” David said.

“Shoot.”

“Why are you doing this? Your father is the president of the bank. You can just work with him, not here,” David said.

“I have my reason, and people will never understand it. I have no business experience whatsoever, and I want to learn everything there is to learn about the banking industry. From soup to nuts. Does that make sense?” Spencer said.

David thought about it for a moment and nodded his head. “I guess so.”

“I want a feel of the place so I can make recommendations to my father,” Spencer said.

“Well, if you need anything, just let me know. Welcome aboard. I’m happy to have you around.”

“Thanks. I do appreciate it,” Spencer said. He likes David.

“Shall we go on the floor? I want you to watch me all morning, and then you can officially be on the window this afternoon. How’s that?”

“Good idea.”

They went to the floor, and Spencer stationed himself behind David while David was taking the customer’s deposit, and in the afternoon, Spencer began his job as a teller. The day went by quickly, and by the end of the day, he was confident enough to process the day’s transactions. By Friday, he knew what was going on the floor and took notes mentally to report to his father by the weekend.

Spencer took to the job like fish to water. He got along very well with everyone on the floor with his easy-going ways, but he did not want to be too familiar with everyone. Spencer, who learned fast, was a great role model for his co-employees. He worked hard and wanted to know everything. He was pleasant and polite and greeted the customers with that winning smile that won the hearts of their customers. He was very friendly with everyone, but there was a social divide between him and most employees. His co-employees knew who he was, and they respected him. They treated him the same way as everyone, yet they knew he was different from everyone else on the floor. The ways and habits of the people below his social strata were so different than the way he was brought up, but he tried to take it in stride. He realized that someday he would take the helm of the company, and so he had to keep his distance but still remained friendly to gain their respect.

Having a Wentworth on the tellers’ floor was unheard of, and the employees loved it. The customers loved it. Spencer was a sensation. With his good looks and easy smile, he gained the customers’ confidence, and female customers flocked to the bank when they heard about the new teller. Wives of owners of small businesses urged their husbands to transfer their accounts to Wentworth Bank. George was very pleased, and so was Tom Cartwright.

Spencer did not just learn the job. He observed and made notes on where they could improve. He saw there were only two tellers at one time, and the line was getting longer.

“We have to install more tellers to service the customers,” he told his father one day.

“But that would cost the bank more money to hire more employees,” George said.

“But look at what it would create—better service for the customer and less wait on line. When people spread the excellent service we provide, they will tell their friends. Word will spread out, and we will gain more business. We shall also have someone greet our customers when they enter the bank and answer questions.”

“Let me bring this up with Tom. I see the merit of your suggestions. I’m sure he’ll agree with me.”

By the time he left the floor and moved to the loan department, Tom had hired two more tellers and a receptionist to sit near the front door to greet customers. Tom was very pleased with the improvement because, as Spencer predicted, the business improved significantly with word of mouth, spreading the excellent service Wentworth Bank provided their customers. When it was time for him to leave the branch, his co-workers on the floor were sad to see him go when he transferred to the loan department.

Spencer worked as a teller for just over a month. Then he transferred to the Loan Department under Albert Johnson, the Loan Department head. He was given a desk, not a private office. It was a little disturbing for some loan processors to have the son of the bank’s president working with them. But Spencer proved to be an excellent addition to the department.

“I advise you to come to training with us,” Albert Johnson told Spencer the following day after starting at the Loan Department.

“Absolutely. I’d love to go.”

“We’ll have it at the conference room every morning the next three days. We’ll go over the various forms and different guidelines.”

“That would be wonderful. I’ll be there. Will they teach us how to fill up the various forms?”

“Yes.”

“That’s great.”

So he went to training with the other loan officers the following day. He asked questions when he thought he did not understand something. He practiced filling up forms following all the guidelines. He learned about all kinds of fees and loan to assets ratios and interest rates and different types of loans. It was like going to class in Finance 101, but this was hands-on. He found every aspect of loan processing very interesting, from the time they received the application form to the final approval by the loan officer. He also found out that it took a couple of weeks to get a loan approved. That should not be the case. He observed why it was taking so long to process a loan. It should be done in a week. He made notes and submitted them to his father.

“There should be a checklist of what the bank needs when someone applies for a loan. This way, when we get the paperwork, it was just a matter of checking them and running the numbers. The process should move from the application to the underwriting and final approval in a week,” Spencer told his father.

“So why do you think it took so long?” George asked.

“There was so much time wasted between each process. All applications received in the morning should be processed by the end of the day and go to the next process the next day. I saw some applications sitting on the loan processor’s desk for several days. It should not be that way.”

“There must be a reason why it was sitting there for so long,” George said.

“I don’t see any except employees spending too much time socializing. I’ve been observing everyone each day.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? You, watching every move they make.”

“If we have to make money, we have to be efficient.”

“Maybe the volume of loan applications has increased.” George tried to reason out. He was uncomfortable making drastic changes in the department.

“If that’s the case, we have to hire more people to handle the increase in the volume of loan applications or let the loan department personnel stay late.”

Spencer wondered why it took so long for the underwriters to process the loan. So while he was there, he timed himself and knew it could be done. He then reported his findings to his father at their next meeting.

A month later, he started calling some new businesses and asked them if he could help them with their new endeavors. He would explain the advantage of having enough capital to get their business going. Then he started taking in large commercial accounts. He spent three months in the loan department. As he grew accustomed to his work, he gave reports to his father once a week. George was very pleased with his progress. The bank was doing a brisk business since he came on board.

By late August, Spencer decided he would take a break and go to Long Island at the end of the month and enjoy the end of the summer. He had been with the loan department for three months and working very hard. He needed a break. He called his mother and told her he would be home at the end of the month. He was looking forward to being in the country after the oppressive summer heat in the city and go riding. Within minutes after he hung up the phone, he got a call from his father.

“Can you come to my office during your lunch break?” George said.

“Sure. I’ll be over.” He hung up the phone and wondered what his father wanted to talk about.

At about noon, he took the elevator to the executive office. As soon as he approached the desk of Mrs. Perkins, George’s secretary, she said, “Mr. Wentworth is expecting you. You may just knock and go in.”

He knocked softly at the door and walked in. George motioned him to sit down.

“Thanks. What’s up?” Spencer asked.

“Your mother just called and said you are going to Wentworth Hall at the end of the month. I’m glad to hear that you are taking a break,” George said.

“I want to take advantage of what little is left of the summer. I miss riding, and it will do me some good to get some exercise.”

“Of course. You’ve been working hard. Do you think you are ready for the next move?” George asked.

Spencer looked at his father, knowing his father could not wait to get him to the executive office, and said, “I believe I am. I enjoyed working for the loan department, and I believe I have absorbed a lot of knowledge there. Yes, I’m now ready to go to the Finance Department.”

“Excellent. I’ll take you to see William Storms, our Controller, next week, and you can work in the Accounting Department in September.”

“I would like to start at the Account Payable section if you don’t mind and see how all the expenses are treated. I think it is vital to know how we spent the company’s money.”

“That’s excellent. We are always interested in our income, but we also should manage our expenses prudently,” George said.

“I had that in mind.”

“Perfect,” George said.

Spencer was about to get up when George asked, “What are you doing for lunch?”

“As usual. I’ll eat at the cafeteria.”

“How about going out with me to lunch for a change?” George asked.

“That would be great. Let me tell Albert I’ll be a little late coming back,” Spencer said.

“No need to. I’ll let Mrs. Perkins do that for you,” George said and picked up the phone.

“Mrs. Perkins, can you call Albert Johnson and tell him I’m having a lunch meeting with Spencer and he will be gone for a couple of hours?”

“Sure. Anything else, sir?”

“That’s it. Thank you, Mrs. Perkins.”

“You’re welcome.”

“We’re going to the Knickerbocker, by the way,” George said and hung up.

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 5

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Lilly Prescott, dressed in a pale green evening dress, and Alistair Prescott, dressed in white tie and tails, arrived at Wentworth Hall at around 7 PM. Mr. Yates welcomed them. Alistair Prescott handed Mr. Yates his briefcase, who gave it to Frank, the footman, and told him to take it to the library. Mr. Yates then ushered them to the drawing room, where Margaret Wentworth, dressed in a light yellow evening dress, and George Wentworth and Spencer Wentworth, both in white tie and tails, were already having their cocktails.

Mr. Yates tapped the door lightly, opened it, and announced their guests. Margaret and George put their drinks down and stood up to greet them. Spencer did the same thing. Mr. Yates stood in the background, waiting.

“Hello, Spencer. How are you? Sorry to make you come home so soon,” Alistair said as he shook hands with Spencer.

“No problem. I was thinking of coming back anyway. I’m happy to be home,” Spencer said.

“You look great,” Alistair said.

“Thank you.”

“How about a drink?” George asked.

“I’ll have vodka martini with a twist,” Alistair said.

“Gin and tonic for me,” Lilly said.

George looked in the direction of Mr. Yates, who nodded and went to the console, took a couple of glasses, and made the drinks.

Alistair and Lilly sat on the sofa across from George and Margaret.

Mr. Yates came back with their drinks on a silver tray and handed them to Alistair and Lilly.

“Thank you, Yates,” Alistair said.

“You’re welcome, sir,” Mr. Yates said. He turned to George and said, “Anything else, sir?”

“No, Yates. That’s fine. Thank you,” George said.

Mr. Yates retreated to the door and quietly left the room.

They clinked glasses, and Alistair asked Spencer about his sojourn abroad. Spencer gladly told them about his adventures, all the countries he visited, and all the people he met. They found his stories fascinating. The conversation continued at dinner, which was served at 7:30 PM. Alistair did not want to bring up the reason for the telegram, which Spencer was dying to hear. Spencer knew it was reserved for later.

After dinner, George Wentworth led Alistair Prescott and Spencer into the library while Margaret Wentworth and Lilly Prescott stayed behind.

The library was a great room but rather stark compared to the other rooms in the house. Spencer looked around the library, seeing it for the first time after his long absence. It looked the same as he remembered it. This was still an impressive room, baronial in stature with its immense high-flung coffered ceiling and grand proportions, its paneled walls of deep mahogany, and its collection of leather-bound editions of literary masterpieces. Books were of the greatest importance to his grandfather, and he collected the best of them. To his grandfather, the best room in the house was the library, where he spent most of his days while at Wentworth Hall. The floor was made of polished oak. Hand-knotted fine Sarouk Persian rugs of vibrant red and ochre on tan background were spread across the polished wood floor. A pair of comfortable Chesterfield sofas, upholstered in leather of ruby-wine color, was positioned next to the enormous marble fireplace with a Carrara marble mantelpiece imported from Italy. Above the mantelpiece was the only picture in the room, a formal oil portrait of Spencer’s grandfather, the senior George Wentworth, done by one of the best portrait artists of the era. Flanking the fireplace were built-in bookshelves from floor to ceiling containing scholarly tomes. The wall on the west side opened up to the enclosed terrace with a hydraulic wall that opened up on three sides. One opened to the south-facing veranda, with a panoramic view of Long Island South Shore, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Another wall led to steps going down to the Italian garden, and the other wall led to the front courtyard. On the far end of the opposite wall, flanking the French door to the terrace, were more built-in bookshelves with more leather-bound editions. On the corner was a big globe about 36 inches high, along with a pair of deep Queen Anne wing chairs of dark wine leather matching the upholstery of the Chesterfield sofas across the room. Facing the Queen Anne wing chairs were the mahogany desk and chair that belonged to George Wentworth Sr. A Palladian window behind his grandfather’s desk shed some light in an otherwise dark room. On the right of his grandfather’s enormous desk stood a refectory table overflowing with newspapers, journals, and magazines. Opposite on the other side was a French marble-topped chest serving as a bar, which held a silver ice bucket and crystal decanters filled with port and brandy, as well as leaded Waterford crystal glasses on a huge silver tray.

Spencer studied his grandfather’s portrait above the finest marble fireplace. The picture was staring at him and seemed to be speaking to him. Spencer could not help thinking about what his grandfather wanted from him. His grandfather, who he always adored, had something in store for him, and he could not wait to hear it from his attorney. His eyes moved around the room and thought the room had a certain degree of masculine dignity compared to the drawing room, where the decoration evoked more feminine graciousness. Like his bedroom, the library reflected man’s tastes. His grandfather could have spent most of his time here in the library when he was home in the summer unless they were entertaining guests. In the wintertime, the family settled in the city at their Fifth Avenue house and enjoyed the social scene in New York.

Alistair Prescott was watching Spencer intently. He just thought what a big responsibility he would be handed tonight. Spencer had no idea what the attorney had to say. His father was vague about it when he arrived this morning, and the attorney did not say much on the telegram either except it was urgent that he comes home.

Spencer joined his father at the bar and took his drink from George. Alistair joined them. George handed Alistair his drink. Then George motioned them towards his desk. Alistair took one of the leather Queen Anne wing chairs, and Spencer took the other one while his father sat on the opposite side of his grandfather’s desk.

“Cheers.” Spencer took the lead and took a sip of his drink. The two older men raised their glasses.

Without preamble, Alistair brought up the subject of the will of George Wentworth Sr. He opened his briefcase and pulled out some papers from it. He cleared his throat, took a glance at George, who nodded and started reading it. Spencer gave him his full attention.

Alistair began.

“I, George Wentworth, of Wentworth Hall, Meadow Brook, in Nassau County and State of New York, being of sound mind and body do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all wills and codicils at any time heretofore made by me.

FIRST: A. I give and bequeath to my son . . .

Alistair paused, and both George and Spencer waited. Alistair looked at the paper, then looked at both George and Spencer. “This is such a long document full of legal terminology, and it will take me all night to read the more than one hundred pages, word for word. It is easier to tell you in simple language what your father,” he looked at George, “and your grandfather,” he turned his gaze to Spencer, “wanted to do with his tremendous business holdings, a large number of properties, and immeasurable wealth.” George and Spencer looked at each other without saying a word and nodded their heads. Alistair turned to Spencer.

“As you know, your grandfather was the chairman of the board of Wentworth Bank, which his father founded in 1875. In addition to that, he invested heavily in public utilities. By the time he died, he had accumulated a fortune estimated at almost $500 million in public utilities, making him one of the wealthiest men in the country.”

“I did not know that,” Spencer said in awe of his grandfather. He looked at his father, who nodded. It never occurred to him that his grandfather was that wealthy. He knew his grandfather was rich but not this rich. He was not really paying much attention to what his grandfather did for a living. All he knew was money was not a problem when he was growing up, and he went to the best private school and then to Harvard. When he went abroad, his stipend was always in the bank, and he spent it the way he wanted to, knowing full well that money would always be there. Now he was stunned at the revelation, the enormous figure of his grandfather’s wealth.

“Let me explain to Spencer how his grandfather got his money.” Alistair looked at George, who nodded. “He knew plenty of rich people, and George invested in their businesses, and some of them became big depositors in his bank,” Alistair Prescott said as if giving a lecture on Business 101. Spencer listened intently. “Your grandfather was a friend to big names in business, like J.P. Morgan, who lives not far from here.”

“That I know,” Spencer said. “He built that large mansion in Glen Cove designed by Christopher Grant LaFarge just before I left for Europe.”

“That’s correct. J.P. Morgan owned J.P. Morgan and Co. and chairman of the board of U. S. Steel Corporation. Your grandfather invested a chunk of money in U.S. Steel, and the company did very well, and your grandfather made a lot of money.”

Spencer smiled and nodded. He picked up his glass and took a swig of his drink.

Alistair continued, “Your father had been appointed the executor of the estate and I as the co-executor. The whole estate was in trust to you except the Fifth Avenue house, which goes to your father, and five million dollars which goes to your sister.”

Spencer opened his mouth but could not speak. He closed it abruptly and stared at Alistair, who continued, “The income from the trust will go to your father during his lifetime, which could amount to about five million dollars a year. Your grandfather gives you an outright ten million dollars in cash, and the rest goes to the trust. All your grandfather’s shares of several utility companies, railroad companies, and U. S. Steel Corp. were transferred into the trust in your name.”

Spencer rolled his eyes, looked up at the ceiling, and could not believe what he was hearing. He kept on shaking his head. The number was staggering, and he could not comprehend it thoroughly.

Alistair continued, “He bequeathed the Meadow Brook house, this house, Wentworth Hall, and its contents together with its 500 surrounding acres to you with the proviso that your parents can have a lifetime privilege to live in the house. Your father will remain President and Chairman of the board of the Wentworth Bank until such time as your father thinks you are ready to take the helm. You have to learn the banking business from the ground up.”

Spencer’s head was spinning. He was not expecting this sudden responsibility entrusted to him. He had lived a carefree existence for the last three years, and suddenly he was thrust into an enormous task. He was speechless after hearing the news. It did not occur to him that he would get the bulk of his grandfather’s estate. He was so sure it would go to his father. Not that his father would go to the poor house, they still could live in both places at Fifth Avenue and Meadow Brook, and five million dollars income a year was not something to sneeze about.

Spencer picked up his drink and emptied his glass. He stood up and paced the floor. George and Alistair watched Spencer in silence. They knew how he must have felt. Spencer went to the bar and poured himself another drink. Then he finally sat back down. He looked solemn.

“I could not believe Grandfather gave me the whole thing. What was he thinking?” He ran his hand through his hair and shook his head.

“Your parents are well provided for. Eventually, you’ll get it anyway, so he decided to do it right now. That way, he knew you would get it.” Alistair looked at George, who nodded in agreement.

“But Father should have them, first,” Spencer argued.

“He does not have to. Your grandfather had a reason,” Alistair blurted out.

“And what was that?” Spencer could not help getting agitated.

“Your father is the president of Wentworth bank, and if something happened to the bank, say it goes bankrupt, he would be liable to the creditors. They can go after his money. This way, they can’t because the bulk of the estate is in trust in your name. It’s solid tight. No creditors can touch it.”

Spencer pondered on the idea. He had to agree with that reasoning. Still, it shocked him to know that he would be so wealthy so soon. It was a little bit scary. His life changed abruptly. He thought he could continue his frolicking life, but now, felt he suddenly should grow up with this wealth and the responsibility attached to it. He quieted down.

When Alistair finished, Spencer emptied his glass, stood up and went to the fireplace, and looked up at his grandfather’s portrait as if asking him, “Why? Why are you doing this to me?” Alistair and George waited patiently. They knew it must have been a complete shock for Spencer to hear all this. Obviously, he was not expecting this at all.

Spencer put his head on the mantelpiece. He was thinking hard and fast. Silence prevailed in the room. After a few minutes, he walked back to his chair. He decided to do something. Something unheard of. It was the only way he could think of. They might disagree with him, but it was the only way he knew how to tackle his present predicament. If it was inevitable, he had to act quickly and now.

“All right. When do I start working at the bank? I want to learn everything I can about the banking industry, which I know nothing about,” he said with conviction, looking at his father.

“Next week is soon enough. I’ll have your office ready,” George said.

Spencer knitted his eyebrows and shook his head. It was not what he wanted to do. He had other ideas which his father might disagree with, but he had to do it his way. Spencer said, “No, I don’t want an office.”

“You don’t? Why? I don’t understand,” George said and looked at Alistair, who was also puzzled.

Alistair said, “I don’t get it. Don’t you want an office? What do you exactly mean by that? Where will you be working?”

“I want to start as a teller.” Both George and Alistair’s jaws dropped. They stared at him. Now it was them who were in shock. They were in total disbelief.

Finally, George said, “Are you kidding?”

“No, I’m serious.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” George wanted to make certain that was what Spencer really wanted to do. He could not believe what he was hearing.

“Grandfather was right. I have to learn from the bottom up. That is the only way I will know how the bank works. Then I can move to be a loan officer in a couple of months. Eventually, I want to work at the finance department and learn how things work in that end,” Spencer said with conviction.

George looked at Alistair, “What do you think of Spencer’s idea?”

Alistair shook his head. He took a drink from his glass. After a brief moment, he said, “If he is comfortable with that, let it be. We’ll give it a try.”

“I meant what I said. I’ll start as a teller,” Spencer insisted. It was the only way he knew to learn the banking industry since he had no clue about what banking was all about. All he knew was money went into his bank account, and he spent it like water.

George thought about it and finally considered it a brilliant idea worth trying. What could possibly go wrong? If it does not work and he does not want it, he can always go to the executive office.

George agreed and said, “OK. It’s settled then. You’ll start Monday, and I will take you to meet Tom Cartwright, the manager at the Fifth Avenue branch.”

Alistair said, “Great. One more thing. Your grandfather did something, which was smart. He liquidated half of his holdings at some companies, and the cash is now sitting at your bank. He thought it better to diversify and have some cash.”

“How much cash are we talking about?” Spencer asked.

“Ask your father. Several million dollars, I believe.” Alistair glanced at George.

‘Whew! Why would he do that?” Spencer was curious to know.

“He thought cash was better than a piece of a stock certificate. He was probably right with the way the stock market is acting now.”

“Hope he was right.” Spencer was beginning to wonder about the logic of this move.

“With your grandfather, I would not doubt it,” Alistair said.

Alistair looked at his watch. “I think it’s getting late. I better take Lilly home. The ladies must have run out of things to talk about.”

“I would not worry about that. Ladies have plenty to talk about all the time,” George said.

“I guess so.” Alistair paused. “Now that we have settled everything, I’ll start working on the probate.” He gathered all his papers, and they all went to the drawing room and fetched the ladies.

Mr. Yates brought Lilly Prescott’s silk wrap, handed it to Alistair Prescott, who put it around his wife’s shoulder. Then George, Margaret, and Spencer said good night to Alistair and Lilly.

As soon as Alistair and Lilly left, Spencer excused himself. “Goodnight. I think I’m going to bed. It was a trying day.”

Margaret noticed her son’s sudden need to be alone. “Is everything all right?” She looked at her husband, whose expression did not reveal anything.

“Yes, Mother. Everything is fine. I’m just tired from my trip.”

“Goodnight, dear. See you in the morning,” she said.

“Goodnight, son,” his father said.

Spencer gave his mother a quick peck on the cheek and hurried going up the staircase.

George took Margaret’s arm and guided her to the parlor. “Poor Spencer,” he muttered softly. Margaret gave him a questioning glance.

Spencer entered his room. It was dark except for the soft glow from the full moon outside. He did not bother to turn on the light. He went straight towards the window. He opened it and let the cold air in. He breathed in the fresh air. He looked up at the sky. The moon was a bright orb in the sky, casting a dance of shadows over the surrounding landscape. Millions of stars were twinkling above. He looked at the vast landscape. He suddenly thought of the tremendous responsibility that now lies on his shoulder. This land was now his, and as a steward of this land, he had to make sure it stays within the family for future generations. It’s his legacy, and he promised to work hard to make do his promise.

He looked up at the sky and said, “Grandfather, if you are looking down on me, I want you to help me. I’ll do my best of what you expect of me. I promise you that.”

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 4

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

There was a chill in the air, although the sun was a golden orb in a clear blue sky. The early daffodils with their bright yellow petals were swaying against the clipped green lawns that rolled down to a nearby pond. Spencer drew in a breath of fresh air. He smelled the sweet fragrance of spring bulbs heralding spring after a hard winter. It rained earlier in the day, and even if it was almost noon, the dew from the shrubs gave an iridescent quality on a cool spring day. Spencer looked up at the house and could not help admiring its majestic grandeur surrounded by acres of rolling meadow, gardens, and rare specimens of trees just like Paul had told him earlier. The brick façade, flat balustraded roof, five-bay central block flanked by the extended bay on each side, with mullioned windows looking more Elizabethan than Georgian architecture made him feel like he had never left England.

As soon as Paul parked the car in front of the portico, the massive front door opened, and a few household staff members came out to welcome him. They formed a semi-circle in front of the front steps. Spencer saw his mother, Margaret Wentworth, in her morning dress with his father, George Wentworth Jr., in his morning coat came out of the house. Following them was the butler with two footmen. Paul went around the car and opened the car door, and Spencer stepped out. He smiled and nodded to the servants and walked towards his mother, standing by the front stone steps with his father by her side. She looked him up and down and saw the changes in him. He was now a full-grown man, not the young man who went abroad three years ago. Spencer saw his mother had not changed. She still had a slim figure. His father had put on a little weight.

“Welcome home. It’s good to see you back,” his mother said. Spencer kissed his mother on the cheek, and they both embraced tightly. She then took a step back to look Spencer over. His mother thought he looked more serious and cosmopolitan now than when he left.

“You look wonderful,” she said.

“Thank you, Mother,” Spencer said with a smile.

She looked at her husband, who was watching his son and appraising him too with keen interest. Spencer turned to his father and gave him a handshake,  and then hugged him.

“Welcome home, son,” his father said as he released Spencer from his embrace.

“I’m glad to be back. It has been a long time,” Spencer said.

Both his parents smiled. His mother concluded that living abroad or away from one’s parents could change any child when they left their nest. They grew up pretty fast. His father thought the same thing.

Spencer looked around and did not see his younger sister. “Where is Emma? Is she home? I was expecting to see her here today to welcome me.”

“She’s with some friends in Bar Harbor. She apologized she could not be here today, but she’ll be back this weekend,” his mother said. He was a bit disappointed, but he let it pass.

“How’s everything? The house looks magnificent.”

“Very well. Come on inside,” George said.

George led him inside as the servants went back to their posts, and the footmen gathered his trunks and suitcases to bring inside the house. He heard the butler, Mr. Yates, told the two footmen, Frank and John, to bring them upstairs to his bedroom.

They walked into the huge entrance hall, a room with black and white marble tiled floor and a majestic Waterford crystal chandelier hanging from the lofty ceiling, the light dancing on the multifaceted glass. There was a large marble-topped French commode by the front door with fresh arrangements of spring flowers and a small silver tray for calling cards. Above the table was a Neoclassical mirror flanked by two carved wooden brackets with Chinese porcelain jars on them. As they entered, Spencer stopped and looked around. He saw the beautiful curving staircase leading to the upper floors on the left side of the entrance hall. It was a relief to know that it was not altered with the latest renovation. He loved the staircase where he used to slide down on the banister when he was a youngster. George Wentworth saw the look on Spencer’s face.

“We keep it the way it was,” George said.

“I’m glad. Thank you,” Spencer said.

They then proceeded to the drawing room, a gracious room with its understated elegance and good taste. Their interior decorator did an excellent job with it. She was knowledgeable about American antiques and knew how to use them to their best advantage. The result was elegant but now overpowering. The dark polished floor gleamed against the exquisite silk Heriz carpet with muted colors in the center of the room. The drawing room with wallpaper of cabbage rose on a trellis design on the palest of yellow background gave the whole room a sunny, airy feeling of one enclosed in a garden. It was a very comfortable room for anyone to linger and relax.

Two long sofas, facing each other across a butler’s tray table in front of the fireplace, were covered in romantic chintz with beautiful roses of soft pink and butter yellow on a white background carrying the rose motif from the wallpaper. At each end of the sofa, the Pembroke tables held priceless crystal lamps with pale cream pleated shades of the finest silk and rare porcelain bowls filled with fresh spring nosegays of yellow jonquils and blue hyacinths sending their aromatic scents around the room. The Neoclassical fireplace was ornately carved with a caryatid figure on each side. On the mantel was a pair of antique silver candlesticks holding white candles, and in the center was a Cartier’s carriage clock. Above the fireplace dominating the wall was an oil landscape painting by Thomas Doughty, one of the artists of the Hudson River School, an artistic movement developed in the United States during a period of roughly fifty years (1825-1875) based on Romanticism and inspired by the wild areas in the vicinity of New York’s Hudson River.

On the other end of the room was a Chippendale cabinet of great beauty filled with fine Sevres porcelains. A pair of other landscape paintings of the Hudson River School by Thomas Cole graced the wall over a couple of Chippendale chairs upholstered in gold damask flanking the Chippendale cabinet. Whoever decorated this room had an unerring eye for color, form, and skill at placing and arranging furniture. It was evident everywhere, and yet this was not an extremely feminine room devoid of useless clutter. It was a gracious drawing room where a man could feel at ease in great comfort amidst its simple beauty.

George Wentworth walked across the room while Spencer and his mother stood by the fireplace. Spencer put his hand near the fireplace to warm them. George Wentworth went to a small console that held crystal glasses and a silver tray of drinks. He picked up three glasses.

George Wentworth turned around and asked his son, “Can I offer you a drink? It’s that time of day already. A brandy perhaps.”

“I’d love to, Father. Brandy would be great.”

He turned to his wife, “Sherry, my dear?”

“Yes, please.”

George poured sherry for his wife and brandy for himself and his son. Spencer excused himself from his mother and walked toward his father. He took his mother’s and his drink from the console and went back to where he was by the fireplace. George was behind him.

“Welcome home,” George said again and raised his glass.

Spencer did the same. “Cheers.” His mother smiled and raised her glass too. They all took a sip of their drinks.

George pointed to the sofa, and they moved and sat down on the two sofas in front of the fireplace. George sat next to his wife, and Spencer sat across the butler tray table on the other sofa. Spencer suddenly realized that Prohibition was in effect. He wondered where his parent got the liquor.

Spencer looked at his drink and asked his father, “How did you get this?”

George knew what Spencer was thinking. “We have the right connections. We know where to get them.”

“Isn’t that too dangerous?”

“Only if you get caught.”

Spencer wanted to argue but decided not to. He needed that drink anyway. He took another sip of his brandy.

“How did the Prohibition come about?” He asked his father.

“If you remember, although you may not since you were still at prep school on your last year. It was January 16, 1920, when they legally abolished every saloon in the United States. The manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes were prohibited. This was the result of a battle waged for over two centuries.”

“We were not paying attention at that time,” Spencer said.

“If I go back in history, the first laws in America against the use of intoxicating liquors was made in Massachusetts in 1639, and at about the same time in Connecticut. Governor Oglethorpe in 1733 had the importation of rum into Georgia prohibited, as well as the importation of slaves. Then in 1774, the first Continental Congress proposed to the different states the passage of laws to stop the distilling of liquors. Even the United States Army got into the act and changed the ration of “grog” to coffee in 1832,” George said and took a swig of his drink.

“Really? That’s terrible for the soldiers. I bet you they did not like that one bit,” Spencer said, smiling.

“No, they did not, but they had no choice in the matter,” George said. “At about the same time, laws were passed in some states requiring a license for the sale of liquor. There were other efforts to pass Prohibition laws over the years but were soon repealed. In recent years the liquor problem has been seriously considered in all parts of the world.” George took another sip of his brandy.

How was it in England?” Margaret asked.

“There seemed to be no problem, at least for me. Where ever I went, I could get a drink, granted it was mostly on country homes of my acquaintances,” Spencer said, looking at his mother.

“I don’t think we had a problem at private homes. The saloon is a different matter. Besides, saloons are more and more regarded as a nuisance and a danger to society and the state,” George said, then continued. “In 1908, the government enacted a law that after 1922, the Great Britain saloons could be closed without paying the owners for the loss of license and that the magistrates could close as many saloons as they saw fit.”

“That would be difficult since the British like their pubs,” Spencer said.

“Well, here in the United States, the Anti-Saloon League has taken the lead in the campaign since 1903, its platform – the suppression of the saloon. It had the support of both the total abstinence believers and the not total abstainers who were convinced of the evils and dangers of the saloon.” He paused, seemed to think harder. “Then on December 17, 1917, Congress passed what is known as the Webb resolution submitting to the states an amendment to the Federal Constitution providing for national prohibition. Mississippi was the first state to ratify, followed by other states until the required 36 states had ratified, making the law effective on January 16. 1920.”

Margaret said, “With the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, the sale of alcohol in America was made illegal. However, the Mafia in New York and Chicago became kings of crime by filling the public’s bottomless highball glasses and teacups in clandestine speakeasies with ‘hooch’”.

“That’s fascinating. Anyway, I’m glad you have some liquor in the house,” Spencer said.

“You just have to know where to get it,” his father said.

Spencer turned to his mother and said, “I can’t tell you enough how great it is to be home again.”

“We missed you very much,” his mother said.

They heard a soft knock, and Mr. Yates entered the drawing room. “What is it, Yates?” Margaret Wentworth asked the butler.

“When do you want us to serve lunch, ma’am?”

She turned to Spencer and asked, “Is 1 o’clock good for you? It will give you time to relax and change your clothes.”

“That will be fine,” Spencer said.

“Very well, ma’am,” Yates said.

“Thank you, Yates.” Yates turned around and closed the door softly. He hurried back into the kitchen and gave the order to Mrs. Conley, the cook.

After Mr. Yates left the room, George Wentworth turned to Spencer, “How was the crossing? Hope you did not encounter bad weather.”

“Yes, we did, as a matter of fact, on our second night at sea. I met some very interesting people on the ship before we hit the rough seas. It was terrifying.”

“Really?”

“When passengers started leaving the dining room, I decided to do the same and headed to my cabin.”

“That was smart,” his mother said.

“But it was no better in my cabin. The ship was rocking violently. I did not sleep well that night. All I could think of was the Titanic and hoped to make it to New York.”

“That was awful,” his father said.

His mother put her hands on her mouth.

“Do you know that your ship, the Olympic, almost rescued the Titanic?” George said.

“How?” Spencer knotted his brow in disbelief.

“When Olympic was about 100 nautical miles away from Titanic’s last known position, she received a message from Captain Rostron, the captain of Cunard Liner Carpathia, explaining that continuing on course to Titanic would gain nothing, telling the captain of the Olympic, ‘All boats were accounted for. About 675 souls saved.’ Rostron requested that the message be forwarded to White Star and Cunard. He said that he was returning to harbor in New York. When Olympic offered to take on the survivors, she was heatedly turned down by an appalled Rostron, who was concerned that it would cause panic amongst the disaster survivors to see a virtual mirror-image of the Titanic appear and ask them to board. Olympic then resumed her voyage to Southampton, with all concerts canceled as a mark of respect, arriving on April 21.”

“I did not know that. That was terrible rejecting Olympic’s offer to help since shewas close by.” Spencer was shocked to hear that.

“But something good came out of that disaster,” George said.

“I know,” Spencer said, aware of that. “Apparently, White Star withdrew Olympic from service and returned her to her builders at Belfast to be refitted to incorporate lessons learned from the Titanic’s disaster six months prior and improve safety. Besides increasing the numbers of lifeboats, they corrected a flaw in the original design in which the bulkheads only rose as far as E or D-Deck, a short distance above the waterline.”

“That flaw had been exposed during Titanic’s sinking, where water spilled over the top of the bulkheads as the ship sank and flooded subsequent compartments,” George said.

“Yes,” Spencer said. “In addition, an extra bulkhead was added to subdivide the electrical dynamo room, bringing the total number of watertight compartments to seventeen. I understand improvements were also made to the ship’s pumping apparatus. These modifications meant that Olympic could survive a collision similar to that of Titanic and the ship could remain afloat.” Spencer rubbed both his hands on the snifter. He stood up, placed his glass on the marble mantelpiece, and put his hands close to the fire to warm them up.

“You said you met some interesting people on the ship. Anyone, I know?”

“Yes, a Wall Street fellow named Bloomberg. I have to go to the city later this week and have lunch with him. I asked him to meet me at the Knickerbocker. Will there be a problem to take him there, he being Jewish? ” Spencer looked at his father and saw what he would say. He remembered when they used to go to the city. His father always went to the Knickerbocker Club. His family had been a long-time member.

“No problem if you take him. I’ll let them know to include you in my account.”

“Thank you.”

His mother looking at Spencer’s outfit, asked, “Will you change before we have lunch, my dear?” It was more a command than a question. He was in his traveling clothes, and he knew he had to change. He could not possibly sit down to lunch wearing his travel outfit. That would be deplorable. His mother would be horrified.

His father nodded his head and said, “You may go check your room now and freshen up a bit and change.”

Spencer stood up. “I think I better do that right now. I will change into something more comfortable.”

“Splendid idea. Then after lunch, we can show you the grounds,” his mother said. “We’re putting you in the last room on the east wing facing south. You’ll have a fantastic view of the grounds and might even see the Atlantic Ocean from your room on a clear day. It was built with you in mind. See if you like it.”

“Fabulous. Let me go and check it out.”

Spencer picked up his glass, took another swig of his brandy, put the glass back on the coffee table, and walked out of the drawing room. He felt the exhilarated comfort and pleasure of being back home with his family at Wentworth Hall. He walked towards the curving stairway to the second floor. On top of the stairway, he turned left, walked down the long corridor passing through rows of bedroom doors towards the end. A selection of rare hunting prints graced the hallway wall, obviously the favorite pastime of the family. He walked into his bedroom with lofty oyster white ceilings and bluish-gray paint on its wall. It felt soothing and restful to his senses. A maid must have pulled back the curtain, and the room was filled with light and airiness. A slight breeze was coming through the wide opened window facing south. He looked down and saw the Japanese garden just below his window. A parterre was laid down just beyond it with its central axis directly opposite the terrace by the drawing room. Spring flowers were abloom. Hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, and scillas were all vying for attention, and the roses and perennials were beginning to green up. He looked further and could see the whole of South Shore toward the ocean.

He noticed the trunks were already empty with his clothes hanging in the closet in the adjoining dressing room. He was astounded at the efficiency of the staff.

To keep a big house like Wentworth Hall, the owner had to hire a cadre of servants to maintain the house in tip-top condition. The butler was the head man among the staff. Then there were under butler, footmen, and the housekeeper. The housekeeper was equal to the butler and was the supervisor over all the female servants except the kitchen staff. There were upstairs maids and downstairs maids, laundry maids, and a cook and her helpers. There was a head gardener and his crew who maintained the ground and the greenhouse. The stableman and his boys took care of the stable and the horses. The chauffeur and under chauffeur drove the master and his family in ten cars, including five Rolls Royces.

His room just suited him fine. There was a large mahogany four-poster bed flanked by two mahogany night tables, one on each side. A secretary desk was on one side of the room. There was a fireplace in the Robert Adam style across from the bed where the fire would warm the room on this chilly morning. A landscape painting by Turner with its misty greens and clear blues was hanging above the fireplace. A pair of Queen Anne wing chairs in light tan leather and a small table flanked the fireplace. Above the mantelpiece was a bronze equine sculpture by Remington. The room felt comfortable and not stuffy at all.

He glanced at the bed and was tempted to lie down, but he decided otherwise. Lunch was just a few minutes away, and he better not be tardy on his first day at home. That would not go well with Mrs. Conley, the cook. Instead, he washed up a little and quickly changed his clothes. He put on a white shirt, a regimental tie, a tweed jacket and put on his riding breeches. He intended to go riding after his parents gave him a tour of the garden. He brushed his blond, straight, finely textured hair across his shapely head and went back downstairs. His parents came back to the drawing room in a short while after changing for lunch.

In no time, they heard a knock at the door, and Mr. Yates walked in. “Lunch is served, ma’am,” he said to Margaret.

“Thank you, Yates.” The butler turned around and headed toward the dining room. They all got up and walked through an adjoining door into the dining room, following Yates, who stood by holding the door open and closed it after entering the room.

The dining room was a lovely room with a chinoiserie design wallcovering. It faced the south adjoining the terrace. It was bright and airy and furnished with fine furniture from the three great furniture makers of the eighteenth century. The huge Hepplewhite table was set for three with the finest china and silverware. In the middle of the dining table was a floral arrangement of spring flowers flanked by a pair of silver candelabra with five glittering arms. A Waterford crystal chandelier hung above the dining table. On one side of the room was a mahogany Sheraton sideboard with a silver tureen in the middle and knife caddies on each side. Above the sideboard, there was a Dutch Master still life painting of flowers, including roses in a baroque style with swirling brushstrokes of the flowers in its vitality that practically jumped at you when you look at the picture. On the opposite wall, a Chippendale cabinet housed a collection of fine Rose Medallion china. A fireplace with a rich, detailed carving on its mantelpiece graced another wall. Above it was a convex mirror reflecting sparkling silver and crystal images against the mellow patinas of the handsome furniture.

As soon as they were seated, the butler and a footman came and served them their lunch of quail eggs, small potatoes, and creamed spinach. As they were eating their dessert of chocolate soufflé, Spencer brought up the subject which had been in his mind since he got the telegram in England from Alistair Prescott.

Spencer asked his father, “Do you have any idea why I was summoned to come home immediately? Prescott did not say much but sounded rather urgent. I was thinking of coming back home soon anyway, so it did not matter much to me, but I am still curious.”

“Well, when your grandfather died, there was a provision on the will for you. The estate is not settled yet and will not be until that provision is taken care of,” his father said.

Spencer looked up questioningly at his father, “What kind of provision?”

“Alistair will tell you about it. He has all the details. All I know is everything is held up until your return.”

“Then I suppose we have to deal with it as soon as possible,” Spencer said matter-of-factly.

“I told Alistair you are coming in today. I invited him to come to dinner tonight so that he can see you tonight.”

“I guess the sooner, the better. I don’t have anything planned to do today except maybe go riding around the estate sometime this afternoon. Which horse can I take?” Spencer asked his father.

“I’ll tell Yates to ask Robert, our new groom to saddle one for you. Sultan might be good for you. He is a bay stallion which we got only a year ago,” his father said.

“Is he temperamental?

“Nothing you can’t handle. Sultan is a great horse. You’ll love him.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“What time do you want to go riding?”

“Right after Mother shows me the garden. Say three o’clock.” Spencer glanced at his mother, who nodded in agreement.

“That would be fine. Consider it done.”

They finished dessert, rose from their seats, and walked toward the door to the terrace. As they walked down the stairs to the garden, the footmen busied themselves clearing up the dining table and getting the dining room ready for dinner later with the Prescotts.

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

The Wentworth Legacy – Chapter 3

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

As the RMS Olympic continued toward the New York Harbor, Spencer Wentworth crossed the huge hall with luxurious carpeting and splendidly decorated for the first-class passenger. He aimed toward the door leading to the outside deck, where he would join some first-class passengers enjoying the last few nautical miles of the voyage. As the ship entered the New York harbor, the fog was low but not as thick as the fog that enveloped London when he left his London home to come back to New York. Spencer could barely see the outline of the Statue of Liberty. He still could not hear the pulse of this great city from across the water.

Half an hour before sunrise, New York, the most garish of the Atlantic ports, was beautiful as seen in the distance from the waters of the harbor with the fine mist softening the outlines of the new modern tall buildings. No city port in the world could compare to New York Harbor against the magnificent backdrop of the new towering superstructures that dominated the landscape. It was an impressive sight to behold as you enter the harbor.

The foghorn whistled, and he knew they finally arrived. He would be in Meadow Brook soon.

Meadow Brook! Yes, Meadow Brook and Wentworth Hall, his childhood home.

Spencer sighed with relief that they made it to New York unscathed despite the one-night storm across the sea. He was glad to be returning home to Wentworth Hall, the 40-room mansion on more than 500-acre estate built by his grandfather. He could not wait to know what was so urgent that their family’s lawyer, Alistair Prescott, summoned him to come home.

Alistair Prescott, their family’s attorney, began his career at a small law firm but rose to prominence when he opened his law firm. During the Gilded Age, he became counsel to famous business magnates living on huge estates on Long Island North Shore. These businessmen owned palatial residences propelled by the tremendous fortunes earned in railroads, shipping, steel, oil, and coal. Alistair Prescott also represented some of the old money, names who occupied pages of the Social Register like the Wentworths. Alistair Prescott lived nearby in a 20-room brick house on a 100-acre spread in Cove Meadow named “The Lilac Walk,” appropriately named for all the lilacs grown along the driveway.

The New York harbor was busy more than ever with the bustling sound and activities as when Spencer left home three years ago. New York was still beastly loud and fast. New York, the least smoky of big cities, was beginning to stir up, suddenly awake. The water was opalescent under a gray sky, cool and dim, slightly ruffled by the wind that followed the ships from the sea. A few streamers of smoke flew above the city. The body of water was large, so the rising skyline did not appear to be towering above one as when they looked up close by from the street. The impression was of long buildings stretching down to the water’s edge 0n every side and countless low black wharves and piers. But as you get closer, they grew and grew until they seemed to soar up into heaven. Tugs, steamers, ferry boats, and sailing boats scattered near the harbor as the RMS Olympic entered the harbor with the brilliant maneuver of a skilled captain of an ocean liner. A New York Port Authority tugboat came out to join them and guided the RMS Olympic safely to its berth. Amidst the beauty of the majestic building and the silver expanse of the water, the city seemed like a fairyland until you looked down at the water closely, and instantly you knew that New York was real and dirty with all kinds of debris floating by.

New York was noisy and frantic like all big cities. The noise, bustle, and frantic pace of everything made Spencer realize that New York was quite different than the other cities he had visited in Europe. This frenetic activity made New York vibrant and appealing to the best and brightest of the world and contributed to it being the financial and intellectual capital of the United States. From the rich diversity of its inhabitants and the new immigrants coming from Europe contributing to its vitality, New York would set the pace for American and global change. In New York, everything seemed possible through modern thinking emancipated from Victorian restrictions by the “war to end all wars.” The population changed with new immigrants coming in, and of vast importance, the economic boom. Along with these catalysts was the arrival of modern technology that brought about the bicycle, Model T, radio, electricity, electric appliances, motion pictures, and towering skyscrapers.

Spencer took the Grand Staircase to the lower deck, where several passengers were streaming to get off the ship to be reunited with welcoming friends and relatives. He went down the gangway alongside those passengers on the first class. Once they stepped onto the dockside, they headed towards Immigration, where Spencer joined a long line of passengers. As he came out of Immigration with so many passengers milling around, he wound his way toward the crowd looking for Paul Conley, his family chauffeur. With a multitude of people around, it took him a while to find Paul, who had been waiting for him outside the custom section of the terminal.

Paul Conley was dressed in his chauffeur’s uniform of khaki with black trim and his chauffeur’s hat complete with white gloves. He had a few wrinkle lines on his forehead, but his facial expression was the same. Paul looked almost the same as Spencer remembered him. He was still the most cheerful man he knew.

“Hello, Mr. Spencer.” Paul saw him and greeted him, always with his first name. When he was a young lad, Paul used to address him Master Spencer.

Paul Conley was an older man, now in his fifties, and had been in service with the family as far as Spencer could remember. He was of Irish descent and spoke with his Irish brogue, which was endearing. He and his wife were the oldest members of his family’s downstairs staff. His wife was the cook, and they lived in the chauffeur’s cottage on the Wentworth estate in Meadow Brook.

“Hello, Paul,” Spencer greeted the chauffeur, and they shook hands. “How are you? How’s everything at home?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Spencer. How are you? Everything is fine at home. The cook can’t wait to serve you your favorite dessert.”

“The chocolate soufflé! Mrs. Conley made it so perfectly. I can almost smell and taste it now. I’m glad to be back.”

“She knows you like it so much, so she made it today for your homecoming. We missed you, Mr. Spencer. You’re away too long.”

“I know. It seems ages, and I was ready to come home anyway when I got the telegram from Mr. Prescott.”

A boat steward in his white uniform was coming in their direction with a couple of Louis Vuitton trunks with SAW initials on them. Paul saw him pushing a trolley with a couple of trunks. Pointing to the boat steward coming their way, Paul asked, “Mr. Spencer, are those your trunks?”

Spencer turned around and saw the boat steward with a couple of trunks. He looked at the trunks and saw his initials on them. SAW for Spencer Ashforth Wentworth. “A” stands for Ashforth, his mother’s maiden name, and his middle name. He wanted to make sure they were his. With so many Louis Vuitton trunks on board the ship, you never knew which one was yours.

He nodded. “Yes, they are mine,” he said to Paul.

Spencer motioned to the boat steward.

“You may leave them here,” Spencer said.

The steward was about to place the trunks next to Spencer. He looked at Paul and said, “I can take them to your car, sir, if you want. Where are you parked?”

“Over there.” Paul pointed to a parked Green Model “A” Town Car. They all walked together to the waiting car. Paul and the boat steward put the Louis Vuitton trunks on the rear of the car.

Spencer took some money from his pocket and gave the boat steward a tip.

“Thank you, sir,” the boat steward said.

“You’re welcome.”

“Good day, sir.”

“Good day, and thank you.”

Spencer hopped on the passenger seat in the back of the car, and Paul took his driver’s seat. Spencer could smell the newness of the car.

“How long have you driven this car?” he asked Paul.

“Just a month, Mr. Spencer. It just came out of the factory. Your father was one of the few lucky ones to purchase it. Ford just introduced it in February.”

“Great looking car.”

“It is, and it drives beautifully.”

They drove through New York City. They had only gone few blocks from the terminal, and already the city was teeming with activity. All around them, people moved fast and heedless of the traffic. Men darted in and out hurriedly across intersections, dodging oncoming cars and carriages. A man entered a coffee house with a newspaper tucked under his arm, and they could smell coffee roasting and biscuits baking from the street. Another man came out of the coffee house eating his sandwich as he walked briskly toward his destination. A woman wearing a fancy hat and carrying a shopping bag came out of a store and walked fast. Spencer kept reminding himself that this was New York, his hometown where everyone was in a hurry.

As they drove their way up Tenth Avenue, they saw vast freight yards and factories that lined the street and the frenzied activities around them. Teams of horses drew huge rolls of paper to printers’ shops or bales of cotton and wool to textile mills. They passed slaughterhouses with their malodorous smell as well as soap factories with their dizzying fragrance. Delivery men were loading their wagon with newly made home furnishings. They heard the men shouting orders to one another in various accents like a bubbling Babylonian in the Bible. Despite their bustling activities, New York was nothing like London. It was still young, a new city where every street and building spoke of speed and modern ways. It was the city of the future and a city of commerce. The new buildings, with their soaring architecture, bespoke of progress and ambitious goals.

Ahead of them, a wagon laden with building materials moved so slowly, heading for uptown where most construction was going on. They heard more cursing and yelling from drivers as they fought their way through Eight Avenue into midtown. Slowly, the factories had now given way to neat, well-kept shops and huge houses. New mansions were sprouting everywhere. Spencer’s family owned one of these big mansions on Fifth Avenue. The house stood back from the avenue and was approached by wide steps leading to an iron-grilled entrance. Spencer was not going to his home in the city but going straight to Meadow Brook. His family wanted him home at Wentworth Hall in Meadow Brook.

They drove to the Queensborough Bridge, which was built just over ten years ago, into Long Island under a light shower. Spencer caught a glimpse of the Steinway Piano Factory sign. They passed wagons carrying newly minted pianos from Steinway Piano Factory for delivery to Long Island customers with newfound money. Paul slowed down and then picked up speed when they reached Frederick Floyd Parkway, the road leading to Long Island.

As the green Model “A” Town Car roared up the Frederick Floyd Parkway, the rain had stopped, and the sun began to filter through the gray clouds. Paul, the Wentworth chauffeur for some twenty-plus years, knew the road like the palm of his hand, anticipating the bumps and twists, slowing when necessary and picking up speed when there was a clear stretch of road before them. Spencer gazed dully at the surrounding landscape. His mind turned to the telegram he received from his family’s attorney. Why did the attorney want him home? What was so pressing that he had to come home immediately? The answer, he would soon find out. Alistair Prescott did not explain. Spencer was intrigued, and the timing was right. He was getting tired of London and was wanting to go home anyway.

Paul drove quickly along the parkway, and after an hour, they were already well beyond Mineola and headed toward Westbury and making good time. The traffic now was relatively light. Spencer settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. In an hour, he would be home in Meadow Brook. They passed Westbury into Jericho, past the Meadow Brook Country Club, where his parents and other family members went fox hunting or enjoyed watching the polo matches.

Meadow Brook was a wealthy village in the town of Oyster Bay. It was located between Jericho to the south and Oyster Bay to the north. In the last century, Meadow Brook was a farm and woodland backwater. Still, it changed drastically as wealthy millionaires built immense estates in and around Meadow Brook with sweeping vistas and a whole cadre of servants to maintain the high standard of living. By the mid-1920s, there were so many huge estates in Meadow Brook, a part of what would become the North Shore Gold Coast. The North Shore is the area along Long Island’s northern coast, bordering Long Island Sound, where the terrain is hilly and the beaches more rocky than the flat land and sandy beaches of the South Shore. The South Shore is the area along Long Island’s Atlantic Ocean shoreline.

A couple of miles further north, they entered an imposing gate, one of the largest set of eighteenth-century iron gates in Long Island. This one-of-a-kind gate was imported from England when the senior George Wentworth, Spencer’s grandfather, built his house here surrounded by over 500 acres of a rolling landscape. Since England encountered hard times after World War I, some of these national treasures of England found their way onto American soil into the hands of wealthy Americans amidst some protests from the British. Skilled artisans superbly crafted the intricate design of the magnificent gate. There was no mistake about it. The gate had a big “W” on top, with the beginning and end of the letter turning in a curlicue like the swirling curve of an unfurling fern frond.

They entered the gatehouse, a brick building with an arch opening in the center acting as porte cochere. There were four mullioned windows on either side of the arch. The arch had a keystone at the center on top, which gave it an elegant look. On the roof in the center of the building were a cupola and a widow’s walk with a railing around it. There were two chimneypieces on both ends of the roof. A trio of dormer windows with the eaves looking like eyebrows stared at you as you arrived. A molding of egg and dart design graced the eaves. There were some plantings of shrubs and trees on both sides of the driveway leading to the gatehouse.

They continued the two-mile drive, with the road twisting and turning like an enchanted ribbon as they went along. They passed long meadows with grass swaying in the wind. Some trees, oak, maples, hemlock, elm, and pine trees, were scattered about in the distance. They passed a colonnade of trees whose branches nodded and intertwined with one another and formed a canopy and darkened the drive. Then the drive opened up to a clearing. They drove through rows of pleached hornbeam trees shorn to perfection as they neared the house leading to the cobbled courtyard of Wentworth Hall.

“Mr. Spencer?” Paul slowed the car and glanced at the mirror.

“Yes, Paul. What is it?”

“I just realized you hadn’t seen the house with the new extension. The house that you knew had tripled in size.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“You’ll love it. Your grandfather extended the house right after you left for England. He had in mind a large and impressive estate just like those you see in England. Since the house sits on the highest elevation on the estate, it looks magnificent. The architect made it look like it had been there all the time. I mean, the addition blends in beautifully with the original house. You’d think it was always there. He added indoor tennis & swimming pavilion, several holes of golf on the property, a U-shaped carriage house for his five Rolls Royces, and enlarged the gardens.”

“Really? Leave it to Grandfather.”

“He hired Delano & Aldrich, the New York architects, to do the extensive renovation and extension to the original house. They did a wonderful job.”

“What happened with Warren & Wetmore, who built the house in 1904?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Spencer. But Delano & Aldrich are designing plenty of houses around the area, and I guess your grandfather liked him. I heard Delano and Aldrich was also commissioned by Mr. Egerton Winthrop Jr. down the road to building a house modeled after Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.”

“Well, I guess that says something,” Spencer said.

“There has been so much construction lately. All the new millionaires are moving in and building huge houses. Further down the road, there is a French Normandy-style home built for Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Moore just after you left. I understand this one has a moat around the mansion.”

“A moat? What for? Did they think the Vikings will invade them?” Spencer said with a smile on his face. Paul was amused.

Spencer thought for a moment about this new information from Paul. His grandfather wanted to keep up with the Joneses, although he didn’t have to. His family had been here before all of them. After all, his grandfather was a member of the Sons of the Revolution. Not many people could say that. Maybe he liked Delano & Aldrich better than Warren & Wetmore with that grandiose design of which they were well known. That includes the chapel at Greenwood Cemetery, where most of the notables, including his deceased ancestors, were buried, which reminded them that his architectural-designed structure would be the last thing they would be in before they went to their grave. Warren & Wetmore’s designs were too ornate, and Delano & Aldrich’s designs were something new, and blending the two designs was quite refreshing.

Paul started saying, “You know, your grandfather always thought of you. He always talked about you when I drove him to the city. He thought you’d love the house since you love England very much. He even hired the best landscape architect, Umberto Innocenti, to design the ground to complement the house. Trees, hedges, and ponds were arranged to develop walking paths. Various gardens were installed and planted with blooming flowers and shrubs to provide color at all seasons. The result is fabulous. Since the house is so far from the main entrance and sits on top of a hill surrounded by a vast tract of rolling land, it looks magnificent.”

“I can’t wait to get to see it.”

“We’re just a few hundred yards away.”

Spencer looked out at the surrounding vista and felt a pang of anguish as he thought of his grandfather. He was sad that he missed his funeral. How he wished he was home during his dying days. He wondered what he thought when he added the extension. The old house was grand enough as it was. Why add more to it? Paul just mentioned his grandfather said he would like the new home. What does that mean? He didn’t see any reason why not.

There were many regions where there were a lot of great estates. Many significant cities had great estates like Philadelphia’s Main Line, Pittsburgh’s North Side, Boston’s own North Shore, New York’s Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley, Fairfield County in Connecticut, Chicago’s North Shore, and the list goes on. But Long Island was definitely where the concentration of them was, especially on the North Shore. East End resort areas and part of the South Shore in Long Island also boasted some magnificent estates. Long Island’s natural beauty, its pristine shoreline and ocean beaches, proximity and easy access to New York City, and its suitability for yachting and other recreational pursuits made it the perfect place for the leisure class. These areas were the pinnacle of grandeur in all styles of architecture and the surrounding acreage with its beautiful gardens that only money could buy.

One only had to look in the Social Register and be amazed at how many of them owned magnificent homes on Long Island and another home on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They owned large estates on Long Island, which they called places. Some had palaces in Newport called cottages, duplexes on Fifth Avenue, which they simply called houses. They also lived on the better streets of America’s larger cities and the more affluent of these cities’ suburbs. The Astors, the Hearsts, the Morgans, the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, and many others, had built palatial homes on Long Island. Though Newport was probably the most famous gathering place of the American rich, Long Island possessed the greatest and most exciting assortment of houses designed for the rich and the super-rich. Here was the playground for the very rich where they indulged in fox hunting and polo games at the Meadow Brook Country Club, yachting, fishing, aviation, golf, tennis, and duck shooting.

As they rounded the bend, Spencer saw the outline of the house perched on top of a hill. They were almost near the house. As they approached, he saw the magnificent brick structure, a lovely Georgian-style mansion peeking from another wrought iron gate flanked on both sides with a brick pillar topped by a round ball and high yew hedges flanking the gate. He could see the brick façade with its fluid lines and classical pr oportions that gave it such perfect balance. Two pairs of magnificent reeded columns of the Corinthian order capitals flanked an archway of the handsome portico with wide marble front steps. Several chimneypieces were protruding from the rooftop of the central building and many more from the adjacent wings. The house, with its symmetrical design, had an identical wing on both sides. Few steps to the portico lead to the central entrance hall. There were numerous tall shining windows, looking out onto fine green lawns and gardens.

They reached the cobbled courtyard of Wentworth Hall. The car drew to a halt in front of the steps leading up to the massive front doors. Spencer looked up at the three-story center block of the house flanked by two large wings. The whole house was rendered in brick and roofed with slate. He peeked through the car window and spoke to Paul.

“Good Lord, I know what you mean. I feel like I haven’t left England.” He laughed.

“That’s it, sir. The inside is as grand as the outside. Your grandfather said it’s like an English country estate.”

“Well, it sure looks like one.”

The Wentworth Legacy is available for purchase at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.