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Illingworth House: 21 - Pleasure Preceeds Duty

...An evening breeze had got up and caught her hair. The last of the sun's rays lit up her face and he leaned down and kissed her...

Abe, returned from the war front, and Mary share a romantic reunion in the Yorkshire Dales.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of a mill-owning family.

It was a sharp October afternoon and the Dales revelled in the fullness of autumn. The trees were a riot of colour and the white limestone dry walls gleamed in the sunshine. In the fields feisty sheep grazed alongside the tups, ready to be served and bear their lambs in the spring. Overhead crows were wheeling, performing aerial acrobatics as they chose their mates and staked their territory. The very air was pregnant with coupling and life-to-be. A world away from the killing fields of France.

The cottage was some way from the village, on a hillside above it, isolated but near enough for Abe and Mary to stroll down to the hotel and dine there when the weather was fine. Few people went there at that time of year so they often had the dining room to themselves. Only the odd group of hikers dropped in for a beer and a snack, but they stayed in the bar.

When they reached the cottage he carried out their cases while she checked out inside, and once there he took her fiercely in his arms. "Mary, my darling," he whispered. "How I've missed you. God, how I've missed you!" She yielded to his embrace and pulled him to her, stroking the nape of his neck as they kissed each other hungrily. He would have gone further, but as he began caressing her breasts she drew away, saying she ought to get the fires going to warm the cottage and check everything was as she'd instructed. There would be time for making love later.

Abe took their cases upstairs to their bedroom and Mary threw more kindling on the kitchen fire, which had already been lit, and placed a kettle on the hob. She lit another fire in the living room, for the evenings were chill and the house smelled dank and un-aired. She cooked them a meal, after which they went for a walk to catch the last of the sunshine.

Mary talked about John, Abe's son, and how well he was doing at school. She mentioned Rosemary, too, and said both children missed their mothers. "There's nothing we can do about that," said Abe sadly. "I'm only grateful you've taken young Jonty under your wing - Rosie, too. You're a born mother." He suddenly realised he'd said the wrong thing for her face fell and she looked wistful. "But one day, Mary," he added quickly, "we may put that right. Rachel is talking about a divorce. I never thought she would, but the war's changed her. Changed us all. She feels free now to do what she wants."

It was his turn to look wistful and the pained look in his eyes intensified, so she quickly turned the subject. Not far away a blackbird sang, and higher up, over the crest of the hill, the plaintive cry of a curlew came down. A farmer was herding sheep lower down, and they heard him whistling his dog and watched a while as it manoeuvred them into another field.

It was idyllic and they leaned against a gate to drink in the quietness and the evening air together. Both were silent, Abe feeling more than ever the depth of their love and having her at his side. He had some thankless tasks to do when he got back to Keighworth, visiting the widows and mothers of the men from his battalion, doing what he could to comfort.

He had never been much good conversing with his workers and he was inwardly dreading it. Raw emotion he shunned, right from his schooldays. He was practised at giving orders but not sympathy. Yet there was no way out. It was his duty and he was glad to get away with Mary and recover before he faced the next week.

An evening breeze had got up and caught her hair. The last of the sun's rays lit up her face and he leaned down and kissed her. She turned and smiled and they returned to the cottage to consummate their burning love for each other.

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