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Illingworth House: 24 - Recovery

...He squeezed her hand and breathed the air deeply. The tang of heather and earthy smell of peat, the scent of ferns and the spory smell of the warm grit at their feet rose all about them. He was home, alive and with the woman he loved at his side. He would never return to the hell he had left. And that was a huge burden lifted...

Abe Illingworth, injured in battle, is more than glad to be back home in Yorkshire.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

When Abe started to improve and came on leave, he and Mary went for short walks on the moors overlooking the town. She had learned to drive and picked him up from home to take him out.

Their favourite walk was along Rivock Edge, the escarpment overlooking the town. On it stood a huge Ice Age boulder, one of many on the moors. Few people got up there except for the odd shepherd, and they could be alone for a while, sheltered from the ever-blowing wind by the great stone. There they were clear of the smoke and grime of the town, which squatted below wallowing in its muck. There, they were at one with themselves and the land about, undisturbed and alone.

After the horror and killing of the Somme, it was heaven to be up there with the woman he loved, and now loved more than ever. She had stood by him through thick and thin, through the years of his dead marriage and she stood by him now that he was a physical wreck. More than that. She had nurtured his son and looked after his father and the family business. He owed her everything. They spoke little at first, simply absorbing the peace and each other, holding hands as they gazed down on the town.

"I owe you so much, Mary," he said quietly.

She smiled and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "You owe me nothing, darling," she replied. "I thank God that you're here - that we're both still together."

He squeezed her hand and breathed the air deeply. The tang of heather and earthy smell of peat, the scent of ferns and the spory smell of the warm grit at their feet rose all about them. He was home, alive and with the woman he loved at his side. He would never return to the hell he had left. And that was a huge burden lifted.

Abe Illingworth recovered well and after some months was promoted to colonel and while the war lasted was made commandant of a prisoner-of-war camp near Skiproyd. He pulled a few strings and Henry Johnson went with him and helped him run the place. It meant that Abe and Mary could spend more time at the cottage, and those were the happiest days of their life, man and wife in all but the law. Certainly their relationship was seen as such by their friends and family, who all knew how much the Illingworths had to be grateful for to Mary.

One day, while at the cottage, thinking the time ripe, Mary brought up the matter of his divorce. The proceedings had turned sour, for Rachel was determined to screw Abe for every penny. It dragged on and on, and the lawyers made a killing but the longer it went on, the more cagey Abe became about re-marrying.

While they absorbed the peace she thought the moment was ripe and asked him, "Abe, darling, have you heard any more about your divorce?"

He turned suddenly and said abruptly, "For God's sake, Mary, why mention that now? I'm sick of the whole business! You know I love you - always will. Isn't that sufficient? Why drag up this wretched divorce? I've done all I can to hurry it through, but that damned bitch is trying to squeeze me for all she can get. If she'd have put as much into our marriage as she's doing into our divorce..."

He left his sentence unfinished. His marriage wouldn't have lasted anyhow. It never had a chance from the start. He had only found out what true love was when he met Mary Calow. So Mary went quiet and never broached the subject again. But she was hurt, deeply hurt, and the hurt grew worse over the years. She was too much in love with him to force the issue, fearing she would kill his love for her if she pushed him too far. Best leave things as they were. She was accepted as one of the family by his father and friends and, while the war lasted, she was the lynchpin at work.

Her responsibilities during the war increased Mary's self-confidence. She learned very quickly the habits and mores of the upper-crustians, as well as their speech. By contrast, Denton was too tied to his roots to move up a class and remained subservient to the end of his life. Mary Calow was of a new breed of women able to hold their own in a man's world, and both she and the Illingworths profited greatly from it.

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