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Illingworth House: 44 – Flattered Yet Repelled

..."I see you're getting away from the madding crowd. I've never met such a dead lot," he began. He came very close so that she couldn't escape. "You know," he said quietly, edging even closer, "I'd give anything to have you as my secretary. Sir Abe doesn't know how lucky he is. There's a job for you as my personal assistant any time, and whatever you're paid at Illingworths I'll double."...

Mary Callow is still loyal to Abe Illingworth, but other men are enchanted by her charms.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of a wealthy Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

Sir Abe's saying that Jane Fairfax wasn't good enough for John cut deep with Mary Calow. She knew in her heart of hearts that that was why he hadn't offered to marry her. She was deeply hurt and the hurt grew deeper the longer he stayed unmarried.

It would have been better had he re-married. She would have been free to look elsewhere for a husband. But no, he kept her guessing and hoping, and her love for him kept her loyal.

She escorted him at all his civic functions and attended his dinner parties at Illingworth House, though she was often bored out of her mind by the people who went there. Many, especially the womenfolk, put her down, yet she bore all this without complaint because of her love.

What made it worse was that some of the men he invited thought her fair game. She was good-looking and attractive. She was intelligent and enjoyed men's company. Her responsibility at work during the war had taught her how to hold her own with any man. So it wasn't surprising that at times men made a dead set at her.

One such was Sir William Henderson. He became infatuated with Mary, obsessed, and wanted her desperately - though not for marriage.

He was tall and dark. His voice was deep and cultured. There was no trace of a Yorkshire accent as there was with Sir Abe. Sir William had been to Eton and Cambridge and was very different from Sir Abe. And had Henderson not been so unprincipled, Mary might have warmed to him.

At first, whenever he visited Illingworth House, he made passes discreetly, always contriving to see her alone, if only for a minute. She felt at once flattered yet repelled by him. The first time he made a direct pass he sidled up in the conservatory, catching her unexpected when she had gone to be alone and escape for a while the guests who were boring her to tears.

"I see you're getting away from the madding crowd. I've never met such a dead lot," he began. He came very close so that she couldn't escape. "You know," he said quietly, edging even closer, "I'd give anything to have you as my secretary. Sir Abe doesn't know how lucky he is. There's a job for you as my personal assistant any time, and whatever you're paid at Illingworths I'll double."

He waited to see what she had say, watching her closely. But all she said was that she was quite happy where she was, so he laughed lightly, pulled out a silver cigarette case and offered her a cigarette, but she didn't smoke.

"Mind if I smoke?" he asked.

She said she didn't and he lit up. His eyes never left her till she began to feel embarrassed. He stood back, suggesting they stroll round the greenhouse. It was packed with exotic flowers and shrubs, and the air hung heavy with scent.

They stayed some time making small talk till she said they ought to re-join the dinner party. Abe would be missing her, but the truth was she was falling under Sir William’s spell and had begun to feel helpless.

He smiled and offered her his arm. She took it lightly though she shivered as she touched his sleeve. There was something magnetic about the man which appealed to a woman.

But when they went inside she left him immediately. Had she not been so madly in love with Sir Abe, he would have lost her many times over, and he never knew how close he was to losing her then.

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