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Illingworth House: 45 – The Sparkling Gift

....Her grey eyes sparkling in the light of the dying sun looked steadily into his and he was bewitched. His limpid brown eyes never left her, searched her face, her neck, her body. She stood and let him drink his fill. Then he pulled a case from his pocket and opened it. Inside was an expensive diamond necklace....

Sir William is persistent in his pursuit of Mary – but then Abe Illingworth finds out what is going on.

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

Sir William didn't give up and the whole business came to a head later that summer at a cocktail party. Mary had escaped into the garden to get some fresh air, for the air inside was heavy with cigarette smoke. Henderson saw her and seized his chance.

It was early evening and a full moon rode the sky, looming brighter as the daylight waned. The air was cool and the damask roses along one border sweetened it with scent. In the elm tree at the end of the garden a blackbird sang his evening song, and swallows filtered the air of flies as the sun flushed red near the horizon. The trees were already turning to black silhouettes and the swallows were being replaced with bats.

Thinking herself alone, Mary drank in the peace and cool air, when suddenly she sensed someone else was there, watching her. She turned to face him, startled by his sudden appearance, knowing what he was and what he was about to do.

"You look very beautiful against the setting sun, Mary," Sir William began. "In fact, more beautiful each time I see you."

"Thank you," she replied, and she trembled in spite of herself.
"You're a great one for flattery, Sir William."

"Just William, Mary. Let’s not stand on ceremony. We've known each other too long now. It's time we got to know each other better." He drew closer and she felt his breath on her cheek. She flushed redder than the sunset and tried to leave, but something held her.

Her grey eyes sparkling in the light of the dying sun looked steadily into his and he was bewitched. His limpid brown eyes never left her, searched her face, her neck, her body. She stood and let him drink his fill. Then he pulled a case from his pocket and opened it. Inside was an expensive diamond necklace.

"For you, my dear," he said, placing it round her neck. That done he leaned forward and kissed her. She wanted to draw back but didn't. Then he crushed her to him and kissed her again and again passionately on the lips and neck.

She felt helpless, at odds with herself because she was enjoying his kisses, but she came to quickly when a voice called through the dusk, "Mary? Are you there?"

It was Sir Abe. He wanted her to meet someone and had come to find her. By this time the garden was in darkness. Henderson continued holding her close and whispered, "Don't answer!"

But she did. She pulled away from him and managed to call out, "I'm here, Abe."

He came over peering into the gloom and she went to meet him. He was taken aback when he saw who was with her, but Henderson said smoothly, "Two minds with but a single thought, old fellow. Mary and I came out to get some fresh air. It's dashed stuffy inside. We've been having quite a pleasant chat out here, haven't we, Mary?"

She made some trite reply but it was only when they returned indoors that Sir Abe notice the necklace. It wasn't the first present Henderson had given her, but none as expensive as this. Abe glanced at it angrily and waves of jealousy swept through him.

He remained quite civil - if cool - to Henderson that night, but the next day he questioned Mary closely and learned all. He made her give back all her presents, and Henderson was never invited to Illingworth House again. He tried vainly to contact Mary, but she returned his mail and within weeks his passion for her had died the death.

However, the affair made Sir Abe realise just how much he needed Mary and what she meant to him. Yet he still didn't ask her to marry.

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