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Illingworth House: 49 - Little Charades

...Her love for Peter Courtenay grew as her love for Sir Abe withered. He'd become more and more obsessed with the family dynasty, with class, with casting round for a new wife for himself and for his son John. Mary recognised this change and made her own plans forthwith.,,

Mary Calow realises that she will never be Sir Abe Illingworth's wife, so she decides to marry another man.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of the mill-owning Illingworths.

By 1929 Mary Calow was at a crisis in her life. She was well into her thirties and unmarried. Not because she hadn't had any suitors. She had, but she'd spurned them for Abe Illingworth. She still hoped he'd marry her, but as time dragged on that hope faded. Worse, she sensed he was looking for another wife, and from that time on, she, too, began to look elsewhere.

While on holiday with her sister, she'd met a man who'd fallen in love with her. He was Peter Courtenay, a financier with offices in Bradford and London. They met by chance at Eastbourne at the home of one of her sister's friends and were attracted to each other at once. Unknown to Sir Abe, Courtney began taking her out whenever he came north. She had the mature beauty that time gives every good-looking woman over thirty, but he was drawn to her as much for her personality as her looks. Her levelheaded intelligence impacted at once on him.

She'd always been more happy in men's company than in that of the millmen's wives she had to mix with. They were an empty-headed lot, whose conversation never got beyond clothes, makeup, holidays and town tittle-tattle. In any case, they'd despised her from the start as Abe Illingworth's fancy woman.

She was well read and enjoyed the arts. She subscribed to the local orchestra and choral societies and went to hear the Halle play whenever they came to Bradford. Added to all this, she was a shrewd businesswoman who'd made a successful career in the wool trade.

Sir Abe never knew her real worth till it was too late. When she left, the business began to fall apart. Shrewd as he was with money he had undervalued her completely. And in retrospect, Mary Calow also misjudged him.

Her love for Peter Courtenay grew as her love for Sir Abe withered. He'd become more and more obsessed with the family dynasty, with class, with casting round for a new wife for himself and for his son John. Mary recognised this change and made her own plans forthwith.

She'd gone to London frequently on business, to the wool sales and exhibitions, staying at her club in Soho, while she was there. Peter Courtenay met her when she came down, wined and dined her at the best restaurants and took her to the theatre and concerts. Theirs was a long courtship, which didn't come to fruition for years, but when they did marry, their marriage was rock firm. Abe Illingworth was shaken to the core when she left him and went South.

Sir Abe wasn't happy at all when one day Mary Calow admitted seeing a man friend from time to time. He sulked for days. He wasn't happy, too, with his son, who was spending less time in the office and more time at his flying club. Flying had become a passion and he had his own light aircraft like his friend Sydney Goldstein. His father gently remonstrated with him and told him several times he ought to be settling down and concentrating more on his work and apply himself as Clemence did. And all the time he dangled rich heiresses before him at his dinner parties and soirees.

Eleanor Rimington threw herself at him every time they met. She wasn't a bad looking girl and had her own pack of would-be's chasing her. But it was John she'd set her heart on, and his father felt frustrated when John showed no interest. She made a dead set at John, and there were others trying to hook him all the time. But no go. He stuck to his flying.

Standing in the wings, Harry Clemence and Simon Grimstone watched these little charades being played out. They were invited to most of Sir Abe's soirees though there was no hope of either of them landing a rich heiress. They were mere spectators watching with envy the flirting and socialising going on around them, but playing no part in it themselves. Indeed, there were times when they were openly snubbed and made to feel their place, and neither liked that one bit.

One night Grimstone, who'd been eyeing the field with Clemence, asked his pal which one he fancied. "I fancy em all," said Harry. "An' I fancy their brass even more. I'd marry any of 'em for that, if nowt else. If I were John Illingworth, I'd set my stall out for that Rimington lass. She's got all it takes, an' a bit more. She'll be worth a bomb when her folks snuff it!"

"So will he, one day," said the lawyer. Then they went to get their food. Inwardly he detested John Illingworth. He hated anyone who stood in his light. He never showed it, of course, nor did Harry Clemence, who was playing his cards right in the office and moving steadily up the management board, sucking up to young Illingworth while at the same time cutting the ground from under his feet.

John had taken him under his wing, coaching him in the social graces just as Clemence was supposed to be coaching him in the business. He also did John Illingworth a great favour keeping his cousin Rosemary out of his hair, escorting her to functions when John opted out, leaving her angry and frustrated.

Rosemary just about tolerated Clemence, for he had worked hard at his accent and picked up a few social graces, but he never shook off his background entirely. As long as he and Grimstone remained in Keighworth they were pigeon-holed, stuck somewhere between the middle-crustians and upper-crustians of the town and kept down, just as they had kept others down. Both knew they'd never make it to the dizzy heights John Illingworth moved in.

For various reasons, Clemence began to make an impression on Rosemary Braithwaite. He sensed he was in with a chance and danced attendance on her all the time. He knew to draw off, and he knew when to come on. He was always there, solid and dependable, whenever she needed him. And she began to need him more and more, just as he needed her to get on.

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