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Illingworth House: Chance Child Part One: 1 The Master

...Humility was never a strong point of the Illingworths, for though they may not have inherited the earth, they had a generous slice of it and a baronetcy to go with it...

John Waddington-Feather begins the second novel in his trilogy concerning the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

Humility was never a strong point of the Illingworths, for though they may not have inherited the earth, they had a generous slice of it and a baronetcy to go with it. Self-aggrandisement had become their family trait, and Sir Abraham Illingworth was rich, very self-assured and arrogant. Most arrogant with those whom he considered to be beneath him. Those he paid. And he worked them to the last penny. If he thought they didn't earn it, he sacked them.

He sacked many over the years, but Henry Johnson and Mary Calow had survived. One was his butler, the other his mistress. Both had well earned their keep.

Johnson had been with the Illingworths all his life. He was younger than Sir Abe, and he had been footman to Sir Abe's father, old Luke. When war broke out in 1914 he went as Sir Abe's batman and served throughout the war. At Ypres, where they'd both been wounded, Johnson had saved his Sir Abe's life, pulling him off a minefield; consequently Johnson was the only man he trusted and his butler was just as loyal to him.

As for Mary Calow, he had fallen for her the day she came as a young typist at the family's office in Bradford. He was married by then, but that didn't stop him falling in love, for there had never been any real love between his wife Rachel and himself. Theirs had been a money-match.

Mary Calow wasn't wealthy, nor had her family any standing, but she was beautiful and intelligent. She thought she'd done well getting a job at Illingworths' mill. Done even better when the boss's son fell in love with her and she became crazy about him.

How couldn't she? He was tall and handsome. Even though he was in his forties and she only in her twenties, she fell for him hook, line and sinker. His steely blue eyes set her alight every time he looked at her, and they wandered over her often.

Now she was forty but still in love with him - though hurt, deeply hurt. His wife had died and she'd hoped he would marry her, but he didn't. He simply strung her along. She knew why, but wouldn't admit it. Many times she decided to quit but didn't. She loved him too much.

Her only solace was that he married no one else. If he had, she would have gone at once - and Sir Abe knew that. After twenty years he valued her too much to lose her, and by that time she was an indispensable asset. She knew more about the family business than he did.

The day of the garden party, Sir Abe was in a happy mood. Only one thing had clouded it. He had bumped into Joe Gibson. They had met briefly after he had called in to get his daily paper. He'd met Gibson face to face just outside the shop and he hadn't changed. He'd looked Sir Abe straight in the eye and he had felt guilty.

He knew why. All that business before the war, when Gibson had been hauled before him in court for brawling, when he had given him a public dressing-down, humiliated him, all that still rankled.

Gibson's subsequent war record made it worse. He'd come back a hero with a medal, a people's hero, and Sir Abe hadn't had the guts to acknowledge it. How could he, in his position?

It was Gibson's attitude. If only he'd known his place. There was no cap-doffing or forelock-pulling when they met. Just that accusing stare, which always upset Sir Abe and made him feel guilty, made him want to call Gibson to heel.

But, once home, he dismissed Gibson. He had the merest bite for lunch for there'd be plenty to eat at the garden party later. Already Johnson was supervising the laying of the long tables and the marquees outside.

Sir Abe strolled to the French windows and gazed out.
They opened directly onto the lawns where folk were busy setting up their charity stalls. He nodded at them patronisingly as they curtseyed or raised their hats.

The view from those windows was superb, and he always felt good standing there, feet solidly placed apart, his thumbs stuck deep into his waistcoat pockets. He was master of all he surveyed, and he felt happier than ever.

He could see across the valley to the hillside and farmland stretching up to the moors, and every farm he saw, he owned. There would be no building of housing estates spoiling his view while he was alive, as there had been further over at Ruddledene round the corner. And Keighworth, with its forest of mill chimneys and rank undergrowth of grimy houses covered with smoke, lay out of sight a mile or two away.


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