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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 2 The Ultimate Boundary

...Times were changing and, shrewd as he was in observing business, Sir Abe was not shrewd enough in observing change. Old attitudes had gone with a generation blown to bits in the trenches. He, of all people, should have recognised that. But he didn't. He was in the same mould as his father and grandfather, a mould his son was about to break, to rebel as Sir Abe never would have dared...

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

You couldn't see any industrial Keighworth from Illingworth House where the Illingworths lived, in the upper-crust area of Utwort, where the houses of the great were seeded in rich acres. It was screened from the rest of the town by a well-wooded rise and more farmland. Insulated even from the gaunt, Victorian, three-storey, terrace homes of the middle-class - the doctors, bank managers and their ilk, who in turn were separated from the lower-class workers by the railway cutting.

Boundaries in Keighworth were well-marked and rarely crossed. The way you spoke, the way you dressed, where you had been to school - all were markers along well defined boundaries. Above all, the way you made, or didn't make, money was the ultimate boundary. If you had money you were summat. If you had nowt, you were nowt.

Now the Illingworths, they were summat.

And Sir Abraham Illingworth had inherited it all - the wealth, the land, the mills - and the baronetcy which would pass to his only child, John. He doted on him. On him hung the entire dynasty, and that to Abe Illingworth meant everything.

He'd hoped for more family, badly wanted more heirs, but his wife Rachel had failed him in that as in everything else. What love there'd been - if there ever was real love between them at all - had withered early on in their marriage. He'd had a couple of short-lived affairs before Mary Calow and his son John took after him in that, if in nothing else.

John had Sir Abe's astonishing good looks and his charm. But he lacked his father's air of authority. The Illingworth hardness, their unfeeling get-on-at-all-costs was lacking. In that he had more of his mother than his father in him. Nevertheless, girls fell at his feet like leaves in autumn and early on he'd become a womaniser, a bit of a playboy, which worried his father. He could see John being taken in by some little social-climber.

It wouldn't have been so bad if his son had gone for class - wealth, that is; but he seemed to fall for every pretty face which gave him the come-hither. The last one who got her hooks in him had cost Sir Abe a pretty penny to pay her off. A girl in the office who had caught him before he knew it.

If it hadn't been for Mary Callow, John would have wed her. Only Mary got him to see sense and get clear. Lucky she was a cheap money-grabber and could be bought off. It had cost Abe Illingworth dear - but left Mary Calow feeling cheap. She had had to do all the dirty work.

But now things were looking up. He'd become good friends with Lord Rimington, a pillar of the county Tory Party like himself. Rimington had an ancient title, but little else. His estate, in the east of the county, was mortgaged up to the hilt when his capital slumped in the crash of the late twenties. He needed cash.

Illingworth needed an heir. Rimington was well in where it mattered, could enhance the baronetcy to something higher. More than that, he had an eligible daughter. What could have worked out better than one supplying status and the other providing cash? An alliance would raise one in the title stakes and stop the other going to the wall. On that, they were both agreed.

That was why Illingworth was feeling so self-satisfied. He'd had a long talk with Rimington and had agreed to bail him out if he would persuade his daughter to take John Illingworth for better or for worse.

Lady Rimington was bringing her daughter, Eleanor, with her when she opened the garden party that day. The youngsters had met before. They were both marketable and had been on offer for some time. All Sir Abe had to do now was to persuade his son. He'd toe the line all right, in that as in all else. Of that, Sir Abe was sure.

He hummed quietly to himself as he moved from the windows back to the hall. The great clock at the foot of the wide staircase leading to the bedrooms greeted him with its mellow tick. It chimed - an hour for each of the twelve portraits which watched him make his way to his room. He needed to change for the garden party, to take off his heavy office suit and put on something lighter, more flamboyant, something more appropriate for the marriage match he was hoping to make that afternoon. The tones of the clock followed him all the way upstairs.

He was happy, but his happiness was to be short-lived. Times were changing and, shrewd as he was in observing business, Sir Abe was not shrewd enough in observing change. Old attitudes had gone with a generation blown to bits in the trenches. He, of all people, should have recognised that. But he didn't. He was in the same mould as his father and grandfather, a mould his son was about to break, to rebel as Sir Abe never would have dared.

Dynasties and wealth demand blind loyalty to survive. The Illingworths had been blindly loyal to each other and their kind, but a new generation was rebelling against old values. His son was of that generation.

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