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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 9 Wasted Brass

"And next time I send you out, don't mess around," he said, smiling. "Wasted time is wasted brass!"

Young John Illingworth, recently made a director of the family textile business, learns the secrets of business success from his father Abe.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The front of Illingworths was solid. Grimed a century black, it loomed most self-assured alongside other most self-assured office blocks. Bradford was full of them, each vying with its neighbour to vaunt their wealth and success, at a time when the West Riding clothed the world.

By the main door of Illingworths was a large brass plaque. It gleamed even in the dullest weather and said that inside were the registered offices of Illingworths Mills Ltd. A uniformed doorman opened the door smartly. If you looked important enough, he saluted you. If you didn't look important, he asked your business and directed you round the back, to the trade entrance.

Inside was a gleaming entrance hall where Helen had sat. All mahogany and brass, it was designed to impress. You sank to your ankles in carpet that ran the length of the hallway to the staircase leading to the directors' offices on the next floor. If you didn't want to walk, a newly installed lift took you up and beyond to the fourth floor. You passed the general office on your way to the staircase.

The general office had frosted glass windows running its length along the hallway, so that you couldn't look in and so that those inside weren't distracted by anyone passing by outside. Having seen Helen down the street, John Illingworth returned to the directors' offices. The doorman saluted as he entered. He had seen and heard it all: the collision, Helen being helped to her feet, the smooth talk, but he stood impassive. Later, he relayed it all back inside.

John Illingworth still held the file he had been sent to collect by his father. He skipped up the great staircase humming to himself, still thinking about Helen.

He reached the directors' landing and passed the row of portraits hanging there. It began with Amos his great-grandfather, who'd founded the firm. Then his grandfather, Luke, the first baronet who'd died three years earlier. He was in his baronet's robes. His father was next in line. Sir Abe was in army uniform. He had been a colonel in the West Yorkshires during the war. Finally, his own portrait, a photograph, hung last in line and smaller than the rest. He had only recently been made a director.

He and his dad had been discussing their new warehouse in Australia. Illingworths bought much of their wool at the Sydney sales each year. Sir Abe had sent his son for the files, but he'd been delayed by the accident with Helen, delayed even more watching her walk up the street, so that by the time he got back his father was impatient.

Abe Illingworth was in his late fifties. He looked younger, a great deal younger, but had the unmistakable cragginess of age. Nevertheless, when you saw him and John together, there was no mistaking they were father and son. They were tall, broad-shouldered and tough.

But their facial resemblance was the most striking. Sir Abe had a thick mane of blond hair flecking grey about the temples. It added steel to an already imposing bearing. So did his clipped military moustache and bushy grey eyebrows.

His son had the same thick blond hair. He had his father's piercing blue eyes as well, but they were dreamy. Life hadn't hardened them yet and they still reflected boyhood like his mouth and jawline.

Age had given the father a comfortable paunch, around which hung a thick gold watch-chain heavy with Masonic fobs. Both were dressed in immaculate bespoke worsted suits. Both wore ties; the father, his regimental tie, the son, his flying-club tie.

"Where the hell have you been, lad?" said his father as he entered. He was perspiring in the thick heat and that didn't help. "What kept you?"

John explained and told him about the girl he had accidentally bumped into. His father grunted and took the files from him, muttering, "I thought there'd be a lass in it somewhere."

He placed the files on his desk and began to untie them. Then he looked up briefly. "When you get back to your office, tell Clemence I want to see him in about half an hour when I've had time to look over this lot."

He looked across at his son and his face softened. He could never be angry with him long. "And next time I send you out, don't mess around," he said, smiling. "Wasted time is wasted brass!"

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