« Olive Fremstad | Main | Chapter 8 »

Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 13 Delight and Resentment

Helen Greenwood tells her family that she has been offered a job at Illingworths, but her father Joe fails to offer his congratulations.

John Waddington-Feather continues his saga of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

By the time she'd reached home, Helen Greenwood had dismissed Simon Grimstone from her mind. The hot stone pavements underfoot and the heavy atmosphere choked with soot made her perspire more than ever, but she hurried on regardless, so excited was she and eager to tell her sister and brother-in-law about her new job.

Mary, her only sister, was much older. She'd married Joe Gibson early on in the war when he'd come home on leave. Not long after that, he had been badly injured at the front. They had no children and Helen was like a daughter, coming to them after both her parents died in the flu epidemic at the end of the war. They'd watched her grow up and change into a woman, change in other ways, too.

The first big change came when she went to the local grammar school on a scholarship, leaving there to train as a typist. Her school had wanted her to stay on and go to college, but no. Money was scarce, always scarce, and she had to leave to bring in a wage. Though disappointed she couldn't stay on, she knew it might have been worse. She could have gone into the mill like her sister. But going to the grammar school set her apart from the rest down Garlic Lane.

Shut in between factories and mills, the lane housed the workers, the poor. Its only virtue was that it was the last line of housing that side of the town. At the bottom of the lane were the rugby and cricket fields, which had earlier been meadows. A farm of sorts was still being run beyond them. And beyond, farmland jumped the river and canal to run up to the moors.

Opposite where Helen lived, was a scrap-iron yard and below that, Grayson's tumbledown garage where she worked. Behind them both, lurked an enamelling plant which spewed yellow fumes into the atmosphere and a variety of chemicals into an open sewer to one side. Where they went after that, God knows. But her new job was giving her the chance to get away from it all.

She had never discussed wanting to leave with her sister, but Mary had sensed it for some time. She and Joe both knew that one day she was going to go. Helen had no friends in Keighworth and never went out to dances and the like as did the other lasses down the street.

"Allus got her head in a book. It isn't natural," Joe remarked often. "Ah do wish she'd get out an' about a bit."

He had already arrived home from work when Helen arrived, and the tiny cramped living room reeked of a pungent mixture of mill-weft and foundry. They had delayed the evening meal until she returned and Joe was snoozing in his chair by the fireplace.

A huge, brawny man who seemed to fill the room when he stood up, he jerked awake when she burst in, flinging her arms round her sister. "I've got it, sis! I've got the job at Illingworths!" she exclaimed. Then she crossed the room to Joe and kissed his brow, her face glowing.

Joe stood up, reeking of carbolic. The first thing he always did, when he got back from work, was to step out of his work clothes and scrub away the grime of the moulding shop from his face and arms. He hugged her gently then sat at the table with his wife and Helen.

"Tell us all about it then," said Mary, serving up their meal. "Ah can't wait to hear."

Joe said little as Helen prattled on, and as the meal progressed he became more and more broody. Mary knew why. Anything to do with the Illingworths was anathema to him and Helen mentioned the name Illingworth again and again.

"I thought I didn't stand a chance when I saw the others. They were all dolled up to the nines, and stand-offish with it. They hardly spoke and looked at me as if I were muck," said Helen.

She spoke quickly and in short bursts in between mouthfuls of her meal, hardly able to get out her words, she was so excited. On and on she prattled about Illingworths' offices and how big they were, how clean and how many people worked there. Then she got on about Mary Calow and finally how John Illingworth had bumped into her and she had been helped to her feet by him. He was such a gentleman, and it became clear she was very impressed by young Illingworth.

And all the while, Joe remained silent and looked grim. He ate his meal slowly, listening to every word she said, but offering nothing in return except the odd grunt. When he'd finished his meal he got up from the table and said he was off to his hen-pen. He offered no congratulations, no compliments, and Helen was a little hurt. At least he could have said he was glad she had got the job. It was a darned sight better than that at Grayson's.

She assumed he'd had a bad day at work. It was hot and the foundry was like an inferno. On top of that, his war injuries played him up some days, which made him irritable.

But his wife knew the real reason. She knew what had happened in the past between Joe and Abe Illingworth. Helen didn't. If she had, she might never have applied for the job.

Joe never forgave Abe Illingworth for the way he'd humiliated him before the war. There'd been a brawl in town after a rugby match and Joe had been hauled before the bench. Newly appointed to the bench, Sir Abe had got on his high horse and decided to show his muscle. He had gone on in his upper-class way about not tolerating that sort of behaviour in Keighworth and told Joe he was lucky he wasn't sending him to prison. He ended by handing out a hefty fine that Joe could ill afford. The "Keighworth News" had plastered it across its front page, and Joe had lost his job. It still rankled.

Henry Johnson, Illingworth's butler, was in the church choir where the Gibsons also sang. Strangely, in view of the fact Illingworth was his boss, Joe and he remained good friends. They never discussed Sir Abe, but Johnson had let drop the odd remark about Mary Calow being Sir Abe's fancy woman, and about John Illingworth being a wild one. Joe certainly didn't want Helen getting mixed up with him.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.