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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 18 – A Flight Of Fancy

...He hummed quietly to himself as his plane zoomed along. There was something about Helen Greenwood which fascinated him. Was it her complete naturalness? Her lack of make-up and plain dress? But she was intelligent, too, and he felt he had met his match...

John Illingworth swoops down on his father's garden party.

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At that very moment, John Illingworth was in his cockpit roaring over the moors towards Keighworth. He revelled in the rush of tangy air, which swept past him, watching the land below roll by and thinking very much of the new girl at work. He'd got to know her better but he still hadn't dated her and was planning how. He saw her daily and she attracted him more and more. She had an effect on him quite unlike any he'd had before. Yet he had no chance to speak with her apart from some commonplaces spoken quickly in the office, where he went as often as he could. It did not escape Mary Calow's notice but she said nothing.

He hummed quietly to himself as his plane zoomed along. There was something about Helen Greenwood which fascinated him. Was it her complete naturalness? Her lack of make-up and plain dress? But she was intelligent, too, and he felt he had met his match, more. She was constantly surprising him by what she knew, what she read. He was no great reader himself but he admired scholarship in others. She was level
-headed and sensible in all she did. In that, she reminded him strongly of Mary Calow.

He looked over the edge of his cockpit and waved to Sydney Goldstein. The day was glorious, the sky blue from horizon to horizon. A white smudge of smoke drifted up below them across the moors where they were firing the old heather. The only movement down there was a line of hikers trudging one of the trails across the moors to a line of boulders.

He knew the escarpment well. He had hiked it himself often enough. There was a whole lot of pre-historic stones down there carved by stone-age man, including the famous Swastika Stone; not the crude swastika adopted by the new Nazi Party in Germany but a gentler rounded sign embracing all who looked on it.

He banked to fly over it. A hard light reflected from the escarpment, half-blinding him and forcing him to bank again away from it. What it was he didn't know. Some sheet of metal or glass, but it certainly was powerful. He lifted his goggles to wipe his eyes and when he looked again all he saw were the hikers waving at him. He waved back and flew on, racing across Rombaldton Moor into Airedale.

As they neared Keighworth the banks of purple heather and green ferns were replaced with ranks of harsh slates. Row on row of terrace housing winked back at them through the heat, punctuated here and there by mill chimneys pluming thin trails of smoke over the town. The air was clear for the furnaces were shut down and they could see for miles.

They flew in across the town's northern suburbs, zooming over Albert Park where folk were out in force strolling about or listening to a band. They came in low and a sea of face peered up at them, then a fluttering of scores of handkerchiefs. At the bottom of Garlic Lane a cricket match was taking place and halted while they flew over. Beyond that were fields and meadows leading to Utworth.

Horses and cattle scattered as they roared over. Only the dead in Keighworth Cemetery lay unperturbed among the hundreds of graves there. In the centre was the Illingworth mausoleum, first among other mill masters' family tombs, arrogantly ostentatious and in death lording it over the workers' graves surrounding it. At the cemetery, the two pilots turned and began their final run-in over Illingworth House.

There was no mistaking the great house, the mansion standing well back and built solidly. In its ten-acre grounds it dominated the area as the Illingworth tomb had done the cemetery. It was walled all the way round and screened by a plantation of trees and rhododendron bushes. Copper beech hedges lined the approach to the extensive lawns and conservatory, where Sir Abe boasted exotic plants of many kinds brought back by his father and grandfather from their grand tours abroad. The lawns were crowded with marquees and guests.

The two fliers swung in low and fast, appearing suddenly over the screen of trees, which bent before them; roaring over the packed lawns and drowning the startled band. Some of the womenfolk screamed and when he'd recovered himself Sir Abe glared at the sky. As the duo flew over they dipped their wings in salute before climbing steeply to begin their stunts.

It took them some time to reach height, but once there they started looping the loop and doing the falling leaf, twisting and turning in perfect synchronisation. Then they plunged earthwards and frightened the guests to death, pulling steeply out of their dive at the last minute.

Initially pleased, Rosemary Braithwaite clutched Harry's arm in fear as the two planes hurtled towards her. He stood rooted, hanging on to her as much as she him. Then Rosemary recognised the two pilots and exclaimed, "It's John and Sydney!" and began applauding. The rest followed suit, clapping like mad after each pass. When the Rimingtons began applauding, the frown left Sir Abe's face and half an hour later, when John and Sydney had completed their act, coming in low and dipping their wings again before disappearing over Rivock Edge, he felt very proud.

He wasn't so pleased when the Rimingtons had to go and John hadn't turned up. Eleanor Rimington was giggling all over him. "I was so thrilled, Sir Abe. John is such a daredevil. You will tell him how much I enjoyed his flying display. It was absolutely thrilling!" she lisped. Her parents had taken her off by the time John returned, saying they hoped to arrange another meeting with Sir Abe and his son. But it never materialised.


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