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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 19 Terrifying Moments

Abe Illingworth is furious when his son John arrives at the garden party with office girl Helen Greenwood.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's novel please click on

They took the garden party by storm and left to the cheers of the crowds below. For Sir Abe it was a mixed blessing. Their aerobatic display added cream to the cake. It was a huge success and he was congratulated for laying it on, as people thought. He enjoyed that. He always had done. But the business of his son missing out on the Hon Eleanor Rimington match still rankled. It turned to fury when John turned up later with Helen Greenwood.

John Illingworth was on a high as he flew to Yeadon, but on the way back he had another weird experience. He put it down to the heat and intense light over the moors, where odd effects in unusual weather were commonplace. As the pair flew back they headed again for the outcrop where the Swastika Stone lay. The moor fire they had seen earlier had spread and the keepers were standing in a long line beating down the flames. A sudden gust of wind pulled the blanket of smoke high in the air right into their flight-path so they had to fly through it. Then it happened.

For a few terrifying moments John Illingworth flew blind, praying that Sydney was well clear of him. The smoked wreathed his cockpit choking him. It seemed as if his engine was on fire and he panicked. Flames appeared all about him and he seemed engulfed. Then as suddenly as it came, the illusion of fire went and he was through the curtain of smoke to the other side. Quite unaware anything was wrong, Sydney waved back cheerily across the gap separating them. Nothing might have happened.

John checked his instrument panel. All was OK. He looked along the wing which, a moment before, seemed swathed in flame. The brilliant fresh paintwork was as fresh as ever. He banked to take another look at the pillar of smoke behind. It rose lazily before drifting over the escarpment towards Ilkesworth, where it thinned out to merge with the haze. Perplexed, he set his plane on course and caught up with Sydney. He never fathomed what had happened, but he never forgot it. He said nothing to Sydney, but it all came terrifyingly back years later when he was flying alone on patrol over Belgium towards the end of the war.

The two men landed and taxied to the hangar, before going to the clubhouse to change. They were in high spirits and joked about how they must have scared the guests. Although they kept off the topic, both guessed what sort of reception they would get from their fathers when they returned.

Their cars were parked outside the clubhouse. Sydney had bought a two-seater Amilcar that summer when he had been touring Europe. His family had relatives right across the continent. John Illingworth had a brand new M.G. Midget, so it was taken as a matter of course that they would race each other back over the moorland roads.

It was late afternoon by the time they reach Illingworth House. Sydney was first back. John came some time later, with a passenger! He picked up a puncture on the outskirts of Keighworth and told Sydney to go on ahead while he changed his wheel. Once he'd fixed it, he took a short cut up Garlic Lane to avoid the town centre.

Half way up the lane he recognised a young woman walking towards the town. It was Helen Greenwood. He pulled up alongside her with a squeal of brakes. She turned, then coloured as she saw who it was.


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