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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: Chapter 22 A Large Gin And Tonic

Helen slurs her words at Sir Abe's fancy garden party.

John Waddington-Feather continues his account of the fortunes of a Yorkshire mill owning dynasty. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Though he said nothing to Helen, John Illingworth was livid when he returned. His father had given him a sound telling-off in front of others there. Sir Abe still treated him as if he were a boy and this final dressing down was the last straw. Rather than have a blazing row in public, John had stormed off back to Helen. He wouldn't be dominated by his father any more. Certainly not when it came to choosing a wife.

As he approached the car he noticed Helen was upset and asked if she was all right. She tried to hide her feelings as he'd done from her, but they ended up telling each other everything. She said she had met his cousin briefly, and he guessed at once what had happened. "Why don't you come in for a drink, Helen...you don't mind me calling you Helen, do you?" he asked.

She smiled and said not. He insisted she call him John. But Helen heeded Mary Calow's advice and said she really ought to go home. "Just one drink. Then we'll go," he pleaded, taking her hand.

She was torn. Part of her said she must go. The other part wanted desperately to stay with him. Her hesitation gave him the lead he needed, and still holding her hand, he led her indoors chatting all the way to reassure her and gazing his fill as he looked down into her face. She looked heavenly!

Johnson and a couple of servants were beginning to clear up when they got indoors. What few guests remained were saying their goodbyes and only Major Kingham-Jones remained firmly anchored to the bar. When John and Helen arrived on the scene, Mary Calow tried to head them off, but John walked grimly on to Sir Abe.

His father's face fell when he saw them and the astonishment on his face pleased John. The old buffer had made a fool of him only a few minutes before, now it was his turn to make his father look foolish. "I bumped into Miss Greenwood on my way here, father," he began casually, "and asked her in for a drink."

Sir Abe looked askance at them both then nodded stiffly, saying not a word. He turned to his sister and they might not have been there, so John led Helen inside.

"What can I get you, Helen?" asked John when they reached the bar. She stared at the variety of bottles. She'd no idea what to ask for as she had never had alcohol before. Joe and her sister had never allowed her to drink but she had read about gin and tonic in novels. The heroines were always drinking gin and tonic, so she asked for one. "Long or short?" asked the bar-man. Helen was thirsty and asked for a large one. "With ice, miss?" She nodded and he fixed her a large gin and tonic - very large.

It was very refreshing and she drank it quickly, just as she would have done lemonade. John laughed, surprised she knocked it back so quick, but he sensed she didn't know much about drink and said, "I should go steady with that, Helen. It packs a punch."

She finished the drink and the bar-man fixed her a second which went down rather more slowly, but halfway through, the first one began to take effect. She'd had no lunch and began to feel heady, and just at that point Major Kingham-Jones rolled up. He'd had his randy eye on her the moment she had walked in. He was drunker than ever and had spilled whisky down his front and the red carnation in his buttonhole had a distinct droop. It looked as sodden as its wearer. He held a cigar and dropped ash from it down his coat as he staggered from his end of the bar to where John and Helen were standing. He reeked of whisky and his voice was thick with it.

"John, my dear ole fellow, aren't y' goin' to inerduce me to this boo'ifil young lady?" he rasped, stationing himself between them and eyeing Helen up and down. John Illingworth was embarrassed. He hadn't anticipated this and said coldly, "This is Miss Greenwood, a colleague at work, uncle."

"An' a damn fine colleague, too, if I may so, young lady," said the major, raising his boater. He took Helen's hand and slobbered over it with grotesque gallantry till Helen couldn't cope. John Illingworth cut in when the major began pawing her shoulder and brushed him aside. He didn't seem put out, only giggling drunkenly and complimenting John on his flying, while holding on to the bar for support.

"You han'led that plane damn well, young Illingworth. Damn well. Scared the pants off us all when you flew over. Your pa oughter be proud of you. Damn proud, young fellow," he said and gave another of his tipsy giggles.

John dragged Helen away before he began pawing again, leading her to the lawn. The major remained at the bar, pulling hard on his cigar and letting his eyes have their fill of Helen. "Damn handsome girl," he chuntered to himself. "Damn fine chassis."

"Sorry about that," said John, once they were outside. "He's an old soak and gets silly when he's drunk. A skeleton in the family cupboard I'll tell you about some day."

He held her hand tightly and she was glad, for she felt dizzy and her legs were beginning to feel as if they didn't belong to her. She stumbled as they crossed the lawn and he caught her round the waist. "You all right?" he asked, looking worried. He regretted pushing her to have a drink and realised too late that she had no idea what she was drinking.

She slurred, "I think you berrer take me home, John. I don't feel well." And her voice seemed far away.

She was quite pale and unsteady, so he held her close till they reached the car and he put her inside. Mary Calow watched them as they crossed the lawn. So did Sir Abe and he wasn't at all pleased. He turned and spoke angrily to Mary Calow, "If he thinks he's going to get himself tangled up with that one, he's got another think coming to him. I wish to God you'd never set her on Mary. Get rid of her as soon as you can."

Mary Calow didn't reply.


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