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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part 1: 21 - An Awkward Situation

Helen, a most reluctant guest, finds it tough going at Sir Abe's fancy garden party.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's saga of a Yorkshire mill-owning family please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Helen was quite unprepared for the reception she received. She'd no idea what a grand occasion the garden party had been and felt completely out of her class. She said she would rather sit in the car till John had eaten and was ready to take her home. She had seen Mary Calow on the lawn as they drove past and was dreading meeting her; dreading meeting Sir Abe still more.

"All right," he said, "if you insist, but I must have something to eat. I'll grab a bite then drive you back home. I won't be a minute."

But it didn't turn out like that at all. She had to wait by herself for some time for Sir Abe collared him and pitched into him. Mary Calow moved tactfully away and let them slog it out. She wandered round the back of the house and saw Helen seated in the open car. Their eyes met and Helen expected the worst as her supervisor walked towards her unsmiling.

"Well, well, Miss Greenwood. It didn't take Mr Illingworth long to take you out, did it? You soon put your charms to good use," she said, and her sarcasm bit deep. Then she noticed Helen was not dressed up. She carried no handbag or coat and looked positively dowdy. She couldn't have been with him at the flying-club and she was curious how they had met and arrived together at Illingworth house. Why had he brought her home? She asked Helen outright.

"I was walking up Garlic Lane and he happened to drive by. That's all," she said, "it was as simple as that. He stopped and asked me if I'd like to see how his new car went. I'd no idea he was going to bring me here, else I'd never have come. Ask Mr Illingworth if you don't believe me."

Mary Calow calmed down. Her sarcasm had fallen flat and rebounded on herself. But before she left, she gave the youngster some advice. "Miss Greenwood," she said more gently, "I think there are one or two things you ought to know. The first is to know your place. Mr Illingworth's bringing you here is, to say the least, tactless. His father will be furious and jump entirely to the wrong conclusions, if you see what I mean."

She paused to see the effect she was making. Helen's face said it all. She kept her head down and was crimson. "Believe me, Miss Greenwood, I'm only trying to help. When Mr Illingworth returns, ask him to take you home at once. It will save a great deal of trouble all round."

Helen was torn in two. She sensed Miss Calow was trying to help her, but her pride was hurt and she resented her advice. It was almost patronising, even when she said she would try to make peace between the father and son. She had had to do it before and insisted Helen leave immediately before Sir Abe found out. If she didn't she couldn't answer for what would follow.

Helen looked up and murmured her thanks, and for the first time Mary Calow smiled. Then she turned abruptly and walked away, leaving Helen standing by the car. She had barely gone when Rosemary Braithwaite appeared all lovey-dovey and hand-in hand with Harry Clemence. He had made great headway that afternoon and was very, very pleased with himself. If he had known his plans had been on the verge of collapse, for Rosemary had waited till her cousin had returned and was set on making up to him, he wouldn't have looked so smug. But that all changed the instant she saw a beautiful young woman standing by his car. She recognised at once that she was the woman John Illingworth was crazy about.

"Hello, Miss Greenwood," said Clemence taken aback when he saw her. "Fancy meeting you here! Did Mr Illingworth bring you?" He knew damned well that John Illingworth had brought her. She wouldn't be lounging by his car like that if he hadn't. But he also knew it would pour ice on Rosie.

When Helen said yes, Clemence was stuck and looked awkward. He didn't know whether or not he should introduce a clerk at the office to Rosemary, but Rosemary solved his problem. Curiosity got the better of her.

"As Harry doesn't seem inclined to introduce us," she said with a steely smile,"perhaps we should introduce ourselves. I'm Rosemary Braithwaite, John Illingworth's cousin. I take it you're a friend of his?" She glanced at the car as she said this, then switched back to Helen, looking her up and down in a supercilious way. Rosie had had to eat Eleanor Rimington's humble pie all afternoon. She was going to make damned sure this cheap chit of a girl was going to eat hers. Yet beneath her snotty attitude Rosie was consumed with jealousy and showed it, no matter how hard she tried to hide it.

"Not really a friend," stammered Helen. "I work in the same office and we just happened to meet this afternoon and he offered me a run in his car. I didn't think for one moment we'd end up here."

Rosemary let her eyes wander disdainfully over the other's dress and said, "So it seems." She laid on her upper-class accent, which she pulled down her nose, for as soon as Helen had opened her mouth, Rosemary had sized her up and set out to put her in her place. All she said by way of reply to Helen was "Oh!" And that sticky "Oh!" said everything. So did the look that went with it.

She said not another word to Helen but turned to Clemence with, "I'll take up your offer to drive me home, Harry." And with that she stalked across the car-park to Clemence's Aston Martin with Harry in tow and got into his car. They had to pass Helen on the way out, but they ignored her. Harry was too busy putting his car through its paces to impress Rosemary, but she was more interested in the girl and took a second longer look at her through the driving mirror. As she stared, she became more jealous than ever. She had a gut feeling that he'd fallen for real this time. When she saw them together, it confirmed it.


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