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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 28 - The Arcade Cake And Coffee Shop

The devious Simon Grimstone enjoys needling Rosemary Braithwaite.

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

Shortly after she re-married, Victoria Kingham-Jones invested in a superior sort of cakeshop and cafe in the middle of Keighworth. It was patronised by an upper class clique, for Victoria came from the most upper-crustian clan in Keighworth. She went regularly to London and bought her clothes from fashionable shops there and she employed a Londoner with a mouth full of plums for an accent and a patronising manner to be manageress of her cakeshop-cum-cafe in Keighworth.

The whole place was very twee and had been done out in the latest art decor style, all chrome and plastic. It had its own car-park, in itself a symbol of status, and those who parked, had expensive cars. It was the done thing to have coffee at the Arcade Coffee House and to hold court on the rest of Keighworth.

The elite went there daily for their coffee, closing ranks when any outsider threatened their coven. To enter their coven demanded higher credentials than joining their husbands' masonic lodge.

The Arcade Cake and Coffee Shop was in the middle of a fine Victorian crescent, which ran under a variety of offices in Keighworth's main street, which ran directly north from the parish church. It lay at the heart of the town where all the business was done. A collection of banks and building societies graced one side of the street, at the end of which were exclusive dress-shops. The offices of lawyers, the better sort of accountants and estate agents (freemasons to a man) stood on the other side of the street and the Town Hall itself lay immediately off it, opposite the bus station.

A fashionable gown shop was on the right of the cake-shop and an expensive jewellers to its left. Victoria's sense of the haute monde plumped for the property between them and her shop flourished. Few males patronised her shop. Keighworth males were more at home in their clubs and pubs. But one man went there daily and was a great favourite with the ladies. That man was Simon Grimstone.

He dropped in for his coffee break each day for his office wasn't far away. He was a ladies' man and enjoyed chatting with them, but he was a great listener, too. The Crescent Cake and Coffee Shop was a crucible of scandal, poured in, well and truly mixed, warmed up and poured out each day into Keighworth by the coven of ladies who went there. Grimstone made it his business to trawl through the gossip and if litigation was necessary, he was on hand - there to offer advice freely if not free. He made sure of that. And even if there were scandalous affairs not leading to litigation, he was still there to hear all about them, encouraging the ladies to disgorge their news and secrets, like the good lawyer he was.

Many confided their most intimate affairs to him, for he held a strange fascination for some women. Young as she was, Rosemary Braithwaite was one such. He was a kind of father figure and she'd had his ear for some time. He knew all about her passion for John Illingworth and her many affairs. After the fiasco at the garden party, he was ready to listen and offer a shoulder to weep on, to wheedle out from her every detail. He had heard from his friend, Clemence, how upset she'd been when Illingworth had turned up with Helen Greenwood, but Clemence had said nothing about subsequent events in her bedroom and the summerhouse at Ashworth House.

Grimstone was seated in his usual place, in a bow window overlooking the busy street outside. It was somewhat removed from the other tables there, where he couldn't be overheard, yet could see all who came and went. The window was curtained so he couldn't be seen from the street, yet could observe all that went on there, too. It was there that Rosemary joined him, the Monday after the garden party.

"I gather there was a bit of excitement at the Grange on Saturday," he began, casually stirring his coffee but never letting his cold eyes leave her face.

Rosemary launched straight away into the row there had been between her uncle and John Illingworth. "Uncle Abe was furious with John," she began. "He had got that Rimington girl all lined up for him and he didn't turn up till she'd left." Then she added spitefully, "He did it on purpose and I can't say I blame him. She's pathetic, like lettuce left out overnight."

Grimstone gave his soft chuckle and began stirring his coffee slowly, contemplating the depths of his coffee cup. "But a little bird told me he turned up with someone else," he said, looking up suddenly, watching the angry flush spread over Rosemary's face.

"Some girl from his office in Bradford," she said brusquely. "A Keighworth girl, I understand," she added, trying to sound unconcerned. "She's from Garlic Lane. I'm surprised they set her on. I'd have thought there were enough girls in Bradford from a better class. She must be common coming from Garlic Lane."

"She's not," said the lawyer firmly. "She's efficient, well educated and read, and she's very intelligent. Pretty, too. Not the usual run of office girls I can assure you."

"You've met her then."

"Several times. I'm impressed more each time. Your cousin John's sold on her," said Grimstone. He was enjoying aggravating her, playing with her.

"You seem sold on her yourself," said Rosemary, pouting.

"Oh come on," said the lawyer. "I set my sights higher than office girls. I meet them every day, but give her her due, Rosie, she may not be in the same bracket as you but she's a lot going for her. Mary Calow speaks very highly of her."

He knew he was needling her praising Helen Greenwood and watched Rosie take out a cigarette. She lit it and inhaled deeply, then blew out a cloud of smoke. "Let's drop the subject," she said tersely. "All I'm trying to say is that Uncle Abe isn't at all pleased with him. He'll nip that little romance in the bud before long."

"He might have it nipped by someone else first," said Grimstone mysteriously.

"Who?" asked Rosie quickly.

"Helen Greenwood's folks. They weren't at all pleased with John taking her home sloshed. I gather he had a pretty hot reception there and was told never to darken the doorstep again. Joe Gibson, her brother-in-law, nearly sorted John out. He was lucky to get away in one piece. But if he will associate with her type, what can you expect?"

Rosie looked pleased for the first time that morning. "Jolly well serve him right," she said. "Serve her right, too. That'll teach her to step out of line. She'll know her place from now on. And one thing's for sure, she won't be visiting Illingworth House again."

Grimstone finished his coffee and dabbed his mouth delicately with his napkin. He'd stopped smiling and looked serious. "I wouldn't be too sure about that, Rosie. If this affair weathers the storm, John won't be put off by his dad, like he used to be. He's changed. He's his own master these days and he's head over heels in love with her, that's for sure. He can't stop talking about her."

"Sod him!" burst out Rosie, stubbing her cigarette fiercely in the ash-tray. "I don't care!"

But Grimstone smiled as he got up to return to his office. He knew she cared a great deal, and he told his good friend Harry Clemence so.

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