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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 32 - Set Another Place At Our Meal

Sarah Levy introduces Sydney to her parents, dreading their reaction.

John Waddington-Feather continues his Yorkshire saga. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

It wasn't far to where she lived, in a small row of dowdy Victorian cottages, on the edge of the park. Most of the community there were Jews working in the clothing factories downtown, where her father rented a ramshackle one-roomed lock-up shop.

As a result, Jacob Levi did most of his work at home, which was as cluttered as his shop. He had a workshop in the back room and the front, where they lived and dined, was full of knick-knacks and family ornaments brought over from Europe when the Levis had immigrated. Heavy curtains made the room dark and a range of Sabbath candlesticks filled the window ledge.

It was early closing and Jacob was home, waiting for his daughter. He had cooked the evening meal, as his wife was too crippled to move far from her chair. While they waited, he busied himself in the workroom at the back and was there when the couple arrived and dropped their bombshell.

Jacob was of average height but had a pronounced stoop from bending over his work. He was in his late fifties and had a shock of grizzled hair, once as black as his daughter's. He had a bushy grey moustache, heavy like the men folk of eastern
Europe and, like them, he had a quick temper when roused. But usually, he was a mild man, easy-going and tolerant like many Jews who had suffered persecution.

His wife occupied a chair near the fire and though it was high summer, the fire was lit and the room very warm, for Mrs Levi suffered badly from arthritis. She had once been a beauty like her daughter but time had ravaged her. Her face was creased and wrinkled and her hands badly affected by rheumatism. Her hair was still black, like her daughter's but she wore it coiled. She had come to Britain from Eastern Germany, about the same time as her husband had come in from Russia, at the turn of the century, and they both still spoke with heavy accents.

When he heard his daughter enter, Jacob Levi came in from the back room, his face lit up, but immediately he saw Sydney behind her, the smile vanished. He was courteous enough when she introduced him, but flashed suspicious glances at Sydney all the time he spoke. He remarked rather sharply that his daughter was late. He would have to warm up their meal and he glanced accusingly at Sydney. Mrs Levi remained silent, staring intently at Sydney, sizing him up. Neither invited him to sit down, so Sarah drew him into the middle of the room, so that they both stood awkwardly, opposite her parents.

Her father moved close to her mother, putting his hand on her shoulder. They had guessed what was to come and were fearful of what to say or do. Their simple home and their way of life were at odds with the well-spoken, expensively dressed, young
man before them and they both stared intently at him, with a hint of hostility in their eyes.

Sydney didn't beat about the bush and said, "I've asked your daughter to marry me and she's accepted. I'd like your permission to marry her, please."

The words torrented out and when he'd done, he paused. His throat was dry and his heart racing. He ran his finger nervously round his collar and gripped Sarah's hand harder, as he awaited their reply.

The old man looked perplexed and turning to his wife said, "What do I say, momma?"

There was an awful pause, then, "What can I say? I've never met him before!"

Mrs Levi reached up and put her hand on her husband's. She smiled, then said, "Set another place at our meal." She opened her arms and Sarah ran across to embrace her and Jacob went to hug his future son-in-law.

Sydney stayed late that night, not returning home till dark. He had to break the news to his father and waited till they had their usual night-cap together. His father didn't seem surprised when told his son was going to marry. He said he'd suspected it for some time and become resigned to it. When he met Sarah the next day, he conceded that Sydney had made a good choice. Far from losing his son, which he feared, he
soon learned he had gained a very loving daughter.


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