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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 40 - An Ultimatum For Sir Abe Illingworth

Sir Abe Illlingworth is determined to end his son John's romance with Helen Greenwood.

John Waddington-Feather continues his vivid account of the turbulent lives of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

John drove straight home feeling rotten. His whole face was bruised and puffy as an ugly swelling spread from his nose across both cheeks. He sneaked in the back way through the kitchen, hoping his father had gone to bed, but he was still awake. He worried over his son's lateness and never retired till he came in. Hearing him put the car in the garage, Sir Abe slipped on his dressing gown and went downstairs. Johnson, the butler, was making John a hot drink and had applied a compress to his face.

"What the devil's happened?" gasped Sir Abe standing in the doorway. When he went to look more closely at his son, Johnson discreetly withdrew. "For God's sake, tell me what's happened, John. You haven't crashed your car, have you?"

John was tempted to say he had but his car was unmarked. He told his father he would be all right and not to fuss, but Sir Abe pressed him to tell him what had happened and his son realised he couldn't lie his way out of it any more. He had been keeping quiet about Helen for months. Now he had to come clean and told his father to sit down.

"You might as well know, dad," he began. "I've been going out with Helen Greenwood for months." Then he went on to tell his father all that happened that day. How Joe had blundered across them courting on Stancliff Moor and had lost his temper. How he had been beaten up. How Helen had left home and gone to live in Bradford.

His father heard him in silence, but as soon as he had finished he burst out, "You bloody fool, John! Will you never learn? You've landed yourself right in it this time. I'll have that fellow Gibson put away for this. I'll speak to Grimstone in the morning."
Then he went on to say that he had seen all along what would happen if his son continued to see that girl. How he could get himself mixed up with a little tart like that, he would never know. He would get Mary Calow to sack her at once."

"You mustn't speak of her like that!" John retaliated, and the way he flared up and shouted at his father, took Sir Abe by surprise. "You stay well out, dad! This is none of your business. It's my affair. You'll do absolutely nothing to Helen. Understand?"

"Nothing!" his father bellowed. "Don't talk to me like that! The girl leaves first thing tomorrow morning. Mary Calow should never have set her on in the first place, knowing her background."

John Illingworth stood up and faced his father squarely. "If she goes, I go, too," he said quietly, and the determination in his voice left his father in no doubt of his intention. "She does not leave and you will do nothing, dad, nor will you or Mary Calow say anything to her." He paused to let his words sink in then added, "I love her, dad. I love her more than I can tell."

His father was shaking by now and, unable to control himself, sneered, "Love her! You're out of your mind. When you brought her here and got her drunk, you should have realised what sort of woman she was and the kind of family she came from. And now, when her brother-in-law, or whatever he is, does this to you.. .you say you love her. You're not in love, boy. You're crazy!"

John was stung by his father's words but stayed calm. He remained silent a while, bathing his face, then said bitingly, "What do you know about love? You've had your bit of fun with Mary Calow for years, ever since I can remember. Don't preach to me about love. You don't know the meaning of the word."

His father turned away and bit his lip. All he could muster was, "That's a cheap remark."

"But it's true," said John. "Ask Mary Calow, dad." Then, as his father turned to leave, he shook him rigid by saying, "I'm going to marry Helen, dad. I swear it."

Sir Abe turned back into the room and sat down at the table opposite his son. "Now look, Jonty," he began and his voice had dropped to a whisper. He spoke soothingly and called his son by his pet name. "I'm tired and crotchety. I've said things I shouldn't and I'm sorry. I've nothing against the girl personally, only her family. But let's be fair, Jonty, you hardly know her. Just because.. .just because this has happened, it doesn't mean you have to wed her. For heaven's sake don't rush into things. Think things over. Give it time, then you'll see it in a different light."

He paused, then staring at his son, added quickly, "You haven't actually asked her to marry you, have you?"

John gave him a look of contempt and didn't answer, which his father took to mean he hadn't proposed. He felt relieved and changed the subject, saying he was going to send for a doctor.

Dr Brodie came straight away and wanted to admit John to hospital, but he would have none of it, so he said he would see him again the next day.

As soon as he'd gone, John went to bed exhausted, but his father retired to his study to think things out and poured himself a whisky. Matters between his son and that girl had gone further than he thought. She had got her hooks well and truly anchored in him and the sooner they were got out, the better. He just couldn't marry that little chit. It would be a disaster all round, for himself and the family. All his hopes and aspirations for his son would be dashed at one go, if he wed a working-class lass. It was unthinkable. He would be a laughing stock right through the county.

After his third whisky, he had worked out how he would end the affair. He was opening a new mill in Australia and Simon Grimstone was going out there to tie up the legal ends. He would send John with him. That would solve everything, if Grimstone could pull it off. If his son could be kept away from the woman for some months, it would give time for the affair to cool, and she might even pick up with someone else in his absence. He would have a word with Grimstone. He would know how to end this ridiculous affair.

Satisfied with what he'd done, Sir Abe took himself off to bed, pausing, as he often did, before the family portraits hanging like icons along the hallway and up the staircase leading to his bedroom. His entire hopes rested on his son continuing their success and adding to the family prestige and wealth. No way would he allow him to ally himself to Helen Greenwood.

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