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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 48 - Sir Abe Is Determined To Have His Way

Sir Abe Illingworth and Mary Calow near a parting of the ways.

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

Mary Calow left with Sir Abe, who dropped her off at her cottage in Deneley. a small hamlet near Keighworth. Usually, when he'd stayed late at a function, he stayed the night with her. It was done discreetly, of course. He would never have compromised his name by doing anything openly, so that, as is the way of the world, everyone knew she was his mistress, but pretended otherwise. If you stuck to the rules you were accepted. If not, you were out. They had both stuck to the rules ever since they began playing their game years before.

The cottage stood some distance from the village, up a long lane. For years, Abe Illingworth had come and gone as he pleased, but that night marked a turning point in their relationship. He didn't stay but drove on home, saying he had some important business to attend to, and Mary Calow was glad.

Once he had got over the shock of his son's engagement, he'd raged about Helen all the way back, till Mary Calow was sick of it. She listened to him stonily, hiding her bitterness about her own affair with Abe Illingworth, which had turned sour. She had begun to loath him, more so now that she had learned what John had done for Helen; she had hoped his father would have done the same for her years before. But he never did. She remained just his woman, not his wife. She was over forty and had given him the best years of her life, for what?

When Sir Abe went on and on about his son being too good for an upstart office girl, it was the last straw. Mary Calow had once been an upstart office girl, taken advantage of by Sir Abe, and he married at the time. She had fallen for him, as Helen had fallen for his son, and now he was telling her that Helen was little better than a slut and had to be got rid of.

Just before they reached her cottage, she brought him up short by telling him he was being foolish. If he wasn't careful he would lose his son, for his son genuinely loved the girl and she would make him a good wife. But he would have none of it. It only angered him more and made him hell-bent on breaking the engagement.

He only grunted when she said he was acting foolishly and dropped her at her gate with a sulk on his face. He spoke brusquely and she gave him a cool goodnight. He was to regret bitterly all he had said that night, on the way home.

When he arrived at Illingworth House, he sat up drinking, waiting for John's return, but it was well after midnight before John showed up. Noticing a light on in the lounge, he went in. One glance at the near empty whisky bottle told him what he was in for. He wished his dad a cheery goodnight and tried to leave, but Sir Abe called him back.

Sir Abe always called him by his pet name when he buttered him up. "Jonty, I'd like a word with you," he said, his voice thick with liquor.

John swung round. He was tired and in no mood to listen to a lecture. "If it's about Helen, forget it, dad! " he said angrily. "You treated her rotten at the reception!"

His father didn't retaliate but calmly swirled the whisky around his glass. He rather took the wind out of his son's sails by saying he was sorry, but said nothing about how he had been planning for the past three hours what he was going to do to scupper the engagement. He agreed he had acted churlishly but made the excuse that the engagement had been sprung on him, and he wanted to apologise now that he'd had time to think it over.

Surprised by his father's sudden change, John came back and flung himself into a chair. He loosened his tie, took off his jacket and shook off his shoes, as Sir Abe poured him a nightcap.

"If you're determined to marry her, there's not much I can do about it, Jonty," he continued. "I suppose I'm too set in my ways to change, but there it is. It's the way I've always been, the way we've always looked at things in our family - and you're part of it, lad, never forget that! In fact the only part I'm really interested in and I don't want to see you hurt. Marrying someone of Helen Greenwood's background and upbringing is new to our family, Jonty. You can't blame me for being cautious, can you? I only ask you not to do anything rash. Please wait, Jonty. Wait a while, till you get back...a few months, that's all I ask. You and Helen barely know each other."

He sounded like sweet reason itself, and John would have been placated if his father had continued along that tack. But he didn't. In spite of himself, Sir Abe had to switch back to her background, about her not fitting in. Was he quite sure he wanted to marry?

John bit his tongue and held on to his temper. He knew his father was being devious and he wanted to go to bed. He didn't want to finish a happy day with a row, which had become commonplace these past few months. He drained his glass and put it down jaded, waving away his father's offer of another drink.
"I'm done in, dad," he said wearily, picking up his jacket and shoes. "Please yourself what you think about Helen, but get this straight, I love her and shall marry her as soon as I get back. That's final!"

His father bit his lip. "Please yourself," was all he said sulkily. "I'm only acting for the best."

Sir Abe knew he had to play his cards cannily. He could not afford to push John too far. He was his only child. The future of the Illingworth dynasty depended on him. As John left the room, Sir Abe knew he had only one card to play: Simon Grimstone. He was seeing him the next day, for a final briefing for the trip to Australia.

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