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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 52 - Helen Says Farewell To John

Helen says goodbye to her beloved John as he sets out for Australia.

John Waddington-Feather continues his engaging story which revolves around a Yorkshire mill-owning family. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The day following his visit to Mrs Simpson, there was a hint of snow. A scutter of flakes had fallen before dawn, as the little group in Harry Clemence's Rolls drove into the forecourt of Bradford Station. The sky was leaden and grey; Bradford looked greyer. Smoke from the mills hung like a curtain, darkening the sky and making the air acrid. There was no wind and the forest of chimneys belched out their soot straight onto the streets.

Though it was barely light (and daylight had a job on its hands getting into Bradford that day) workers clattered, clog-shod, to work. Ghostly, buttoned-up, flat-capped figures loomed from the fog, where gas-lamps in mournful rows made little impression. Even the new electric lamps along the main roads served only as guides for pedestrians and motorists alike, illuminating little, beyond small patches of ground around them.

Helen had risen early to make her own way to the station and still coughing badly in the raw air, she was waiting for John as he drove in, accompanied by Grimstone and Clemence. His father would have driven him in, but he had said his goodbyes at home, suspecting Helen would be at the station to see him off. So Clemence had been delegated to pick up both John and Grimstone from Illingworth House.

Once they had arrived, Clemence and Grimstone attended to the luggage, while John crossed the forecourt to meet Helen. Neither Clemence nor Grimstone spoke to her till the last minute, busying themselves with cases then hurrying off with the porters. The other couple followed slowly behind, giving Grimstone the chance to speak with Clemence alone, for he had promised Rosemary he would bring up the subject of Harry's woman in Blackpool before he left.

"I haven't been able to see you, Harry, since I saw Rosie the other night," he began.

"She said you'd dropped in," said Harry, giving the lawyer a suspicious glance.

"She was in a hell of a state when I got home from the office. She was as drunk as a coot and I couldn't get any sense out of her. I was up half the night with Rodney, for she wasn't capable of doing anything."

"Don't blame me," said Grimstone brusquely. "She was pretty well gone when I arrived and I didn't stay two minutes. She didn't by chance mention what we discussed, did she?"

Clemence shot him another glance. "No. She never does," he said irritably. "You know what the Illingworths are like. As tight as oysters when it comes to family. Why? Is there summat I ought to know about?"

By this time they had reached the waiting-room and he opened the door for Grimstone to pass through, searching his face. But there was nothing there and the lawyer said nothing till he had warmed his hands at the fire. "She thinks there is," he said at length, keeping his eyes on the blaze.

"Thinks what?" asked Harry, still watching him closely.

"Well if you must know, she's found out about your lady friend in Blackpool, Harry. She wouldn't say who told her, and it certainly wasn't me," he said looking up for the first time with a yellow-toothed grin. "You'll have to be more careful, lad, else the cat'll be out of the bag. Just watch your step when you're walking out in Blackpool. The place is full of eyes and ears. Allus has been. You've been seen walking out with Millie. Whoever saw you, told Rosie you were wrapped round each other - and that takes some doing with Millie, I bet." He winked and Harry grinned shamefacedly.

"I hope you put Rosie's mind at rest, Simon. Y'know what women are like, and I wouldn't want her saying owt to her uncle. He'd be down on me like a ton of bricks. I'm very fond of Rosie, but since we've got wed she's changed and she isn't allus my cup of tea, if you see what I mean, Simon."

"And Millie brews a good pot, eh?" Grimstone replied with another yellow grin.

"Aye, I see what you mean, all right, Harry."

Clemence didn't seem pleased but said, "I can trust you to keep quiet, can't I? I mean, I wouldn't want owt to happen now; not when everything's going all right at work. I'm in line for another promotion, y'know, and if her uncle got wind of the Blackpool jaunt, I can kiss goodbye to that. There's nowt in it anyhow, only a bit of fun. We all like our bits of fun, don't we, Simon?"

"At the right place and time," was all Grimstone said, then nodded over Clemence's shoulder at John and Helen who had just come through the door locked in each other's arms. They avoided Clemence and Grimstone and went to the other end of the room. "He's certainly had his bit of fun with her this past year," whispered Grimstone.

Harry turned to look at them then huddled closer to the fire. "D'you think it'll come to owt?" he said. "Or will it fizzle out. His dad's dead against it."

"Time'll tell," Grimstone replied cagily. "Like you say, Sir Abe's dead against it. He hates her guts! And who knows what'll happen while he's abroad."

The London train drew in, ending their conversation with a loud rush of steam and a squealing of brakes. As they stepped outside, they were enveloped in a cloud of steam and Grimstone made his way to his carriage. He shook his friend's hand, then climbed aboard to find their seats, leaving Harry standing on the platform to see him off, jogging up and down to keep his feet warm.

A short distance away, John and Helen clung to each other as long as possible, then when the guard blew his whistle, John gave her a final kiss and clambered aboard. "You'll write soon, won't you, darling?" she said as the train drew away.

"Every day!" he shouted back.

She remained waving goodbye till the train disappeared from sight in the fog, then she was left standing alone on the platform with Clemence. He spoke to her for the first time, mumbling something about having to be early at the office.

Then he left her.


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