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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 53 - Joe Cannot Find Work

Joe, an ardent supporter of his trade union, has now been unemployed for two years.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story which is set in a Yorkshire mill town. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Joe's reaction to Helen's engagement was predictable. He suspected John Illingworth's motives and firmly believed he'd abandon her and break it off once he reached Australia. Indeed, he half believed John had been sent there by his dad and would stay there indefinitely to get out of marrying Helen. It had happened before.

He felt betrayed by everyone, for he got little sympathy from his wife. It would have helped if John Illingworth had come to him and asked for her hand in marriage in the proper way. But no, the engagement had been sprung on him without so much as a by your leave or with your leave and he first learned of it through Mary.

They were eating their evening meal when she told him, having seen Helen in Bradford the previous day. She had to be very diplomatic for Joe had been out of work the better part of two years now and was very depressed. When she told him, he scowled and said they might have come to him first as Helen's guardian. "Be reasonable, Joe," she said gently. He were hardly likely to come and see thee after what fha did to him, were he? An' that meeting tha had wi' his father just about put t'lid on it. He were hammered from both sides, by thee and then by his father. They'd nobody to turn to but theirsels."

Joe said nothing, but she saw how hurt he was and knew he missed Helen. Her leaving had left a great gap in both their lives. Joe was too proud to see her in Bradford, and if he'd met Mrs Simpson it would have finished him, so Mary never encouraged him to go.

Joe ate the rest of his meal in silence, turning over in his mind all that had happened since the fatal day he'd beaten up John Illingworth. That visit to Illingworth House had been a fiasco, but it wasn't his fault. He'd gone there in good faith prepared to let bygones be bygones, but now he and Abe Illingworth were further apart than ever.

When he'd finished eating, he sat by the fire smoking his pipe, but Mary knew he was fretting. He gazed into the fire blankly then heaved a great sigh. "When she said she were engaged, did she ever mention about coming back for a visit?" he asked at length.

"No," Mary replied. "Every time Ah mention it she makes excuses. She's still ashamed at thee seeing her and John that day. She says she'll come back when things have settled down, when they've fixed a date for their wedding. She wants to get wed at Trinity Church an' she'll have to see thee then, that's for sure."

"What does his father think o' that? He wants nowt to do wi' her an' were determined to force 'em apart. If he's like that now, what's he bahn to be like when they wed - if they get wed? He's two-faced, an' Ah don't trust his lad either."

Mary said she had no idea how things stood between Helen and her future father-in-law. But she lied. Helen had told her that Sir Abe ignored her completely at work and cleared off whenever John took her home. What she didn't know was that after Joe's visit to Illingworth House, Sir Abe had gone out of his way to queer Joe's pitch. The foundry-masters in Keighworth were freemasons like Sir Abe, who put the poison down at his lodge so that Joe was turned down every time he went for a job.

Moreover, Joe was a strong union man and had been shop steward at his last job. He had always spoken his mind and though he was popular with the men, he was anathema to the bosses. Mary had said time and again that he ought not to be so involved. Union men were always the first to go when trade became bad.

By this time Mary was washing up in the scullery, and asked him how he had gone on that day seeking work. When he said he had drawn another blank she couldn't help saying tartly over her shoulder, "It's because of thy union work. Ah've kept tellin' thee for years it'd do thee no good. Now it's happening."
Normally Joe would have snapped back, but there was no answer. When she went into the living room, she realised why. Joe sat crumpled in the chair, his head in his hands. She went at once and knelt by him. "Ah'm sorry, Joe. Ah shouldn't have said that. Ah didn't mean it. Tha'll find summat soon. Tha's allus been a good worker an' they can't go turnin' thee down forever. Things'll pick up."

He didn't reply, only drawing her to him and holding her tight, pushing his face in her hair. She began weeping for him and when she stood up had to wipe her face with her pinny, before whispering, "We'll pull through, Joe. We allus have."

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