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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 54 - Mary Calow Shocks Sir Abe

Mary Calow tells Sir Abe why she has decided to leave Illingworths.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's engrossing novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Helen never told her sister the crises she went through at work after John had left. She always appeared bright and breezy, hiding a chronic depression. Her cough, too, hadn't cleared and that worried Mary. Helen was also desperately lonely when John had gone. Apart from Dorothy Simpson she had no friends, and that friendship soured soon after John left.

When it became known how Sir Abe felt about the engagement, the staff at work began to distance themselves from her, including Dorothy Simpson. A new girl from out of town was appointed in the office and Dorothy Simpson was all over her at once. Her mother had cleared out the other lumber room and the new girl moved in. The Simpsons made sure she didn't meet Helen, and that left her out on a limb. She would have gone back to Prospect Street but was too proud to do that.

Apart from shopping with Mary when she visited, she rarely went out but stayed cooped up in her room reading. Her cough became worse, but she didn't see a doctor, trying to cure it with medicine she bought from the chemist's. She was becoming desperate when friendship came from an unexpected quarter, Mary Calow.

When Sir Abe and the rest began giving Helen the cold shoulder at work, Mary Calow asked her to tea at her cottage. Relations between Mary Calow and Sir Abe were becoming more and more strained. She was appalled at the way he was treating Helen and the bitterness she felt at his using her as a cheap mistress added to the growing rift between them. Perhaps she saw much of herself in Helen, something of her own past in Helen's love for John, except his father had never considered marrying her.

At first, she tried making Abe Illingworth see sense and accept Helen as his future daughter-in-law. But he had set his face against her and Mary gave up trying. What she wasn't aware of, however, was that the rest of the staff was ganging up on Helen. Harry Clemence orchestrated it, for Sir Abe had told him to make life as unpleasant as possible for Helen so that she would leave. When he told his wife what her uncle had asked him to do, Rosemary was delighted. The quicker her cousin was free again, the quicker she could start making up to him. She never lost her craving after him and it became stronger the more her marriage failed.

The outcome was twofold. Helen became isolated and Mary Calow's long-standing affair with Abe Illingworth died the death. There is nothing more bitter than soured love and Mary Calow's love turned to hate; so full of hatred did she become that she made plans to leave.

She was a meticulous planner and never acted rashly. When the time came for her to leave, Sir Abe was stunned, having no idea what was coming. Their appearance at the Goldsteins' wedding was the last time they went out together in public. She had acted as his hostess for years at Illingworth House and escorted him to countless functions elsewhere. Now, she began making excuses and when he began turning up by himself, tongues began to wag in Keighworth.
By sheer chance on holiday she met a London financier, who had an office in Bradford and visited the city regularly. Their friendship blossomed and he invited her to London to stay with him, all unknown to Abe Illingworth. The financier was a widower and lonely, and as they shared many interests like the theatre, music and books, their friendship turned to love. He proposed to her and she accepted.

She returned to Yorkshire relishing telling Sir Abe. She had to take him his mail each morning and the Monday morning after getting engaged, she slipped in her notice to quit among the morning post.

As he skimmed through the mail, he recognised her handwriting and opened her letter immediately. She was typing in the same room watching him closely, savouring each moment when he opened her letter and began reading it.

Disbelief, then shock spread across his face.

"Is this some kind of joke, Mary?" he said slowly at length.

"No, Abe, it isn't," she replied in a firm voice. "I've never been more serious."

He was lost for words and his eyes dropped again to the letter. When he raised them, there was pain as well as disbelief. "Why? What have I done?" he said in a small voice. "Am I not paying you enough? Is that it?"

True to form, money had to come into it and she smiled cynically. "You ought to be asking yourself what you haven't done, Abe," she replied levelly, though she wanted to shout at him at the top of her voice. "But I'll tell you why I'm leaving. Quite simply you've killed any love I had for you and I'm tired of being your woman. I want to be loved - not owned. And I want to marry the man I love, not simply be at his beck and call. I don't want to marry a bully and a snob."

He flinched when she said this. "You can't be serious. After all these years you must know I love you. Sit down, my dear, and let's talk this over. You can't be well. You're not yourself I can see that. You can't leave me just like this. I don't know what to say. You know I can't manage without you. You know that."

"You should have thought that of that before, Abe. Now you'll have to get used to doing without me, won't you?" she said tight-lipped. "You've got one month to try, and while I'm still here you also have one month to try and help that poor girl who's engaged to your son. She's going through hell here."

Anger replaced the hurt in his eyes. "So that's what's at the bottom of it," he thought to himself and snarled, "That's no concern of yours!"

She sighed and prepared to leave. "You haven't understood, have you? You just haven't got it in your makeup to understand, but now it's too late." Then she added wistfully, "There was a time when I loved you deeply, Abe. As deeply as Helen Greenwood loves your son, and I wanted to be your wife as she wants to be his. Thank God he's more sense, more about him than you. I waited years for you to marry me, but no. I wasn't good enough. I came from the wrong class and you went on paying me, using me, Abe. I became just another asset to you at Illingworths, part and parcel of its business, never of your life. Well, all that's over and I'm part of it no longer!"

He stood sullen and said nothing, so she said with heavy sarcasm, "If there's nothing else, I'll get back to my office - sir!"

He stood silent, still holding her letter, and as he didn't reply, she turned abruptly and left the room.

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