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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 57 - None Of Your Business

Helen, increasingly ill, has a row with Mrs Simpson and is forced to leave her lodgings.

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When she went down to breakfast the next morning, she was confronted by a very buttoned-up Mrs Simpson seated opposite. Normally, her daughter and the new girl would have been there, but they had eaten already and gone to work. Helen soon found out why.

Ever since Dorothy Simpson told her mother that Sir Abe wanted Helen out, and then after Grimstone's visit, the atmosphere became more and more strained. Mrs Simpson was doing her best to get rid of Helen, but was torn. If she hung on long enough and let Helen stay till the lawyer returned, then she knew there was a hefty payment in the offing for holding onto John's letters. On the other hand, she could let Helen's room to another new clerk at Illingworths. Dorothy Simpson, too, had to consider her position at work. By keeping in with Clemence she was sure of promotion (he'd said as much) so she was doing her damnest to make life miserable for Helen.

The day after that nightmare visit to the doctor's and the encounter with Maggie, Helen went down to breakfast expecting the worst. She felt and looked rotten but Mrs Simpson pitched into her at once about coming in late. She knew nothing about Helen's visit to the doctor, of course, though she found her constant coughing tiresome and had said so.

Her house had always been a respectable house, she said, and she didn't want it getting a bad name now. It had been all right when she had been seeing Mr Illingworth. He was a gentleman, like his father and grandfather before him, and all Bradford knew that, especially Mrs Simpson's friends and neighbours. But Mr Illingworth had gone abroad and she was worried Helen might be seeing.. .well, people who were not very pleasant. Coming in at such a late hour didn't look good at all.

Helen remained silent pecking at her breakfast and coughing. It irritated Mrs Simpson who sipped her tea and waited for an answer, but Helen said nothing, so she went over again what she had just said.

"Helen, my dear," she began in her squeaky voice, "I do wish you'd say something. I was quite worried last night how late you were coming in
and in such a state. I don't want to intrude into your private affairs, but all sorts of interpretations could be put on it. If you confided in me a little more it would help. I've always been concerned about the welfare of any girl staying here, as much as I am with my own daughter."

She peered over the teacup and stared pointedly at Helen's untouched meal. "You seem to have lost your appetite of late, Helen. Is anything the matter? You look quite pale...and this business of being sick each morning.. .well, it does seem odd. I don't know what to think." As there was no reply, Mrs Simpson cleared her throat and came to the point. "Helen you appear to have lost your tongue as well as your appetite. I want a straight answer. You're not in trouble are you? I must know. I don't want any scandal in this house. You can't stay here if you're in any kind of trouble."

Helen snapped.

"Yes, I am in trouble, but it's none of your damned business, Mrs Simpson!" she exclaimed.

The other bridled and slid stiff-backed to the edge of her chair. Her eyes flashed and her blue-rinsed curls shook angrily. "Really! I will not tolerate that kind of language here. I only asked a civil question."

"And you bloody well got your straight answer," flared Helen, past caring. "I've had enough of this place and I've taken all I can. For God's sake, keep your big nose out of my affairs!"

Mrs Simpson went red in the face, pursed her lips then hissed, "You're nothing more than a tart! I should have realised it when I knew where you came from. You will not use the language of the gutter to me, madam! I've had my doubts about you for some time and I know you're pregnant. You can take a week's notice to find somewhere else, if you can find any place which will take you in; but one thing's for sure, you're not going to stay here and give my house a bad name!"

Helen got to her feet and left the room, slamming the door behind her. She left at once for the office, where Dorothy Simpson avoided her like the plague all morning, but Helen collared her at lunchtime as she tried to slope out with her friend.

"Dorothy," she began, "your mother and I had words this morning. I felt you ought to know, for I shall be leaving your place at the end of the week."

The other avoided Helen's eye. "That's all right. We've been expecting this for some time," she said pouting and began to walk away, but Helen caught her arm.

"Dorothy, I've no quarrel with you. You helped me out of a tight spot once and I'd like you to help me again. You know Bradford better than me. Could you recommend somewhere I could live? Somewhere not too pricey."

Dorothy Simpson stuck her head in the air and said sulkily, "You can always go back to Keighworth. If not, look at the ads in the evening paper." She shook herself free and stalked out to re-join her friend, leaving Helen alone in the office. She returned to her desk feeling sick. Her head burned and a spasm of coughing gripped her chest. She put her handkerchief to her mouth and lay her head on her hands till the spasm passed, flinching when she saw how blood-stained her hankie was.

The office door opened unexpectedly and she quickly put her hankie away. She turned to see who had come in and was surprised to see Sir Abe, who rarely came down to the main office. He had called to drop in some papers for the new supervisor to look over and was as surprised as Helen.

When he saw her he hesitated, but collected himself and continued through the office ignoring her. It was then that she decided to tell him she was pregnant.

"May I have a word with you, sir?" she said hesitantly.

He knit his eyebrows and glared at her. "I'm very busy. What do you want?" he snapped.

"I don't know how to begin, sir," she whispered, then said quickly, "I'm having a baby. John's. Can you help me, please? I desperately need help."

He was about to walk away, but stopped, staring hard at her and gathering his thoughts. Then he said coldly, "That's no concern of mine. You must see your own family and sort it out with them. You know how I feel about the whole business." And his parting shot to her before he left was, "Anyway, how do you know it's my son's child? He's been out of the country these past few months. Don't try pulling any fast ones on me, young woman! I'm too old to be taken in by that tale."

He hurried to the door, but paused long enough to say, "If it's sympathy you're after, why don't you see Miss Calow or whatever she calls herself since she got married. You and she were pretty close before she left." Then, without more ado, he stormed out of the office.

She sat stunned, hardly able to believe what she had heard, but his insults were to backfire. It had never crossed her mind to approach Mary Calow. She dreaded having to tell her sister but Mary Calow...She had been so kind to her before she left to get married.

Helen didn't go for lunch that day. Instead, she wrote a long letter to Mary Calow in London, telling her everything and asking for her help.


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