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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 60 - A Refuge For Helen

Mary Calow finds a refuge for the seriously ill Helen in a Dales cottage.

John Waddington-Feather continues his deeply-involving story of the lives and loves of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Helen climbed into the taxi as if in a dream. She couldn't thank Mary enough and said so repeatedly as they drove through Bradford and then up to the heights and over the moors to Deneley. Mary asked after Helen's sister and Joe, enquiring gently why she hadn't gone back to them.

Then it came out in a rush: her wanting to leave home, her courting John, the encounter on the moors with Joe, the snub she had had from Abe Illingworth and the misery she had had to endure at the office after John went to Australia. When she'd finished, Mary Calow despised her former lover and his son even more.

A fit of coughing halted their conversation and when Helen took her hankie from her mouth, Mary was horrified to see it stained heavily with blood. Impulsively, she put her arms round Helen and held her close till she'd finished coughing. "You poor, poor girl," she whispered. "How long have you been like this?"

Helen said she'd been getting steadily worse for months. Her cough had started in the winter but she thought it would clear up in the spring. Instead, it had become worse as her pregnancy progressed. Then she dried up and began to doze on Mary Calow's shoulder.

For a time, they followed the familiar route over the moors Helen and John used to take after work, and as they climbed clear of the cauldron of city grime, the sun broke through and lit up the countryside. It was fresher up there and Helen breathed more freely, waking up when they reached the cottage.

It stood on the fringes of Deneley, a tight little village hugging its church, shop and pub. The cottages were stone and slated; many were former weavers' cottages with long mullioned windows to let in the light. Low-slung and heavy-roofed, they were built to fend off the long raw winters; but in summer they basked warmly in a south-facing fold of the hills.

Oak Cottage lay at the end of a rough track, where a rickety gate had remained open so long the grass grew through its lower bars and kept it permanently ajar. An ample garden sheltered by a high, dry-stone wall surrounded the cottage, behind which were open fields. The garden was the pride of Mary's unmarried sister, Phyllis, who came out to meet them as the taxi drew up, helping Helen into the house.

The three of them walked slowly up the path through borders thick with daffodils and primulae, which splashed yellows and purples to the very door of the cottage. Outside the windows of the dining room was a small patio, where a bird-table hosted a variety of finches and tits. There were nesting-boxes nailed to the silver birch trees in the copse at the side of the cottage, already being staked by pairs of birds which fluttered about them. The great oak from which the cottage got its name was in the adjacent field and beginning to leaf. Nothing could have been more idyllic and further away from the grim lodgings Helen had left.

Phyllis had been forewarned about Helen and had made all ready. She had prepared a light meal, and when they'd eaten, they got Helen into bed to await the doctor. He confirmed all Mary Calow had feared, and when Helen was asleep, she went to Keighworth to tell the Gibsons the worst.


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