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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 61 - The Final Break

John Illingworth finally sees through the deceits of lawyer Simon Grimstone.

John Waddington-Feather continues the story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning family. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

In the letter she had telegraphed to John, Mary Calow had said nothing about leaving his father. Neither had his father said much about her beyond the fact that she had left the firm and gone to London to get married. It shocked John for he had always regarded her as a mother, but his father, true to form, made out that she was being selfish and had married some rich City dealer for his money. His letter was full of self-pity and reproach. He made no mention of Helen, which angered John, and the letter Mary Calow sent him, accusing him of deserting Helen, hurt him deeply.

Rosemary Clemence's letters made matters worse. She never stopped sniping at Helen, and more than once had hinted darkly that she had taken up with someone she had seen her walking out with, but it was all lies. She was doing her damnedest, like his father, to split them, for she was still infatuated by him. The more her marriage fell apart, the more she became insanely possessive of her cousin.

Worse was to come, for as soon as Mary Calow's telegram arrived, John sent one by return to Helen. He never had a reply and that fuelled his agony. The spiteful Mrs Simpson burned it along with all the other mail which Helen should have received.

The final break between John and Grimstone came one evening as they sailed through the Mediterranean. Unable to remain in his cabin any longer fretting about Helen, he went on deck to enjoy the lights of Valetta, which they were passing. He had received the fatal telegram and desperately wanted to be alone, but Grimstone, as insensitive as ever, tagged along.

The lawyer began chatting about Keighworth and said how much he was looking forward to getting home. He supposed John felt the same. He said he was expecting his current woman to meet him and supposed Helen would be there when they docked. Since that day when John had almost rumbled his stealing his mail, he had tried to back-pedal and reassure him that Helen was all right and that Sir Abe would be keeping an eye on her. But Mary Calow's letter had given the lie to that, and John cut him short, startling Grimstone with, "It wouldn't surprise me if dad hadn't something to do with my not getting any mail from Helen." Then he added angrily, "By God, if he has and I can ever prove it..."

He left his sentence unfinished and glanced fiercely at Grimstone, who just for an instant coloured and couldn't meet his eye. It didn't escape John's notice, nor did the silence which followed, until Grimstone came up with some lame excuses why Helen hadn't written. The longer he went on, the more hollow he sounded and the more he irritated John, who suddenly dunked his cigarette over the side and said he was turning in, leaving Grimsone still chuntering about everything being all right.

He never did discover the whole truth about the missing letters, but in light of what happened later, both Grimstone and Sir Abe were too scared ever to refer to them again. The rift which opened between John and his father was wide enough without his knowing about them.

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