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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 68 - No Comfort For Sir Abe

John slams the door in his father's face.

John Waddington-Feather continues his dramatic novel which involves the turbulent lives of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

He returned to Illingworth House distraught. He refused to speak to his father the next day and didn't turn up for an important board meeting, though his father noticed his car wasn't in the garage when he himself set out for work. Where he went Sir Abe never found out. He guessed he was going to leave him and the knowledge made him hit the bottle hard. All his carefully laid plans for the future, for the family dynasty, were crumbling to dust.

He was already drunk when John returned later. John had spoken to no one since that fateful dinner party, and when he came in, he ignored Johnson's greeting, leaving him hurt and bewildered in the hall. Since Helen's death, the tension in the house had become unbearable. He had never seen Sir Abe so demoralised, nor John so full of spite. Johnson felt it keenly for they had always got on famously together and when he heard John's door slam, he tip-toed up the stairs and listened. There was a great deal of banging and slamming of drawers and cupboards. Johnson realised he was packing and retired to the dining room where Sir Abe was still drinking after his evening meal. He had hung on waiting for his son before dining, but in the end he had dined alone. Something he had to get used to.

When Johnson knocked, Sir Abe told him to enter, in a voice thick with brandy. "Excuse me, sir, but I thought you ought to know Master John is back," said Johnson.

The other stared, glassy-eyed, over his shoulder. "Where the hell's he been? He never showed up at work. I haven't seen him for two days. Call him down. Tell him I want to see him immediately! I heard him sneak out last night and want to know where he went."

"He went to see the Gibsons, sir," said the butler, trying to help, but Sir Abe wasn't impressed.

He swung round and asked, "What he wanna go there for? He'll get nothing from Gibson but a thick ear. The man's a brute. D'you know what Jonty said me at dinner the other night, Johnson..." His voice tailed off. He was about to say how his son had compared him unfavourably with Joe Gibson, but thought better of it. The truth still rankled. He knew how gutless he had been over Helen and Johnson was no fool. He tried to stand up but lost his balance and Johnson hurried forward to steady him.

"I'm all right, Henry," he said, shrugging him off. "Just had a wee drop too much. You've seen me worse than this. You wanna be glad you never married, Henry an' had kids. They bring you nothing but worry. So do women. Take my advice an' stay single, Henry."

He walked to the door mumbling to himself. "What's Jonty up to.. .not coming to say goodnight? He always says goodnight. Why is he doing this to me?"

Johnson hovered round him he was so unsteady and opened the door for him. "I believe Master John's packing, sir. Shall I ask him to come down?"

"No. I'll go up and find out what he's up to. What the devil does he want to pack for?" said Sir Abe.

Still muttering to himself, he blundered along the hallway to the staircase, lurching against the great clock at its foot. He mounted step by step clinging on to the banisters all the way up. Johnson stayed at the foot, watching him apprehensively, ready to move if he stumbled. When he had turned the corner safely, he followed him up.

The house was thickly carpeted right through and John didn't hear him coming till he knocked on the door. He had finished packing and was sitting despondently on the bed looking blankly at Helen's photo. His father's knock disturbed him.

"Yes?" he said, thinking it was Johnson.

"It's me," said his father. "May I come in, Jonty?"

"Go away!" He cried angrily. "I want to be alone."

"Please, Jonty!" he pleaded.

John had never heard his father speak like that. He had always been so arrogant and self-assured; he had never heard him plead. Surprised, he went to the door to let him in and was brought up short to find his father weeping, hanging onto the wall for support. He stood glaring at him a moment, then said, "You're pathetic! Go away. I don't anything more to do with you or this place. I'm leaving for good!" He slammed the door in his father's face after calling for Johnson to take him to bed, then, returning to his room, he stayed staring at Helen for a long time. He didn't weep for he had no more tears to shed, and instead of tears, iron entered his soul.

Finally, he lay on his bed, fully clothed, and fell into a fitful sleep. He dreamed strange dreams, some of them wonderful, like Helen coming to meet him, running across the moors to throw herself in his arms. Others were nightmarish and in one she came into his room dressed in her shroud, asking why he hadn't answered her letters and, pointing to a cot in the corner, why he had abandoned their son. He knew their son was inside yet an awful force pinned him down as he tried to get up and see, and he could only stare helplessly as Helen peeped into it smiling. When she turned to face him, both she and the cot faded away leaving him distraught. It was a nightmare that recurred again and again.


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