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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 71 - John Illingworh Holds His Infant Son

...He had been waiting anxiously for some time when Mary appeared on the path leading from the main road. When he saw her wheeling a pushchair, his heart leapt. He hurried towards her, feeling his heart thump madly and strange emotions flood through him...

John Illingworth, estranged from his family, returns to Keighworth to see his son.

John Waddington-Feather continues his epic tale which revolves around a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Though the chilling hate he had for his family never really left him, the innate drive to see his son brought John back to Keighworth; and thanks to the diplomacy of Henry Johnson, with whom he kept in contact, in time he returned to Illingworth House. He never became reconciled to his father and it was a bitter-sweet experience for the old man when he went back. He lost no opportunity to remind his father of what he had done, nor did he ever let him forget that Joe Gibson was bringing up his grandson.

As time passed, Sir Abe realised that the boy was the only heir he was likely to have. He went through hell for years when that dawned on him and when he saw what it was doing to his son, for there were only two loves in John's life after Helen's death: his son and his flying. John tried hard to make contact with his son, but Joe stood firmly between them, unmoved and intractable.

His life focused on the RAF, jazzing it up with his mess-mates and having a string of casual affairs. He drove both the planes he flew and the women he picked up to their limits. When moods of black depression were on him, it seemed he couldn't care whether he lived or died and the way he flew the new fighters reflected this. Many times he was admonished by his squadron leader for taking undue risks.

His only real friends were the Goldsteins and Johnson, and he spent the first year of his leaves with them. He would never have gone back to Keighworth had it not been for his son, and it was Johnson who arranged the first meeting. The butler also showed him Helen's grave for he had gone to her funeral, otherwise he would have had no idea where she was buried.. Ironically, it was only a stone's throw from the Illingworth mausoleum that dominated the whole cemetery.

Whenever he visited the Goldsteins, he would drive over to Keighworth and visit her grave alone, sitting for hours by it, turning over the past and the memories of their life together. He never showed emotion, never shed tears, they had long since dried up, and the boyishness which had lingered in his eyes and about his mouth had gone. He had aged and his eyes reflected only the pain he felt at Helen's death, they and the dead set of his mouth.

It was at her grave that he met Mary Gibson one Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Johnson, she had heard when he visited the grave and said that if he wanted to see his son, she would be visiting the cemetery with him the following Sunday afternoon, when she went to tidy Helen's grave.

He had been waiting anxiously for some time when Mary appeared on the path leading from the main road. When he saw her wheeling a pushchair, his heart leapt. He hurried towards her, feeling his heart thump madly and strange emotions flood through him.

She was unsure of herself, wondering how she would cope. She was flustered and began speaking non-stop about the grave. "Ah come every Sunday, Mr Illingworth, to tidy it up," she began. "As well as ahr Helen, me mam an' dad are buried 'ere an' a younger brother Ah never knew." As she spoke she didn't look at him but kept her eyes firmly fixed on the gravestone and the names of her family. Helen's was the last name on it newly cut.

She pointed at the names with one hand and the other stayed on the push-chair whose hood was up so that he couldn't see his son at first. She saw him trying to peer round the hood and pulled it down, lifting the baby out for him to hold. The boy was over a year old and sturdy. Already he had a crop of blond hair, the colour of his father's and the same blue eyes. They regarded John seriously, staring at him as if into his very soul.

For the first time in months, John was near to tears and just held the boy, who snuggled into his breast. He jiggled him up and down slightly not quite knowing what to do, yet loathe to give him back to Mary. All he wanted was to hug him close and wallow in the great surge of love which flowed through him the moment he felt his son. For the first time since Helen's death, the pain left his eyes as he stared in wonder at the boy in his arms.

As he cuddled the child, its shawl came adrift and Mary reached across to adjust it, pulling it back slightly to reveal the baby's arms and legs. The sudden brightness made him frown and John turned away from the sun. The baby smiled, focussing its whole being on its father. In that instant, John caught a glimpse of Helen and gently lifted his son to kiss him on the brow. He was completely lost for words and held him to his cheek for some moments, feeling the soft down of his flesh against his rough face; but the baby pulled back startled and John handed him to Mary.

"He's very like thee about t'eyes, Mr Illingworth," she said, fixing the shawl as she put him in the chair. Then she added softly, "Ah'm glad tha's come. It's only right tha should see him. Ah'd have browt him afore but tha knaws Joe..." she left unsaid what they both knew and he smiled sadly at her a moment, before looking at his son agan, drinking him in all he could.

**

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

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