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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 82 - The Last Train To Leave

...There was no time even to say goodbye to Miriam, it happened so quickly, and he stood dumbly watching the train pull out, searching for Miriam in the mass of faces peering out. Then he caught sight of her waving through the window as the carriages glided past. He returned her wave, choking back tears, and trying to smile, waving till the train was out of sight...

John Illingworth succeeds on helping a Jewish girl to escape the fatal clutches of the occupying Nazis in Poland.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's vividly entertaining novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The train was packed with carriages full of children, yet it was oddly quiet. There was none of the excited childish banter you would expect. The youngsters simply peered out, wide-eyed and frightened, and the only noise came from an infant mewling for food. At intervals there were escorts wearing arm-bands waiting anxiously for the train to leave. It was a scene John never forgot; nor did he ever forget the young German officer who had let him through.

He searched desperately amongst the faces jostling about him as the seconds ticked away. The driver and fireman awaited the guard's go-ahead, but still no one came, and John had decided to climb aboard and hand over the girl to one of the escorts when a voice behind him said, "Hold it a moment, lieutenant!" He turned sharply and caught someone taking a snap of Miriam and himself.

For a moment he thought it was one of Schleicher's men and drew the girl closer, but the stranger smiled and advanced with his hand outstretched. "For our records, Lieutenant Illingworth. I'm Mr Smith. Thank you for all you've done." Then a woman with an armband came and took Miriam from him, hurrying aboard as the guard blew his whistle.

There was no time even to say goodbye to Miriam, it happened so quickly, and he stood dumbly watching the train pull out, searching for Miriam in the mass of faces peering out. Then he caught sight of her waving through the window as the carriages glided past. He returned her wave, choking back tears, and trying to smile, waving till the train was out of sight. Then he turned and walked slowly back to the barrier brushing away his tears.

When he reached the barrier the German officer spoke to him briefly. He had been watching all that took place. "It's always sad to say one's goodbyes, sir," he said gently. "But meeting again is all the sweeter. I hope your daughter has a good journey to England with the rest."

There was a profound understanding and compassion in the man's eyes. Like the rest there, he was caught up in a monstrous tragedy about to unfold further, in which he had to play an unwanted part. John thanked him and returned his salute. Their eyes met and their silent understanding of what was being played out about them was mutual. The refugee train Miriam was on was the last to leave Prague. Herr Schleicher made sure of that.

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