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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 94 - How Do I Look?

..."Well, Mary. How do I look? Do I really look so bad?"

It was no use lying and she said, "You've been knocked about a bit like the rest of them here. Not as bad as some." She spoke in her old blunt way and he admired her. "The surgeons work wonders and they'll soon have you patched up. When you're on your feet again, chat to some of the others on the ward, those who've lost limbs. You'll feel better then."...

John hears the truth about the extent of his injuries from Mary Calow.

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

She asked him to rest but he wanted to speak to Mary, wanted oh, so dearly after all these years. He spoke of mundane things at first and she let him ramble on, saying little till he had done. She read in his eyes how he felt. Dignity was what they all lost when they were badly burned. Their youth, their looks, their manliness all went. They were sickened by their own bodies and faces, which they had to learn to come to terms with. Some never did.Finally he asked the question she had been dreading.

"Well, Mary. How do I look? Do I really look so bad?"

It was no use lying and she said, "You've been knocked about a bit like the rest of them here. Not as bad as some." She spoke in her old blunt way and he admired her. "The surgeons work wonders and they'll soon have you patched up. When you're on your feet again, chat to some of the others on the ward, those who've lost limbs. You'll feel better then."

He nodded. She was right. It could have been so much worse. Mary noticed Helen's photo and the snap of her son. She kept his mind on them, anything to take his mind off his injuries. She mentioned that his son John had begun writing to her and wanted to know if he himself was in contact; if he wanted his son to write to him.

He said nothing for a moment, then, "Better not. It'll only complicate matters. You know how Joe feels. Anyhow the boy doesn't know me." He paused and looked across at her. "I'm right, aren't I? Mary has never told him I'm his father, has she? No, don't ask him to write." Then he said with feeling, "I'm glad you're his godmother. He couldn't have a better. Mary and Joe have made a good job of bringing him up. Better than I have. My lot made a right mess of things, didn't they?"

She didn't reply and he fell silent as if getting his thoughts together. When he spoke again he began hesitantly, "Mary, all those years ago.. .that last time we met.. .when I tried to explain about Helen..."

"Hush! Don't talk about that now, John," she said quickly. "We were all upset then and said things we shouldn't have done. Too much has happened since. What's passed is past." But he insisted on telling her
about the missing letters and how he suspected he had been set up by Grimstone and his father. There was no backing off as she had done before. She had to hear him out now and as he told her the whole story, she could hold back her tears no longer. When he had done, John sank back as if a great weight had been lifted from him.

After that, Mary visited him often. He said his father was coming the next day and would she like to meet him. She said not. It would only open up old wounds and there were new wounds to heal now. Dead love was best left alone. She had her own life now with a husband she loved dearly. John said he understood and was pleased for her. When he met her husband they got on well. Later when he was convalescing, they used to take him to their cottage for his sick leaves, for it was too far for him to travel to Yorkshire at first. And little by little, they coaxed him to new life, to something like his old self.

He said nothing to his father about Mary Calow, yet it was from her that he received all the news about Mary, Joe and his son. On that subject, his father still said never a word.

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