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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 1

...he was the only heir he'd ever have. His pride had kept him from his own flesh and blood, and now, a broken man, his folly flooded back as he sat slumped in his study looking at the pitifully few possessions of his son they'd sent back: his medals and ribbons, some letters, his wallet, the locket with Helen's photo inside and her photo he always kept by his bedside...

After fighter pilot John Illingworth dies in action his father Sir Abe Illingworth realises that he must mend fences and accept his grandson into the family.

Master story-teller John Waddington-Feather continues his compulsively readable account of the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Rosemary Clemence sensed that walk on Ilkesworth Moor with her cousin would be the last. She dreaded his going back and her worst fears were realised when news came through he'd been killed in action. She was numb with grief. So was his father.

Sir Abe wouldn't be comforted and spent hours in his son's old room staring at the photos on the wall or sifting through John's boyhood possessions. Johnson, his butler, did his best to console him, but it was no use. The old man was inconsolable. He barely ate and seemed to have lost the will to live. Indeed, he remarked several times he wished he could die. His doctor told him to get away, have a holiday, but he refused; nor did he set foot in the office in Bradford for weeks. And that gave Harry Clemence more leverage to get rid of him.

Ironically, when they sent back the locket found on his son's body, it brought Sir Abe to his senses and a new train of thought. It pained him at first when he opened it and saw Helen Greenwood smiling back at him. It brought back all those ghastly memories when he'd tried to break off her engagement to John Illingworth and sent Grimstone off to Australia with his son. How he regretted that now.

Then he recalled how he'd never acknowledged her son, John Illingworth's son, his grandson. He'd been brought up by the Gibsons and now seemed beyond his reach. Yet he was the only heir he'd ever have. His pride had kept him from his own flesh and blood, and now, a broken man, his folly flooded back as he sat slumped in his study looking at the pitifully few possessions of his son they'd sent back: his medals and ribbons, some letters, his wallet, the locket with Helen's photo inside and her photo he always kept by his bedside.

There was a photo of John Greenwood, too, and that galvanised him into action. He got on the phone at once to Grimstone. He'd sort it all out. He'd send him to the Gibsons and offer to adopt the boy and bring him up as his own, in the mould he'd made for his son. He'd send him to boarding school, prime him to take over the firm as he'd wanted John Illingworth to do. He'd make it all worth their while. That had always been his way, to buy people off.

But Grimstone advised caution. He was Rosemary Clemence's lawyer, too - and more besides. She was Sir Abe's next of kin and would come in for everything when he died. He told the old man not to rush into anything, to let things settle. But Sir Abe was adamant. Once he'd set his mind on something, he stuck to it. That also had always been his way. He wanted the boy at Illingworth House as soon as possible. He was all he had left of John. He was his own flesh and blood.

Of course, Grimstone told Rosemary and suggested she try and talk some sense into her uncle. After all, not only she but her children would be the losers if John's bastard son went to the House. He'd be a right cuckoo in the family nest.

But Sir Abe wouldn't be moved. She said he couldn't be serious, and she still believed her uncle wasn't serious till she met John Greenwood at Illingworth House two weeks later. By then it was too late. She never forgot that day.

John Greenwood never forgot it, too, nor the day Grimstone came down Prospect Street to tell him who his father was. It had been snowing but the snow had turned to wet grey sleet and the skies were still heavy with the stuff. He'd hurried home from school, cold and wet, but when he turned the corner of Prospect Street he was surprised to se a black Bentley car parked outside his house. It seemed to take up half the street. It was the sort he'd seen in funeral processions, only there was no hearse this time.
When he opened the latch and entered the small living room, he was confronted by a tall bony stranger with a yellow toothy grin. He was standing by the table looking ill at ease, constantly adjusting his tie and smoothing his hair in the mirror over the fireplace.

The conversation ceased abruptly as he went in and his aunt came across and began fussing him more than usual, taking his cap and satchel, then his raincoat which she hung behind the kitchen door to dry. For his part, the stranger remained silent, looking at the boy curiously.

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