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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 3

For the first time in his life young John Greenwood goes to Illingworth House to meet his wealthy grandfather.

John Waddington-Feather continues his engaging story.

To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The following Saturday John Greenwood set out for Illingworth House. He'd been scrubbed and rubbed by his aunt and lectured on how to behave. He was to take off his cap as soon as he got in. He was to drink his tea from the cup and not the saucer. He was to call his grandfather 'sir' and above all, he was to speak 'proper'. Speaking proper meant a great deal to Mary. In Keighworth, you were categorised at once by how you spoke. You were an upper, middle, or lower-crustian depending on the way you spoke. Mary's sister had learned to speak proper and become a middle-crustian. Her nephew had learned to speak proper at the grammar school and no way must he speak 'common' like the other boys down the street.

She made him have his hair cut, though he didn't need it and he left Prospect Street, not only well polished but also well polled. He was dressed in his best, polished shoes, creased shorts, school blazer and cap. He never wore his school uniform on Saturdays and on weekdays had to change straight into clogs and corduroys when he returned home from school. But today he was visiting Utworth, the citadel of Keighworth upper-crustia.

To reach Utworth he had to pass from the familiar to the alien, as Joe had done years before on that fateful visit to Illingworth House. John walked slowly up Garlic Lane, then over the railway bridge to a buffer zone between working-class Garlic Lane and middle-class Fieldhouses the other side of the railway.

When he'd run the gauntlet of the bank managers' and doctors' houses in Fieldhouses, he walked some distance along the Keighworth-Skiproyd road before turning off into Black Lane and the suburbs of Utworth. The roar of the town had long gone, absorbed by acres of hedges and trees in the grounds of the great. An affluent silence hung over everything, broken only by the purr of the occasional chauffeur-driven Rolls or Bentley. He was deep in tree-lined upper-crustian territory now, manicured to its last grass blade.

He felt like running back and wished his aunt had come with him, as she'd wanted. She'd told him once she had a soft spot for John Illingworth. He'd been kind to her and she wanted to see where he lived. But Joe put his foot down. No way was she going to Abe Illingworth's place. He wanted nothing to do with Sir Abe and almost to the end was implacable. He only once showed respect for the old man and that was at his funeral.

After what seemed hours, John Greenwood reached the biggest houses in Utworth. They were on a rise and well set back from the road, acknowledging their presence by discreet shows of gables over high hedges and walls. Long gravelled drives swept from their ornate wrought iron gates to entrances somewhere beyond thick rhododendrons, which masked anything beyond the gates. These houses said in their own solid way that here was the real ordering of Keighworth's affairs, not the shabby town hall in the middle of town.

Illingworth House was the solidest of the lot. Built at the height of the family wealth in the 19th century it stood foursquare in its ten acres a memorial to its builder, Sir Abe's father, Luke. Its entrance had been built originally to take a carriage and four. Now Sir Abe's Rolls swept through it daily on his way to work. Heavy wrought-iron gates hung from two stone Ionic pillars, on which were carved the name of the house in classical Roman letters picked out in gold; and from there, the grand approach to the house began.

Once you'd passed the banks of rhododendrons, the drive turned into a well groomed garden in which were vases bubbling with flowers cuddled by scantily clad nymphs. In the middle of the vast lawn, a fountain spurted from a cast-iron dolphin's mouth. John Greenwood wandered past wide-eyed towards the main entrance with its Doric pillars holding up the porch.

Just before that imposing entrance an altogether meaner path slunk off round the back, which the milkman and others took to the tradesmen's entrance. John automatically followed the path, but halfway up a feeling
of resentment began to well inside him. He gritted his teeth, turned back and walked grimly to the main entrance.

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