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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 11

...But knowing Ann Clemence was going was different. He'd fallen madly in love with her and she with him. Meeting her again would be worth all the hassle of making small-talk or standing tongue-tied among upper-crustians, whod been to Oxbridge and public schools....

Young John Illingworth, looking more and more like his fighter-pilot father, attends a big do at Illingworth House.

To read earlier episodes of John Waddington-Feather's gripping story concerning the lives of a Yorkshire mill-ownning family please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Although they wrote regularly to each other and their letters became more intimate as the years went by, John and Ann didn't really meet again till her eighteenth birthday. They'd exchanged photographs over the years, but that night the shadow turned to substance. He was just twenty and in his final year at university, reading modern languages and determined to teach despite all his grandfather's efforts to persuade him otherwise.

She'd left finishing school in Switzerland some months before and had been doing the social rounds with her mother, looking at the marriage stakes. Rosemary was dead keen to marry off Ann to a loaded mill-owner's son the other side of Leeds, but at her coming-out ball all the eligibles for miles a round had been invited to Illingworth House, except, of course, John Greenwood - but his grandfather had other ideas.

"You will come, won't you, Jonty? You'll be my guest," he'd said. He'd got into the habit of calling him by his son's pet name, and he always used it when he wanted a favour from him, just as he'd done with John Illingworth. He'd asked him several times to go with him to upper-crustian parties, but John had refused. He'd never fully adjusted to the upper-crustian lifestyle despite all the old man's efforts.

But knowing Ann Clemence was going was different. He'd fallen madly in love with her and she with him. Meeting her again would be worth all the hassle of making small-talk or standing tongue-tied among upper-crustians, whod been to Oxbridge and public schools.

That coming-out party at Illingworth House went with a bang. It was the last great social event there, the final fling of the Illingworth dynasty before they were eclipsed. Sir Abe was delighted when his grandson said he'd go and he bought him his first dinner suit, the best, for Sir Abe spared no expense when it came to clothes. It was John Greenwood's coming-out party, too, and when they saw him in his new D.J. his grandfather and Johnson were deeply moved. He looked the image of his father.

Johnson said as much as he brushed John down before he made his entrance. He'd been fussing over him all night making sure his dress was just right. Several times he'd said how like his father he was. And he was right. As John glanced in the mirror he realised not for the first time how like his father he'd grown. Looking back at him from the mirror was the handsome man whose photographs hung in his room and he shivered. He felt as if his father were standing right beside him.

He looked away from the mirror and shot his cuffs the way Johnson had shown him. The butler had had a hard job coaching him to be a gentleman, grooming Prospect Street out and letting Illingworth House in, yet John still felt unsure of himself. "So you think I'll pass muster tonight, Henry?" he asked.

"You'll sock 'em cold, just like your dad did," said the butler, beaming proudly.

Yet despite Johnson's reassurance, he felt nervous. "Have the Clemences arrived?" he asked, and what he really meant was had Ann arrived, for he dreaded meeting her mother. She'd never liked him and the older he'd grown, the more strangely she looked at him each time they met. It was more than curiosity. He didn't find out why till much later. Rodney ignored him altogether when they chanced to meet. He never forgave him that bloodied nose and his hatred grew with time.

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