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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two- 21

...John shivered. It was uncanny how that man reached into other people's lives, worming deeper and deeper into their affairs, always to his gain and their loss...

Young John Illingworth is fully aware of the deceitful nature of Grimstone the solicitor.

John Waddington-Feather continues his absorbing story of the intrigues surrounding three generations of a Yorkshire mill-owning family. To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

John arrived earlier than expected and let himself in through the kitchen as it was Johnson's day off. He was surprised to find Grimstone closeted in the lounge with his grandfather. They were finalising some business and looked up startled when he opened the door. Sir Abe turned and smiled, but the lawyer looked guilty for a moment, before masking with his grin whatever he had to hide.

"Why! It's young John," he said, extending his damp cold hand. "Glad to see you, lad."

But before John could say anything, his grandfather cut in with, "He's gallivanting off to France tomorrow. Off on another of his foreign jaunts."

Grimstone snapped his briefcase tightly shut and was about to leave when he paused. Something had clicked and he gave John a knowing look.

"Aye. It's a different world from us the youngsters today live in. They think nothing of gadding abroad. I thought myself lucky if I went on holiday to Filey at his age," he grinned.

Then he switched off his smile and looked hard at John. "Rosemary's lass is off tomorrow," he said, "and she's going to France as well. Funny if you two bumped into each other. But then France is a big place and there's little chance of that." He gave a dry chuckle as he left, nodding ingratiatingly to Sir Abe and wishing goodnight before he let himself out.

John shivered. It was uncanny how that man reached into other people's lives, worming deeper and deeper into their affairs, always to his gain and their loss. When he'd gone, his grandfather noticed John shiver and asked if he were cold. He told him to help himself to a whisky, then as it was a fine night he suggested they stroll round the garden.

The evening was at its best and the musk roses by the French windows sprayed the air with scent together with the stock lining one of the borders. Abe Illingworth was a great one for roses and the garden was packed with them, bed upon bed in full bloom catching the sunlight as they walked across the lawn.

Golden Emblems burned from one border and Shot Silk roses from another. Baby Crimsons gleamed along the hedge and right next to them Coral Clusters added their tithe of colour. One rose, crimson with a white centre, flared like a marker in the middle of the lawn, and as they strolled under an arch a creamy white rose showered them with petals.

The old man found it difficult to walk without his stick and leaned heavily on John's shoulder, enjoying their nearness as they pottered around. He spoke at length about his roses, stopping every so often to hold one up and look deeply into it, or raising it to his face to smell it. They reached a white cast-iron seat, which looked across the garden through an opening in the trees to the moors, and sat down.

The old man had something on his mind. "Do you see much of Ann Clemence?" he asked casually. "I haven't seen her in weeks." He paused and grunted. "A different kettle of fish from her brother - or Harry Clemence. I don't suppose I'll see them again after what happened last week." He chuckled as he recalled the meeting in Bradford and looked at John, but he avoided his grandfather's eye when asked if he saw much of Ann.

"I see her now and again," he said. Then switched the conversation to her brother. "But I haven't seen Rodney since that row in your office, and I don't suppose our paths will cross again."

His grandfather laughed softly. "I enjoyed that little episode, Jonty. Oh, I did relish telling the little twerp just what I thought of him. I should have done it years ago, but he wasn't as puffed up then. All yes-sir, no-sir, three bags full, sir. But he played his cards well. I could see he was making a dead set at Rosie right from the start, but it was none of my business. And he seemed to be trying to improve himself and was doing well at work. In fact, to tell you the truth, Jonty, I was relieved when he wed her, for she'd been throwing her cap at your father for years. She was mad about him but they were too close. Full cousins. It don't do to marry close. It never turns out right."

He went on at length about Rosemary Clemence, how he'd always had a soft spot for her after her father was killed in the First War. She'd nursed her mother, too, through a long terminal illness and that had impressed him. But she wasn't right for his son.

By that time the evening had turned cool and dusk was falling. He mentioned why Grimstone had come. On business. What else? He never visited socially by himself.

"I've been tidying up some loose ends," he explained. "Making sure everything's settled when I've gone. Grimstone knows what's to be done and you'll be all right." He gripped his grandson's arm. He was never sure if he said the right thing to him when it came to money. It was a sensitive subject between them.

"You put too much trust in that man," said John.

"Why not?" Sir Abe replied, raising his eyebrows. "He's always been the family lawyer. Given us all good service over the years."

John shrugged his shoulders. He'd heard all about Grimstone from the Goldsteins as he'd taken David's father to the cleaners in some shady deal years before. His affair with Rosemary Clemence, which the old man clearly knew nothing about, didn't do his image any good either. Neither did that first meeting down Garlic Lane when John was a boy. "I've never liked Grimstone," John said bluntly. "He's gone off the rails more than once."

Sir Abe gave him a sharp look. "Most of us go off the rails at some time in our lives. But if we're given the chance we get back on them," he said. "I know all about Grimstone's past, but he was young then. What's more, he owes me a good turn or two, and when folk owe you good turns they don't let you down."

He couldn't have been more wrong.

They dropped the subject and went indoors to sample the rest of the evening over a glass of good malt, watching the sun set over the trees and casting long shadows across the lawns, enjoying the idyllic English summer evening before he left for France with Ann. Going with them were David and his girlfriend, Rebecca, and one of those close friends, Miriam, a medical student, who shared a flat with Rebecca in London.

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