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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part 2 - 35

Young John Illingworth learns more about the oily solicitor Grimstone.

John Waddington-Feather continues his compelling novel about the fortunes and misfortunes of the Illingworths, a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

On the Saturday before Christmas, John went to Leeds to see David and Rebecca. They'd asked him over to celebrate their engagement before David went into the RAF for his National Service. When John had gone into the army Ann had phoned Rebecca to say their engagement was off. She didn't say why and because subsequently she'd been ill, she hadn't contacted Rebecca again. She'd left Rebecca wondering what had happened and it wasn't until John came that the mystery was cleared up.

In the afternoon John and David went to a rugby league match at Headingley. David's grandfather was a director of the club and had reserved seats for them in the stand, and as they walked from the car park, they discussed Grimstone and the new insurance company he'd set up in Keighworth.

David had heard that Clemence had ploughed into the new company all the profits he'd made from the sales of Illingworths Mills. He'd also heard from his grandfather that Clemence and Grimstone had been involved with some shady deals involving the new company's pension funds, but that was made public only later when the bubble burst.

Clemence and Grimstone had gone into the property market in a big way and had set up in new offices in Leeds. They went from strength to strength and the entrance to their office suite was plastered with newly registered companies' nameplates. Because it was good for trade, they'd become directors of the Leeds rugby team, though neither of them knew one end of a rugby field from the other. They were there the Saturday John went with David.

Once they'd arrived at the stand, the two hudged their way along the tightly packed rows to the seats, then looked round to see if there was anyone they recognised. There was. Not far away in the directors' seats, wrapped in an expansive sheepskin jacket and fur hat, sat Simon Grimstone. He was waving to them like mad to catch their eye. Clemence was next to him, but looked stonily ahead and disappeared by the end of the game when they went down to the bar to meet a friend from the university team, who'd turned professional.

Their friend showered and they'd only just met up when John felt someone squeezing his arm. It was Grimstone. He'd crept up behind them unseen, worming his way through the packed bar. "Hello, lad," he said heartily. "Fancy meeting you here! I allus thought you were a union player - and never the twain shall meet, eh? Your granddad says you've made the Sussex team in the army, so we might get you playing for us yet, eh?" He gave his great yellow grin and another loud laugh.

John made some trite reply and hoped he'd go away, but he edged closer, nodding at David before speaking to their friend who'd made his debut that day. "You played a grand game, lad. You'll go a long way playing like that." Then he turned back to John.

As well as invading your personal space the lawyer had a nasty habit of touching you when he was speaking, like the way he squeezed John's arm. Sometimes if you were sat by him he'd put his hand on your knee or round your shoulder. "And how's the army treating you, John?" he continued. He didn't wait for a reply but went on, "I've heard all about you from Harry. He said his lad gave you a rough time while you were under him at Aldershot. You two never did get on, did you?"

Harry Clemence kept well out of sight. The last thing he wanted was meeting John face to face after that Bradford encounter. Making some excuse about a directors' meeting, Grimstone eventually sidled off to join the huddle Clemence was hiding in at the far end of the bar. When he'd gone John shuddered. He hated the man, and once he'd gone they spoke more freely with their friend and caught up with news. On the way back to David's place, John learned more of Grimstone and his double dealings before the war: how he'd taken David's father and John Illingworth for a packet; how he'd played around with a young woman in Leeds then deserted her; how Grimstone had almost gone bankrupt, but somehow managed to get himself out of that mess. Sir Abe had never said anything about that, but John learned all about it that day.

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