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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 39

John Illingworth is a reluctant witness at the end of Rodney Clemence's wedding.

John Waddington-Feather continues his unmissable story of the fortunes and misfortunes of the Illingworth's, a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

In the new year John returned to camp. Keighworth was buzzing with gossip: with the news of Harry and Rosemary's separation and the woman Simon Grimstone had dredged up from his old haunts in Leeds. He was rarely seen in Keighworth now, but word got back. And how they scrabbled to get their money into his insurance company. Grimstone could charm apples off trees, and in no time at all he had folk queuing to invest in it.

Rodney Clemence's wedding was the highlight of the "Keighworth News" the day John left and by sheer chance he bumped into Clemence and his new wife when he returned from leave. Rodney had a military style wedding. He couldn't have no other, could he? His father had paraded him all round Keighworth in his officer's uniform when he was commissioned. It was "our Rodney this and our Rodney that," when Rodney accompanied him all dolled up.

He wore full blues for his wedding, and was still in them as he travelled to London on the same train as John, who didn't see the wedding party till he'd passed through the barrier and was wandering down the platform to find a seat. He guessed there'd been a wedding for there was confetti all along the platform, and there, half-way down, was the wedding party stretching the rest of the platform, all noisy and high on booze.

Some of them were stuffing confetti down Rodney's trousers, as he fled trying to fend them off. Behind came a bunch of giggling girls who'd shoved more of the stuff down Vicky Ackroyd's bra. Robin Clough was there with his arm still in a sling. It was he who saw John first and called out to the others as he walked towards them.

Clemence's eyes shot to John's red beret and the 'wings' below his green Intelligence Corps shoulder flash. He'd never seen him in uniform. John threw him a quick salute and hurried on. He climbed into the nearest open door and walked the length of the train to sit as far away as possible from Clemence. Then he sat down to read his paper.

He'd barely begun reading when there was a rumpus outside his window. He lowered his paper to see what was happening. Flushed with drink and unsteady on their feet, Harry Clemence and the bride's father, Arthur Ackroyd, lurched down the platform. They stopped momentarily outside John's carriage and he ducked behind his paper. The window was open and heard them clearly.

"By God, Arthur, lad," bawled Clemence. "I've right enjoyed meself today. You've done us proud. I couldn't ha' touched a drop more. It's been a great wedding an' I'm well an' truly pissed!" Ackroyd started laughing and pulled at his cigar. It set him off coughing and Clemence thumped his back. "Nay, Arthur, you're goin' to make yourself poorly coughin' like that," said Clemence, steadying him as he lost his balance.

When he recovered, Ackroyd said weakly, "I've supped too much, Harry. I feel sick." Harry shouted for help and one of Ackroyd's sons took over, helping his father to the end of the platform, where he threw up. As the train pulled out, John was treated to a cameo of the whole wedding party.

Grimstone was there with his Leeds live-in, looking young enough to be his daughter. He caught John's eye as he passed his carriage and grinned, but thankfully the train pulled out before John could acknowledge him. Second Lieutenant and Mrs Clemence had seats in a first class compartment at the front of the train, so John wasn't troubled by them, but the rest of them: best man, bridesmaids, Robin Clough and old Ackroyd all slid by.


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