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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 48

Miriam discovers that she already has a link with John Illingworth.

John Waddington-Feather continues his engrossing novel about the trials and tribulations of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

When they left the house, he had the impression they were being watched from the high windows. He took Miriam's hand when they were clear and clasped it tightly. She hugged into him and held him close as they walked into the wind. She was glad to be alone with him and was soon back to her normal self chatting and laughing as they hiked up the hill.

Their togetherness encouraged her to tell him more about herself. She already knew much about him, except, of course, what had happened to him and Ann. She talked quickly and at length, as if she felt he ought to know all about her. She'd come to England as a small girl before the war from Czechoslovakia when the Germans had overrun the country and arrested her parents. She remembered being taken by an English officer and put on a train to England, where she'd been adopted by the Leffs who were distant relatives and childless. They'd given her everything and she loved them dearly despite their possessiveness.

As she told her story, something clicked - that photograph of his father they'd stumbled on in Illingworth House. That taken in Prague. "What's your real name?" he asked her. "Your Czech name?"

"Horovitz," she answered. "I took my adoptive parents' name when I came here."

She looked puzzled, but he continued, "What did they call the English officer who put you on the train?" he asked, and there was urgency in his voice.

"I've no idea. They never said. All I have is an old photograph of him taken by the man who was organising the refugee train. It was taken as the officer brought me to the station and was given to my adoptive parents when they collected me in London. It's all I have from the past," she ended sadly.

John felt his heart racing. "You still have the photo?"

"Of course," she said smiling wistfully. "That handsome English officer became my prince. I idolised him. I tried to track him down later, but drew a blank. I never knew his name."

The Leffs watched her like a hawk when they returned and it was difficult for them to be alone. They treated her as if she were still a child, the way Sir Abe had once treated his grown-up son, the way he'd tried to dominate John's life.

After dinner she took him to her study, formerly her play-room. She was an accomplished pianist and a baby grand filled one corner. The rest of the room was a clutter of books, mainly medical books but she'd a good library of classics. Photographs of her year at medical school and her athletics team hung on the wall. A collection of cups and small shields on the mantelpiece were testimonies to her success as an athlete.

Her desk stood under the window with two or three photographs on it and one immediately caught John's attention. It was the one his grandfather had put in his album, John Illingworth in his RAF uniform holding a little girl on a railway station.

"It's him!" he exclaimed. "It's my father! He was the man who got you away."

Miriam picked up the photo and studied it. Then she looked hard at John. "You're right," she whispered. She replaced it on the desk and turned to him lifting her face. He put his hands on her hips a moment, then pulled her close and embraced her passionately, kissing her again and again.

They were still locked together when her mother entered unannounced. Embarrassed, they broke apart at once, but he continued holding her hand. Lady Leff looked shocked, as if she couldn't believe what she'd seen. Then she drew herself up.

"I think you'd better go, young man! It's not the kind of behaviour we entertain here," she bristled.

"But mummy..." Miriam began.

She was cut short. "We'll talk about this later, Miriam, when I've spoken to your father," was all she said. Then she left the room.

Miriam went bright scarlet and was near to tears. "I'm sorry, John," she whispered. "She picked up the photo again and said, "Do you think if we tell them about this, it'll help?"

"Explain when I've gone. I might say something I'll regret later if I saw them now."

She didn't release his hand, not even when they met the butler outside standing like a gravestone with John's coat and case. There was no sign of Sir Samuel or Lady Leff. Miriam had to face them when she returned from driving him back to camp. But she knew where she stood. She was in love with him and he with her. There was no going back now whatever her parents said.


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