Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 02

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Perkins, the Farrington House driver, was returning to collect his passengers, the Earl of Witney and his wife, the countess. 

Below stairs, jaws had dropped when word got round that the countess and her husband would attend not only the ceremony, but the wedding feast as well.  

Some of the servants thought it only right, but Perkins and Mr Runciman, the butler, were aghast. They could understand polite attendance at a servant’s wedding – the girl was the countess’s lady’s maid. But they didn’t hold with aristocracy socialising with the family.  

From the day the American heiress had married Lord Witney, nothing had been the same. At least Lord and Lady Farrington and Lady Florence were safely back from California, having escaped the earthquake.  

Perkins nodded as Ben and Jenny passed by. 

Jenny smoothed out her ivory skirt. The dress had come out perfectly, and she’d made it herself, without Emily’s help. She thought it no less beautiful than the spectacular gown she and Emily had created for the countess’s wedding, just over a year ago.  

After that, Emily been treated to a trip with the Farringtons to New York and then to San Francisco.  

Jenny frowned, recalling her sister’s letter.  

How exciting that you’re getting married, and that you’ve helped to turn Ben’s life around. I’m sure he’s quite different from what I remember.  

I’m sorry I can’t be there for your wedding, but you’ll understand. There’s much I need to do here . . . 

Jenny had been hurt by the tone of the letter, as well as the news. How could Emily stay in a city that had been burned to ashes rather than come home and continue her job as Florence’s lady’s maid?  

But Sarah was right. She mustn’t let anything cloud her happiness. 

“It’s your special day, sweetheart.”  

She and Sarah had sat having tea that morning in the little kitchen. 

Jenny looked around, imprinting every detail into her mind and heart: the whitewashed walls stained with the endless damp; the scrubbed table and the range, freshly black-leaded by Sarah. 

There was also the tiny box-room upstairs where she’d shared a bed with Emily and Beth, and the alcove where Davey had slept before he’d gone to the city to work on motor cars, and which Johnny now occupied. 

Everything, from the flagged floor to the pots and pans, was clean, the cottage smelling sweetly of herbs and lavender. Jenny hoped she’d make the gardener’s cottage at Orchard End a cosy home. 

“My last morning, Sarah,” Jenny said, feeling a lump in her throat. “It feels like the day I left to go into service.” 

“Brackenbury isn’t far, and you’ll come back to visit us. But I’ll miss you!”   

Sarah hugged her, and for a moment Jenny was transported back to the days when she’d been headstrong and difficult for Sarah to deal with. 

Jenny had felt trapped, with nothing but glove-making and eventual marriage to some village boy on the horizon.  

Then she had followed in her sister’s footsteps at Farrington House, but Jenny had still longed for a life that felt her own.  

Sarah had been endlessly patient and forgiving. 

“Will you come and visit us, Sarah?”  

“Of course. But you need to get settled first.”  

A faraway look spread over her round face.  

“Jenny, whatever is ahead, you and Ben will make it work. It can be the hard times that bring a husband and wife closer as much as the happy ones.” 

“We’re nearly there,” Jenny cried. “Look, Ben!” 

As they drew closer to the cottage they saw Chinese lanterns hanging from the trees surrounding the garden, where tables were crowded together and set with jugs of wild flowers. 

The Callows and neighbouring families were perched on chairs. Jenny’s housemaid friend, Alice, and Mrs Wiggan were there, having both been given the day off.  

“There they are!” someone called, and everyone turned to watch as Ben drew the trap to a halt.  

Jenny’s younger sister, Beth, ran to greet them as they made their way to the party. 

“When I get married, may I wear your dress, Jenny? The countess invited me to visit her at Farrington House! And look at what Mrs Wiggan made!” 

One table was covered with savoury pies, sliced meats and sandwiches, bowls of strawberries and jugs of cream. 

In the centre stood Mrs Wiggan’s creation: a three-tier wedding cake, strewn with pink roses and encircled with a halo of spun sugar.  

To be continued…

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