Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 03

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

The countess stood in the doorway of the cottage. She’d been chatting with Jenny’s brother, Davey, while Lord Witney stood awkwardly beside her. Now she came forward, arms outstretched.

“Jenny, you are the most gorgeous bride!” Her American accent rang out.

“Thank you, my lady,” Jenny said shyly.

“Ben, take care of her now. I don’t know how I’ll manage without her!”

Davey trailed after the countess like a devoted puppy.

Lord Witney cleared his throat, putting out a hand to Ben.

“May I offer my congratulations? Most enjoyable – splendid.”

Joseph appeared and took his daughter by the shoulders and kissed her forehead.

“Jenny.” His voice was hoarse. “I hope I walked you down the aisle right and proper, what with these two left feet of mine.”

“Oh, Dad, thank you for everything.”

He took her hands in his.

“You’ve done me proud.” He shook his head. “I’m not good with words, but you fill up something inside me that nobody else can. Come back and see us, won’t you?”

She could see the tears in his eyes.

“Of course I will, Dad”.

He looked at Ben.

“I know you’ll look after her. Don’t let her get lost in that garden you’re planting.”

“I will, sir. I mean, I won’t, sir.”

Jenny turned as unfamiliar voices from the garden path cut through the chatter.

“Good heavens, who are they?”

A couple were making their way towards them. They appeared to be having an argument.

The man was dressed as any gentleman would be, but the lady was different from anyone Jenny had ever seen outside a photograph in a magazine.

Her fringe came down to meet her plucked brows. The sides were cut just below her ears, and the back was even shorter, like a boy’s.

Over a loose dress that reached her ankles, she was draped in a silk shawl covered with Chinese embroidery.

Everyone went silent for a moment.

“Terribly sorry,” the lady said airily. “Such trouble finding you – so many twists and turns.”

She put out her hand.

“You’re the bride, of course. Jenny, is it? I’m Eleanor Bracken, and this is my husband, Robert.”

Fog lay thick over Golden Gate Park, the lawn covered with lines of tents set among the blooming roses and shrubs. For two months people from every walk of life had lived in this makeshift town.

But the devastation that had robbed them of their homes had not destroyed their spirit. One of the tents, designated as a sewing centre, was a hive of activity.

Sewing machines rattled away at the hands of women and girls as diverse in efficiency as the machines themselves.

Emily flitted from one to the other, doing her best to prevent disasters.

“Becky, try to turn the crank at a steady pace. Hold the cotton loosely . . . oh, dear.”

The girl sighed with frustration and Emily leaned down to help her loosen the fabric that had become mangled under the needle of the machine.

The sewing centre had been set up a month ago when a lady from the Women’s Alliance for Reconstruction had marched into the camp, asking for volunteers.

“Idleness in the camps is a habit easily acquired and difficult to overcome,” she’d chirped.

Emily had been sorting piles of donated clothing, separating those garments that needed mending.

“You’re not proposing to throw those away because of a few rips, are you? Are you handy with a needle? Don’t suppose you’ve ever handled a sewing machine?” the woman asked.

“I have.” Emily swallowed her indignation.

Would this woman believe that, as lady’s maid, she had created gowns for Lady Florence Farrington and the Countess of Witney to wear in the presence of the King?

“The policy states that women cannot expect free hand-outs of clothing, but must make it themselves.

“I’m looking for women who have enough experience to teach those less skilled. Where’s that accent from?”

“I’m from England. And I’d be glad to help.”

The woman frowned.

“Well, I’ll give you a try.”

All of that seemed a lifetime ago.

Now, Emily freed the fabric from the machine.

“I think we can stitch a fine seam along the edge.”

“I can’t keep it straight with my hand on the wheel,” Becky blurted out.

“You’ll get the hang of it,” Emily soothed. “The machine needs oil – that’s why it keeps jamming.”

She thought of the shining Singer treadle that she and Jenny had been given at Farrington House, which purred along with perfect, even stitches.

“Can you sew it for me?” Becky whispered.

Emily smiled.

“Just this once. But you’ll catch on, I promise.”

How like Jenny she was, Emily thought, remembering her sister’s frustration when she and Sarah had taught her the basics of glove-making.

Now Jenny was a married woman, looking forward to making a home of her own.

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.