Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 09

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Jenny looked up to see an ornate ceiling decorated with gilt scrollwork. On the walls were portraits and wall sconces. But it was the painting over the mantel that took her breath away.

It wasn’t beautiful, she thought, so captivated she didn’t realise that Ben, too, was transfixed.

“How extraordinary!”

“What is it? A deer?”

“No, it’s different.”

The animal’s shape was angular and blurred at the edges, in shades of rust and brown. Patches and streaks of cream made it look illuminated, giving it a life-like quality.

The horns were curved and pointed, and the animal had an exhilarating look of energy about it.

“He looks like he could spring right out of the picture,” Ben said.

“Yes. Yet there’s a strange peace about him.”

“He looks so powerful.”

They stood, drawn in by the magic of the painting.

“It is an odd sort of painting to have hanging in a drawing-room.”

“This house is full of unexpected things.”

“It breaks my heart, Reginald,” Lady Farrington said. “Thea is ruining everything – the house, the garden, your reputation. How can Bertrand let her take over? Why doesn’t he stand up to the girl?”

They strolled across the terrace, the afternoon sunlight sparkling on the fountains beyond.

Lord Farringon took a deep breath.

“I think Bertrand can see the dilemma,” he said, measuring his words.

“Dilemma? Our daughter-in-law is planning to have a motor-racing track built on the grounds of Farrington House. You heard her today at luncheon.

“She’s proposing to have a big wheel, and sell that ghastly pink confection she and Bertrand were talking about from the St Louis World’s Fair. Fairy floss, or some such thing!”

Lady Farrington retrieved a lace handkerchief from her sleeve and touched it delicately to her forehead.

“She wants a banner to be erected across the front gates proclaiming the races. Imagine, Reginald, the roar of motor cars careering round a dirt track to the cheers of onlookers, and the lawns of Farrington strewn with sticky globs of spun sugar!”

“Thea is a very wealthy woman,” Lord Farrington said. “Her ideas, distressing as they are, could put us back on our feet.”

“Surely our finances aren’t as bad as that, Reginald,” Lady Farrington argued. “Of course we must allow her to help us. But –”

“I’m afraid they are that bad, Julia. This morning Bertrand and I discussed the possibility – no, the probability – of dismissing some of the servants.”

“Oh, Reginald!” She looked up at him, her eyes sad, her voice barely a whisper. “No.”

“Bertrand and I hope you might be able to find a maid-of-all-work, who can look after the cleaning and also help you and Florence. We’ll keep Runciman, of course.”

“And Mrs Wiggan. We must! And Perkins.”

“This pains me as much as it does you, Julia, but the fact is, Bertrand and Thea go everywhere in that motor car. You and I, well, we won’t be needing the carriages, or Perkins. We can’t afford to entertain, and so the time will come when we will no longer be invited out.

“That is the way it is. We can also do without footmen. I suppose we have to keep Mott on.

“Unfortunate that Hanshaw married the Callow girl. He seemed a good gardener, and might have stayed on for a reduced salary, and we could have let Mott go.

“We’ll keep Mrs Wiggan for the time being, but the farmland, and the estate workers . . . I don’t know.” He sighed heavily.

“Reginald, I cannot believe the cavalier way you speak of all this.”

He blanched.

“I am simply being practical, Julia. We have no choice – that is, unless we give Thea free rein.”

Lady Farrington moaned.

“A big wheel? Perhaps Bertrand can at least talk her out of that.”

To be continued…

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