Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 16

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

At the table, Davey looked at her and Joseph.  

“I heard some news about Farrington House.”  

“What about?”  

“Do you remember Jenny and Emily mentioning a footman called Philip? Cheeky devil – I never much liked the sound of him.  

“Well, he’s been hired as a chauffeur somewhere and came into the garage to have some work done on the chap’s Lagonda.” Davey whistled. “What a car.  

“Anyway, I heard him talking to the boss. He said Lord Farrington has money troubles and there are going to be some changes.” 

Joe stared.  

“What do you mean?” 

“He’s going to have to let some servants go and, well, he might be shutting down some of the farming.” 

There was silence, then Joe spoke.  

“He’s talking twaddle. Lord Farrington would never do such a thing.”  

Little Joey began to wail and Sarah lifted him up, feeling the comfort of his chubby arms around her.  

“We mustn’t believe everything we hear, Davey, especially from the likes of Phillip,” she said nervously.  

“Don’t forget, the countess is a very wealthy lady. She’d never let such a thing happen to the family.” 

“That’s what my boss said, but the chap told him she’s been spending money faster than one of her racing cars.  

“First it was electric lighting and fancy privies, and now there’s some sort of building going on in the grounds.  

“He said at the rate she’s going they could be bankrupt by the end of the year.” 

“That couldn’t be true,” Sarah said weakly.  

She looked at Joe, whose face was dark with worry. 

She’d been concerned about his health and how long he was going to be able to carry on with the farming. But having it taken from him would be a catastrophe.  

He’d worked those fields all his life. Would this harvest be their last?  

She looked round the little cottage. Somehow, she knew with a dreadful clarity that it was up to her to prevent this disaster – or if it happened, to make everything right for Joe and the family.  

Hadn’t she always done that?  

Jenny had still spent little enough time in her own home, but for all its roughness, she loved the way the tiny cottage seemed to welcome her and Ben from the very beginning.   

It was there that she and Ben could be themselves and feel truly close to one another.  

But there was so much to do, and the small, soot-encrusted range was difficult to light. If only she’d been interested in cooking and home-making when she was growing up, and had listened more to Sarah’s instructions!  

At the Orchard End house she always felt uneasy with the exotic masks and artefacts throughout the house.  

Every sound – a crack of the floorboards or a gust of wind against the windows – made her jump or look over her shoulder.  

For all its eerie beauty, the strange painting of the animal in the drawing-room seemed to cast a spell over the entire house, and left her with a haunted feeling.  

The Brackens’ return to Orchard End was as unannounced as their departure, with no letter nor telegram preceding it.  

Jenny, in the Orchard End kitchen, had just taken a suet pudding from the oven for Ben once he came in from the gardens when she heard the slam of the front door followed by voices echoing.  

She was so alarmed that she burned her finger on the tin, and the red streak throbbed as she smoothed her skirt and tried to calm her nerves.  

“Would you like some tea, Lady Bracken? I’m sorry . . .” she stammered, apologising without knowing why.  

Lord Bracken had gone to his study as soon as they’d arrived, and his wife had thrown her handbag on to a chair and had drifted into the drawing-room.  

Jenny hadn’t seen her since the day the pair had unexpectedly appeared at the wedding festivities in the Callows’ garden.  

She remembered the bobbed hair and exotic clothes, and the odd manner which made her seem like an actress.  

How different from the countess who was always friendly and warm, and from Lady Florence, who still seemed so young and uncomplicated.  

To be continued…

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