Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 17

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“Oh, yes. I’m exhausted.” Eleanor Bracken sank into a brocade chair and cast a disconsolate look round the room. It had been a gloomy day, and the mysterious animal painting loomed over the mantel. 

“Such a dreadful journey,” she went on, unbuttoning the row of tiny buttons on the tight, high-heeled shoes, and rubbing her feet.  

“I’ll bring tea right away, Lady Bracken. Should I light the lamps first?”  

Jenny reached for the table lamp and lifted the delicately etched glass chimney. The soft glow of the lamps cheered the room considerably. 

“I’ve tried to clean the house as best I could,” Jenny went on, feeling the need to defend herself. “I’m afraid there’s still a lot to do, but your housemaid won’t have to start out with the worst of it.  

“I’m getting the measure of the Rayburn, but I’m sure when your cook arrives she’ll be able to put it all in perfect order.”   

Jenny paused, hoping for a thank you, but none came. Indignation set in.   

She had worked hard all week, and for what? If it was to please Ben, and to help his chances here, that she could accept. But a simple thanks from the lady of the house would have been welcome.  

“Lady Bracken, may I ask when they will be arriving?”  

Eleanor peered at Jenny.  


“Your servants.” 

“Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t thought. My mother has engaged a woman who does for us in London. I suppose . . .”  

She trailed off into silence and then looked anxiously about her.  

“Has there been any post for me? Always give it to me in private, won’t you?”  

“Yes, but there hasn’t been anything for you, Lady Bracken – just something for Lord Bracken. I put it on the sideboard in the hallway.”  

Jenny waited and then spoke carefully.  

“I wonder if you have a moment to discuss –” 

But there were footsteps from the corridor and then Lord Bracken appeared. To her surprise, Ben was following behind.  

“Ah, it’s Jenny, isn’t it? Or perhaps I should address you as Mrs Miller. I’m sorry I didn’t say hello earlier. A lot of business to see to.” 

“Hello, sir. It’s nice to see you again.” Jenny smiled stiffly, her eyes darting questioningly to Ben, who stood behind Lord Bracken, his expression strained.  

She’d seen that look before, and a flutter of apprehension coursed through her.  

“I thought we might take the opportunity to discuss with you both the terms of your employment here.”  

Jenny’s heart leaped. She waited for Ben to respond, but the silence grew awkward till she broke it.  

“Thank you, sir. That’s very kind of you. I was just going to make tea . . .” 

“Never mind, it shan’t take a moment. It’s very simple. As I was saying earlier to Ben, we’re not going to be here for long.  

“It’s an unusual arrangement, you see – a little hiccup in my mother’s will. We’ll be off in a year; so we’re just passing through, really.”  

He cleared his throat. 

“We’re certainly not going to be here constantly,” Lady Bracken added. 

“So, as I say, Ben, there’s no need to go to any trouble in the garden. Tidy it up a bit – nothing more than that. Have to keep expenses to a bare minimum, you see. We thought the two of you could keep things ticking over for us.  

“Eleanor, I presume you’ve spoken to Jenny about the house and the cooking?” 

But Jenny wasn’t listening. Her thoughts were of Ben, the man she loved and admired more than anyone in the world.  

She watched his face crumple, and in his eyes she saw his dreams begin to wither and die like the blackening vines of the neglected creeper that now clung dismally to the drawing-room window.  

To be continued…

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