Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 20

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

After the surprise arrival earlier that day, Runciman had taken Mrs Wiggan aside, guiding her into his pantry before telling her that Master Hugh, as they’d remembered him, was not dead, but was alive and well and upstairs with his African wife.   

He’d had to give Mrs Wiggan a tot of brandy. She’d become as hysterical with joy as she had been with sorrow all those years before, when young Hugh had run away to sea.   

She had always been fond of him, from her first days at Farrington House when she’d started as a kitchen maid.  

Hugh had been a mischievous lad, and Reginald had often taken the rap for some of his brother’s pranks.  

Their father had been wise to this, and Reginald had won his father’s respect and trust.  

But it had been Hugh, with his rakish charm and startlingly blue eyes, who had been the apple of his mother’s eye.  

Soon after Hugh’s departure she had taken ill and died from shock and grief, as did her husband three years later, in his case from anger.  

He had gone into such a decline; so furious with Hugh, who he’d been sure had caused his beloved wife’s death, that he’d been unable to function.  

Reginald was summoned home from boarding school. As he watched his father crumble he was filled with trepidation, for he saw the writing on the wall. 

Reginald waited and waited, certain his beloved brother would return. But finally it was clear that he must become the master of the house.  

It had been Runciman, a young man himself who was just starting out in his career, who had told Reginald what his duties would be when the time came, and who had explained, with the judicious tact of a diplomat, the way his father liked things to be done.   

“Isn’t it wonderful that Hugh and Malaika will be here for the grand opening of my races?” Thea beamed. “Hugh, do they have motor cars in Africa? I can’t imagine they do, with those elephants to ride on!” 

“Did you go on safari, Hugh?” Bertrand added. “You haven’t told us much about what you did over there. It’s a mystery.” 

Lord Farrington had been staring at his plate, but now he looked up, his eyes dark with intensity as he looked at his brother. 

“That’s a long story,” Hugh said, running a hand through the shock of hair that had fallen characteristically across his forehead.  

His eyes darted to Runciman, who had cleared away the main course and was receiving a platter from one of the kitchen maids.  

“I say, is that the pudding? I must pay a visit below stairs to dear Mrs Wiggan. Capital job she’s done. 

“Malaika, my angel,” he continued, “you must try this. But not too much, Runciman. She is not accustomed to such richness; nor, for that matter, am I.  

“Tell me more, Thea, about this grand opening of yours.” 

Thea chattered about her plans, and at last it was time for the ladies to retreat, leaving the men to their port. 

Bertrand tactfully rose with them.  

“I’m afraid I have work to do. Would you excuse me?” 

“Of course, Bertrand,” Lord Farrington said, gratitude in his tone.   

The brothers sat silently in the candle glow till,
at last, Reginald spoke. 

“I know you, Hughie. What are you hiding? And how could you have gone off like that? Did you get my letters? I never heard a word – not even when Mother died, and then Father.  

“I thought you were –” His voice broke. 

Hugh shook his head.  

“It’s the same old story. I failed. And you have succeeded. You kept it all going, just as Father would have.”  

“It’s not what it seems. We have our troubles.” 

“What might those be?” Hugh chuckled. “Flirtatious footmen below stairs?” 

Reginald was silent. 

To be continued…

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