Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 25

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Lady Farrington looked at Hugh in alarm. What had come over him? She took a breath to speak, but her daughter-in-law suddenly stood up, bustling Malaika out of the room by the elbow.  

Thea was taking charge again. How exhausting the girl was! Why, her conduct was scarcely better than those ill-behaved puppies of hers, chasing up and down the corridors of Farrington House. 

Lady Farrington sighed. If only Bertrand had met some other girl – like that young woman they’d met a few weeks ago.  

On the other hand, Lady Farrington mused, Thea, with her vast fortune and her dreadful racing track, was their only hope now that they faced ruin. It was no good dwelling on regrets. 

Bertrand looked from his mother to his father and uncle.   

“I must talk to Thea. Please tell Runciman I won’t be having coffee.” 

“Fine, Bertrand. But we’ll need to speak later on.”  

Lord Farrington’s face was strained with the tension that had appeared from the moment Mrs Wiggan had told them of Jenny’s telephone call, asking for help, from the Brackenbury Hotel.  

The mention of Orchard End and the Bracken family had seemed to invade the room like a menacing cloud, turning Hugh’s face to an ashen mask before it drifted over Lord Farrington. 

Lady Farrington sighed. It was all very wearing, and now she had to deal with Thea’s plan of sending a rescue party to help the Callow girl. It seemed ridiculously dramatic, summoning the girl’s stepmother and whisking Mrs Wiggan off as well. 

“Reginald, this won’t do. Of course I feel for the girl, but she’s nothing to do with us. I know she was once Thea’s lady’s maid, but she’s moved on, just as her sister did.  

“I will never understand Emily choosing to remain in the ruins of California when Bertrand was willing to bring her back to England and the position we had kept for her. After that, do we owe either of these Callows anything?” 

“Julia, we will discuss it later,” Lord Farrington said, his voice tremulous. 

“What is it?” she asked fearfully. 

Lord Farrington looked from his wife to Hugh, then back again. 

“It’s complicated, Julia. Do you remember I told you about the dreadful chap who had tormented Hugh at school? It was Charles Bracken – the father of the man who now owns Orchard End.” 

“Yes, I remember the name,” she said, feeling a guilty wave of relief.  

Old wounds brought to light – it was this, then, that had caused the pale faces.  

“An unfortunate coincidence,” she said, turning to Hugh. “It is painful recalling difficult times. But, of course, they were your school days, many years ago.” 

“Not as long ago as that,” Hugh said, his voice heavy. “If my last sight of Bracken had been him laughing into my face after he’d held my head under the water in the swimming baths, then I’d be a different man today.  

“But it wasn’t. I met up with him again – in Africa.” 

“How extraordinary!” 

“Not really,” Hugh continued. “A lot of chaps made a bee-line for the diamond mines in Kimberley.” His eyes clouded, lost in memories; then they suddenly flashed with anger. 

“I’ll never forget the sight of Bracken standing there. I travel halfway across the world, and of all people, there he was, standing in front of me at some bar.  

“I’d been in the mines all day and was covered in dust. Had a raging thirst, and there he was, with a cold beer in his hand.”  

His bitter laugh cut the air.  

“Of all the many stupid things I’ve ever done – I trusted him. ‘Heard you were here. What a lark, eh? Well, I want to make amends, old chap,’ he said. ‘I know I didn’t treat you very well – let me make it up to you.’  

“How could I have believed him? The long and the short of it was that he cheated me. I had a lead, you see, and he’d somehow found out about it.  

“He said he knew things, too – we could pool our knowledge and make twice the killing. And by God, we did. But he disappeared. Took the lot – an enormous cache of stones.”  

Every muscle in Hugh’s face was taut.  

“If it hadn’t been for my darling angel, Malaika, I swear I’d have gone mad.” 

Lady Farrington was unable to think of anything to say. She could hardly bear to see her husband so distraught by the sudden appearance of Hugh.  

He’d never got over Hugh abandoning and betraying him – for that was how it had felt.  

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.