Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 26

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Now there was the extraordinary coincidence of Charles Bracken and Orchard End, though perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising, since the school they had attended was located halfway between the two houses. 

A memory drifted into her mind. It had been shortly after she and Reginald had returned from honeymoon.  

The head gardener,
Mr Mott, had welcomed her with a bouquet of flowers grown specially for the occasion. 

A young bride, she’d been eager to build friendly but dignified relations with the servants. She’d stood there, her heart aglow with love for Reginald, breathless with excitement about her new life.  

There would be parties to plan, new draperies to choose for the drawing-room, the nursery to be refurbished.  

And it would all be just as she wanted.  

She, the youngest of three daughters and the least clever, had somehow charmed the shy and gentle Reginald Farrington. 

“Thank you, Mott,” she’d said, smiling into his face. “They’re lovely. It was very thoughtful of you.” 

“I’m honoured, my lady. Very glad those blooms came on so well. The weather’s been good to us. Hope it lasts.” 

“Indeed. Do you have plans for the garden this summer?” 

“Yes, my lady, digging a new border along the west side. It looks like I’ll get it done sooner than expected. I was due to go fishing with my cousin, Alf Dickson. He’s head gardener at a big house called Orchard End –some miles away.” 

“How nice. And when will this be?” 

“Sadly, it’s all been called off, on account of the lord of the house, name of Bracken. He’d just got back from Africa – something to do with diamond mining.  

“The poor man, rest his soul, suffered a stroke his second day back and died instantly.  

“Lady Bracken is devastated, and Alf, well, he’s devoted to the mistress. So he can’t leave – not now.” 

“Oh, I am sorry, Mott. What a disappointment for you. I hope you and your cousin can go another time.” 

“Thank you kindly, my lady. Who knows what will happen now? I’m worried for Alf, and his job, you see. Lady Bracken’s been left in a state. Money seems to have disappeared. Not sure how it’s happened. 

“I don’t like the sound of these diamond mines and such like – trying to make money too quick. Sow in haste, regret in leisure, I always say.” 

Now the memory ended ruefully as she reflected on their own situation. It seemed Mr Mott had been right about risky ventures.  

But Reginald had only done what he’d thought was right. She must remember that.  

And what other choice had there been? The chance to invest in the Ocean Shore Railway had felt like a godsend.  

Of course, she had never trusted Charlie Allbright. The brash New Yorker had certainly not seemed an ideal father-in-law for Bertrand.  

But he’d wanted to help them, and his suggestion of Reginald pouring what they had left into the project hadn’t been foolhardy.  

It had been the earthquake that had turned San Francisco to ashes and plunged the railroad into the sea. Losing their fortune was no-one’s fault. 

A thought flashed through Lady Farrington’s mind. 

“Hugh, did you ever wonder what Charles Bracken did with the diamonds?” 

Hugh shrugged.  

“I gather his widow struggled to keep up Orchard End after he died, and to raise their son. If Charles had brought a fist full of diamonds back to England, then he must have lost them. Or perhaps they were stolen.” 

“Yes, but stolen in Africa, or here?” 

“Who knows?” 

“So,” she pressed, “it is possible that he brought the diamonds back to England.” 

“I suppose, but as I said, there certainly is no evidence that he did.” 

“Unless he put them somewhere.” Her mind was racing. “A safe deposit vault, perhaps?” 

“He’d have to have gone to London – there’s one in Victoria Street,” Reginald mused, “and the newer one in Chancery Lane.” 

“But Charles Bracken died the second day after returning from Africa, didn’t he?” Lady Farrington said. “He wouldn’t have had time to go off to London and investigate safe deposit vaults. Where would his ship have docked?” 

“Southampton,” Hugh said. “He could have gone to London before making his way back home.” 

“We could find that out, couldn’t we?” Lady Farrington argued. “There would be records of the dates ships from Africa had docked, and it would be easy to find out when Charles Bracken died.” 

“Where is all this going, Julia?” Reginald’s voice was edged with irritation. “If Bracken had returned with a cache of diamonds, wouldn’t he have told his wife where he’d put them? It doesn’t sound like she was left with much.” 

“Perhaps he was about to tell her, but for some reason he wanted, or needed, to wait for a while.  

“So he put them somewhere safe. Somewhere closer than London, where he could get to them quickly and easily.” 

Hugh pondered for a moment, interest beginning to light his eyes.  

To be continued…

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