Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 27

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“Are you suggesting he hid them somewhere at Orchard End? And then, having done the deed, the wretch died before telling his wife?” 

“It’s possible, isn’t it? And if they were found,” she continued, “then they belong to you, Hugh.” 

Reginald scoffed.  

“This is preposterous. If Bracken did bring them back, how could anyone ever find them? Besides, only half of them would belong to Hugh. The rest would go to the young Brackens.” 

“For heaven’s sake, Reg!” Hugh exploded, his energy rekindled with anger. “The man was a cheat.” 

“Even if it were only half,” Lady Farrington continued, “it would still be a fortune.” 

“But it could be that something happened to the diamonds while Charles was still in Africa,” Reginald said. “Maybe he didn’t bring them back at all.” 

“Reginald, don’t you think it would be a good idea to try to find out?”  Lady Farrington beseeched. “At least to ask a few questions.  

“To find out who last saw Charles Bracken; who might have met him on the voyage back, and who he talked to in that first crucial day after he arrived home? Aren’t you even a little curious?” 

“It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Reginald said, shaking his head. “What is the point?”  

Lady Farrington sighed. Feelings of hopelessness and failure were beginning to colour her husband’s every thought. 

She remembered the quiet strength and confidence that had captivated her when they’d met, and the gentle authority that had won the respect of every servant who had ever been in his employ.  

As the years had gone by, her love for him had grown and deepened.  

Now, it was her turn to be strong. She refused to let him be beaten down. She must grab every chance there was. 

“Reginald,” she said, looking intently into his eyes, “I don’t think it would be wise just to ignore this. Particularly as this haystack is now being looked after by Jenny.”  

She sat taller in her chair.  

“Upon reflection, Thea’s idea of going to help the girl is actually rather a good one. And don’t you think it would be advisable, Hugh, for you to go along as well?” 

The San Francisco trolley rattled to a stop and James helped Emily on to the street. 

“This is all very mysterious, James. Where are you taking me?” 

“You’ll see.”  

He guided her along, past grim ruins of houses sitting between shiny new shop fronts.  

His pace slowed and he stopped, moving her carefully towards the edge of the pavement and turning her to face a tall gabled house that sat back from the street on an elevated site.  

She stared, transfixed. There was a porch blackened by fire damage, and the top step had collapsed. But the ornate columns and the lacy gingerbread trim were undamaged.   

There was a turret at the right, with tall, south-facing windows that reminded Emily of a favourite picture from the precious book of fairy tales that she had grown up with.  

As one of the few books that the family owned, the children had treasured it.  

For a moment she was distracted, thinking of them all and wondering if Sarah had begun reading to little Joey from it. 

“Well,” James said, “what do you think? Because of the damage, the family has moved out and relocated in another part of the city, as so many have done. They’re renting out the premises now. 

“At the moment the left side of the house is occupied by a couple of brothers. One runs a pharmacy, and the other a barber’s shop.  

“But the turret is empty. There was some damage to one of the rooms, but nothing that can’t be mended.” 

She looked at him, bewildered. 

“There are two rooms on the ground floor,” he went on, as if not noticing her confusion. “Neither is very large, but there’s a fair amount of space and four small rooms above it.  

“It’s all very light and airy – good for sewing, and your window display would be superb.” 

My window display?” She turned to him, her eyes huge with wonder and disbelief. 

“It’s yours, dear girl. That is, if you want it. Your dream shop, as well as a place to live, with room for your friend Becky and her grandmother.” 

She could scarcely breathe.  

“But, James, how could I ever . . .?” 

“Afford it? Well, I’m going to advance you whatever you need to start with. After that it will be up to you to make ends meet.”  

To be continued…

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