Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 41

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Mrs Wiggan gave the pastry one last roll, and as it broke in the middle she slammed the rolling-pin on to the table and fixed her eyes on the two ladies. 

“What is this really all about? It’s common knowledge below stairs that Lord Farrington is in trouble, and will be ‘making changes’.  

“What that means is that he’s fixing to get rid of us; some of us, anyway. I hadn’t guessed how he and Lady Farrington were going to manage without us, but now I see what is in his mind – bringing in other people who are willing to work for practically nothing.  

“This is why you’ve come, isn’t it, Sarah? Forcing me out. With all due respect, my lady, this is not the way things are done in this country, or in this house. This is never Lady Farrington’s idea, is it?” 

Sarah was too shocked to speak, and shook her head in silent protest. 

“Oh, Mrs Wiggan!” Thea said in alarm. “I would never let my father-in-law dismiss you – any of you! You’re as much a part of this house as the Farringtons.  

“More than I am, I dare say – I know you’ve never approved of me, though I’ve tried to be friendly and fit in best I could.  

“But I’m not here to ask for your approval. It’s Sarah and her family I’m concerned about. And I thought . . . I thought –” she stammered, her usual exuberance quelled. 

Mrs Wiggan gulped.  

“I’m sorry, my lady, truly I am. I never have learned to hold my tongue. Mr Runciman told me that a long time ago. I’ve just been so worried, you see.” 

Sarah looked from one to the other. 

“This is all my fault. I’m so sorry to have caused any worries or unhappiness. Mrs Wiggan, the countess is only trying to help me and my Joe. Lord knows, I could never in a million years take over here. Imagine, me making scouse for gentry!  

“I learned so much that weekend at Orchard End, watching you. I think the countess thought we might be able to join forces, just for this opening of her motor races, you see.  

“Give me and my Joe a little hope for the future. None of us knows what the future holds, but we have to keep going.” 

“Well,” Mrs Wiggan said, a little of her usual manner creeping back. “I expect we could make it work, with a little organisation. Picnics aren’t so easy, you’ll find.” 

“I’m sure you’re right, Mrs Wiggan,” Sarah said. “But I’m a good learner.” 

Mrs Wiggan turned to Thea, an embarrassed flush in her cheeks. But the door opened and Runciman burst in. 

“I beg your pardon, ladies, but there is an urgent telephone call for you, my lady.  

“Something about a Mr van Zyl. Seems he’s broken his leg, and won’t be able to –” 

“He’s broken his leg?” Thea shrieked. “He can’t have! He was going to race my motor, and everyone was going to come to see him – he’s the star racer!”  

Thea clapped her hands to her cheeks, her shoulders hunched in dismay, and Sarah reached out a hand towards her.  

But as she did Thea let out a deep groan and clutched at her midriff.  

“Oh –” She gasped with pain and Mrs Wiggan and Sarah flew to her side. 

“Is it – the – baby?” Thea gasped. “Oh, it can’t be. Not yet . . .” 

“Telephone the doctor, quick!” Mrs Wiggan barked at Runciman. 

“We must get her to a bed,” Sarah said, trying to speak calmly. “You’ll be all right, my lady. Keep breathing deeply.” 

“But it’s much too early!” Thea whispered, as Sarah and Mrs Wiggan slowly eased her to a standing position. 

“There are false alarms all the time,” Sarah said. “Keep calm now.”  

But she looked gravely at Mrs Wiggan as they began to walk Thea slowly across the room. 

“Thank heavens you’re here, dear,” Mrs Wiggan said to Sarah. “And thank heavens for you, my lady. Truth is, you’ve brought a spark of fun to this house. And we needed it.  

“Just you lean on us now – you’re going to be fine.” 

They manoeuvred Thea into Mr Runciman’s quarters and laid her on his narrow iron bed. 

“Well, I daresay this is going to cause a bit of a stir, but he’s just going to have to accept it,” Mrs Wiggan said. 

Thea managed a smile.  

“He’ll never forgive me.” 

“Tish tosh. He needs a little surprise now and again. Now, Sarah, tell me what to do.” 

To be continued…

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