Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 45

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

She heard footsteps on the staircase and quickly wiped away her tears. 

“Emily! It’s nearly time!” 

“I can hardly believe it!” 

She turned to the excited faces of Becky and Miriam. 

“There’s one minute left!” Becky cried. 

Emily looked nervously to the curtained window. 

“You should be the one to open it,” Miriam urged. 

“I wonder if we’ll have any customers today?” Becky bit her lip. 

“It’s bound to take time,” Miriam said sagely. 

The clock reached the half hour. Emily walked to the window, and began pulling aside the curtain.  

As she did so, she gave a gasp. There, on the other side of the glass, were more than a dozen women, some with children in tow. All were gazing with fascination and delight at the window display. 

With the inside of the shop now in full view, more passers-by stopped to see what the commotion was about, and to marvel.  

Becky, who as a child had always preferred building things with her brothers than playing with dolls, had constructed and painted a backdrop of buildings out of food crates and off-cuts of wood.  

Set at either side of the window, they were an inspiring reminder that San Francisco had risen from the ashes of the earthquake with astonishing speed. 

Garlands of leaves that Emily had cut from silk in vibrant shades of autumn drifted from the window frame as a harbinger of the season to come.  

Dressed in her russet walking suit and feathered hat, the mannequin Mrs Tom Cobley stood beside a small pram Miriam had borrowed, and over the hood were draped a child’s dress and pinafore and a boy’s pair of knickerbockers and jacket.  

Miriam unlocked the door, and immediately there was a ding as it opened and several women stepped inside. 

“At last! My sister and I are looking for something to wear for a wedding.” 

Behind her, another woman stammered shyly.  

“I shouldn’t have come in – but it all looks so beautiful. I need something simple, but I don’t know how much you charge.” 

“I’m sure we can find something to suit your budget.” Emily smiled. “Why don’t we have a chat?” 

“I declare the Farrington Motor Races open!” Lord Farrington snipped the blue ribbon and as it fluttered on to the racing track there was a cheer from the crowd that had been gathering from early in the day. 

“Well done!” Bertrand beamed, putting a hand on his father’s shoulder. 

“How thrilling!” Thea exclaimed. “Isn’t your grandfather simply divine!”  

Yet again she lifted her sleeping baby out of the pram, to the disapproval of Lady Farrington. 

“Thea, he needs to sleep.” 

“And miss all the fun? But don’t you ever become a racing driver, my precious,” she whispered, nestling the baby’s soft head against her cheek. “Why, Viscount Bertie Charles Reginald Farrington, I believe you’ll be Prime Minister one day.”   

Lady Farrington sighed, knowing it was no use expecting her daughter-in-law to behave as a sensible mother would.  

The very idea of bringing such a tiny baby outdoors, amidst all the noise and commotion, was shocking. 

But her heart melted at the sight of her little grandson, and once again she said a silent prayer of thanks for the skill and country wisdom of Sarah Callow who had, with the help of Mrs Wiggan, safely brought the new gift of life into the world. 

Little Bertie had lifted their hearts, and joy had rendered all else trivial.  

Somehow, with the help of Thea’s fortune, and cutting back in whatever way they could – apart from letting the servants go – they would keep afloat. If Farrington House resembled a fun fair, then so be it. 

“Reginald, that was splendid,” she said, looking into his eyes. 

He smiled resignedly.  

“I’m glad it’s all off to a promising start. We’re lucky with the weather.” 

“We’re lucky with more than that,” she whispered. “I feel so proud to be your wife. You have always been so strong, and such an example of dignity.  

“Nothing has made you waver from that. I’m sorry to have embarrassed you.” 

“You haven’t, Julia. You’ve always been a fighter – and a survivor. Even through the earthquake, and losing our last hope with that investment, you’ve always been strong, and stood by me. I’m a lucky man.  

“But things will be hard, my darling, even with Thea’s fortune and the revenue from this bit of nonsense.” 

“It doesn’t matter.”  

They stood together, unaware of the excited crowd around them as the competitors and their mechanics began to push the cars on to the track, ready to be cranked up.  

To be continued…

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