The Best Of Both Worlds – Episode 49

Jenny shivered as she and Ben bumped along the road in the farm cart.

“Look.” He gestured towards a thicket of blackthorn, heavy with white blossom brought on by the late cold snap. “Those will produce a fine crop of sloes come October.”

“I wish it were warm and sunny, especially for my afternoon off.” Jenny sighed.

“So does Mr Mott, especially since he doesn’t hold with a lot of indoor forcing of vegetables and fruit, though he does a bit of it to please the gentry. He prefers the garden to produce in its own time. Seems wrong to go against nature just to make a big show at table. He’s lent me a book about it.”

“How do you find so much time to read, Ben? Either you’re working with Dad in the fields, or with Mr Mott.”

“I burn a lot of candles! Sarah says it’s bad for my eyes, but I’ve got so much to learn. I have to catch up with the journeymen who’ve been at it since they were crock boys.”

Jenny looked up at him. When Ben had first come to live at the cottage, she’d found him unpleasant, but as they’d got to know one another, she’d found herself more comfortable in his company than she’d wanted to admit to herself. Since he’d started working for Mr Mott, he always had something interesting to tell her.

She remembered how Mr Mott had defended him on that terrible morning in December. The head gardener’s face had been full of admiration and pride.

When Ben had returned to Farrington House that evening, the inspector and Mr. Runciman had detained him. Jenny had been nervous and puzzled about the bracelet, and she’d made an excuse to the countess and had hurried downstairs, hoping to listen to the interrogation from behind the kitchen door.

She’d found Mrs Wiggan doing the same.

“Poor lad,” Mrs. Wiggan hissed. “He’d saved up for it. It was meant for his mum, as a Christmas present.”

“The bracelet?”

“Silly boy, she could use the money instead, I shouldn’t wonder. Still, imagine him thinking of his mother like that.” Mrs Wiggan had dabbed at her eyes.

Sarah had been puzzled when Jenny had told her about it. It seemed that, in the end, Ben had given his mother something else, as Mary never mentioned the bracelet in her letters to Sarah after Christmas.

“How is your mother, Ben?” Jenny asked now.

“About the same. At least now it’ll start to get warmer, and that helps her cough.”

“It must lift her spirits to know how well you’re doing.”

“I just want to get on, and make enough money to give her a new life.”

A new life. Why did Jenny feel a knot of pain twist inside? Infuriatingly, tears began to well up.


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