Hold Fast To Your Dreams
The return of Hugh after so many years was cause for celebration, and not a little curiosity . . .
THE dining-room at Farrington House glowed with candlelight, the arrangements of roses and greenery filling the air with fragrance.
When the Farringtons had returned from San Francisco they had been as aghast as Runciman the butler had feared at the electric lighting that had been installed in their absence.
To their relief, the dining-room had been spared.
Runciman had given an extra polish to the magnificent silver centrepiece used for special occasions: a sculpture of the 1st Marquess of Farrington standing on the deck of HMS Valour.
It was more precious than ever, as some paintings and a piece of Oriental pottery had been sold to raise funds for house repairs.
Malaika sat in the place of honour beside Lord Farrington. Runciman approached the table with the fish course fanned out on a silver tray.
Hugh looked up.
“By Jove, Runciman, is that Pheasant of the Sea?”
“Indeed, sir. Mrs Wiggan prepared the turbot especially for your homecoming.”
Excitement had been at fever pitch below stairs. All had risen admirably to preparations for the celebratory dinner – once they’d recovered from the extraordinary news.
Some of the younger servants had been only vaguely aware that Lord Farrington had a brother.
There had been rumblings years ago, when one of the housemaids had found a photograph of Lord Farrington as a child, with an older boy sitting beside him, both staring out above their frilled collars.
Runciman had caught her with it, and his reprimand had been so severe that no-one dared whisper about it again.
Runciman stood beside Malaika, the platter balanced on his arm as he took the silver fish slice in his hand.
“May I offer you, Madam, Lady . . .?” He faltered, an unaccustomed flush rising in his cheeks.
“I beg your pardon, Runciman,” Hugh said. “My fault entirely. I must explain my wife’s esteemed lineage.”
He said a few words to Malaika in her own language. She nodded, lowering her eyes.
“Malaika has agreed for you to know that she is the favourite daughter of King Jabari Bentu. She is, in fact, a princess.”
Thea clapped her hands to her cheeks.
“A princess in the family? How thrilling!”
Lady Farrington’s eyes darted to her husband.
“I see,” Reginald Farrington said, clearing his throat. “Very impressive. Perhaps Runciman, you might address his lordship’s wife as . . .”
“Surely it should be Your Royal Highness!” Thea interrupted. “The King’s daughters are introduced that way.”
“Actually, darling,” Bertrand said, “that term of address would only be used for the first introduction. Thereafter the princess would be addressed as Ma’am.”
Thea frowned and looked across at Malaika.
“You wouldn’t want Runciman to call you that, would you?”
A smile graced Malaika’s face.
“In my country, we believe Onipa ne asem.”
“It means it is the human being that counts. You see, a title doesn’t hold much meaning.”
“It would be the wish of my father and mother for me to be called the name they gave to me, when honey and bitter herbs were placed upon my head.
“Both will be part of every person’s life. I hope to be worthy of this gift.”
Lady Farrington sensed warmth and friendship from her words.
“In Africa, a name is regarded as a promise,” Hugh explained, “and with that come hopes and expectations. Malaika’s parents bestowed upon her the blessings of all that her name implies – goodness, love, trust and a kind of redemption.
Reginald’s daughter, Florence, sighed.
“Perhaps that’s been my trouble all along. ‘Florence’ doesn’t sound very inspiring. How beautifully you speak, Malaika.”
“She has been an exemplary pupil,” Hugh said. “Far better than I ever was. But over the years I’ve picked up a number of different dialects, which is more than can be said of most of our lot over there,” he added, a hint of the old swagger in his tone.
“You’d be surprised at the complexity of the languages.
“Runciman, poor man, do serve the fish.”
“With pleasure, sir. And if I may be so bold to suggest – would Lady Malaika be satisfactory?”
“Jolly good,” Hugh said with a chuckle.
Lord Farrington gave a grateful nod to his butler, who had begun to look rather worn.
After the surprise arrival earlier that day, Runciman had taken Mrs Wiggan aside, guiding her into his pantry before telling her that Master Hugh, as they’d remembered him, was not dead, but was alive and well and upstairs with his African wife.
He’d had to give Mrs Wiggan a tot of brandy. She’d become as hysterical with joy as she had been with sorrow all those years before, when young Hugh had run away to sea.
She had always been fond of him, from her first days at Farrington House when she’d started as a kitchen maid.
Hugh had been a mischievous lad, and Reginald had often taken the rap for some of his brother’s pranks.
Their father had been wise to this, and Reginald had won his father’s respect and trust.
But it had been Hugh, with his rakish charm and startlingly blue eyes, who had been the apple of his mother’s eye.
Soon after Hugh’s departure she had taken ill and died from shock and grief, as did her husband three years later, in his case from anger.
He had gone into such a decline; so furious with Hugh, who he’d been sure had caused his beloved wife’s death, that he’d been unable to function.
Reginald was summoned home from boarding school. As he watched his father crumble he was filled with trepidation, for he saw the writing on the wall.
Reginald waited and waited, certain his beloved brother would return. But finally it was clear that he must become the master of the house.
It had been Runciman, a young man himself who was just starting out in his career, who had told Reginald what his duties would be when the time came, and who had explained, with the judicious tact of a diplomat, the way his father liked things to be done.
“Isn’t it wonderful that Hugh and Malaika will be here for the grand opening of my races?” Thea beamed. “Hugh, do they have motor cars in Africa? I can’t imagine they do, with those elephants to ride on!”
“Did you go on safari, Hugh?” Bertrand added. “You haven’t told us much about what you did over there. It’s a mystery.”
Lord Farrington had been staring at his plate, but now he looked up, his eyes dark with intensity as he looked at his brother.
“That’s a long story,” Hugh said, running a hand through the shock of hair that had fallen characteristically across his forehead.
His eyes darted to Runciman, who had cleared away the main course and was receiving a platter from one of the kitchen maids.
“I say, is that the pudding? I must pay a visit below stairs to dear Mrs Wiggan. Capital job she’s done.
“Malaika, my angel,” he continued, “you must try this. But not too much, Runciman. She is not accustomed to such richness; nor, for that matter, am I.
“Tell me more, Thea, about this grand opening of yours.”
Thea chattered about her plans, and at last it was time for the ladies to retreat, leaving the men to their port.
Bertrand tactfully rose with them.
“I’m afraid I have work to do. Would you excuse me?”
“Of course, Bertrand,” Lord Farrington said, gratitude in his tone.
The brothers sat silently in the candle glow till, at last, Reginald spoke.
It had fallen on Reginald to be the master of the house
“I know you, Hughie. What are you hiding? And how could you have gone off like that? Did you get my letters? I never heard a word – not even when Mother died, and then Father.
“I thought you were –” His voice broke.
Hugh shook his head. “It’s the same old story. I failed. And you have succeeded. You kept it all going, just as Father would have.”
“It’s not what it seems. We have our troubles.”
“What might those be?” Hugh chuckled. “Flirtatious footmen below stairs?” Reginald was silent. “I’m sorry, Reg. I do owe you an explanation. I had a plan, you see. I was fed up and had botched it at school. Just couldn’t settle, couldn’t work.”
“But you were always the clever one, Hughie! You could have passed those exams any day – you hardly needed to open a book.”
“I couldn’t concentrate. I thought I’d go mad if I had to stay another day at school. Home stifled me.
“Mother thought I’d conquer the world, and Father thought I was good for nothing.” Hugh shrugged.
“You, well, I could see it all before you – success, security. It was harder because you were so blasted good to me. You always seemed the older brother.”
“I loved you, Hughie. I admired you – and envied you. You were like a comet, dazzling everyone without having to try. You confounded the masters – you wouldn’t do what they wanted, but they admired you even so.
“I knew I could never measure up, so I lost myself in school work. And now, the hero returns, with a beauty in tow. She’s magnificent, your Malaika. Is she really a princess?”
“Yes, and it’s a miracle that she’s my wife. I was doing some trading with her father – I was quite good at the language by then – and Malaika and I fell in love.
“However, as I was an outsider, it would have been impossible for me to marry her.
“Then, one night, she was kidnapped by a rival tribe. I managed to save her, and nearly lost my life doing it. Her father was so overcome with gratitude that he blessed our union.”
Hugh stared into the candlelight.
“As for the hero returning, that had been my plan once – after I made a fortune in diamond mining. But, as I said, I failed, although, to be fair, I was cheated. It’s a long story.”
“We’re more alike than you think,” Reginald said resignedly. “I, too, have lost a fortune – or what was left of it. Down the drain – or rather the sea. The Pacific, to be exact.”
“What are you talking about?” Hugh stared.
“It seems I will be forced to . . .” He stopped. “We’ll save that for another evening. For the moment, I’m immensely glad to see you, Hughie.
“I’m glad to be here as well. Nearly got crushed, you see, in the great earthquake. Did you hear about San Francisco?”
“You were in California? Why?”
“It’s not unlike the story you told me. Anyway, it seems we’re both getting a second chance. For now – fancy a little cricket? Remember how we used to play until it was too dark to see the ball?”
“How could I forget. You’re in for a yorking, of course.”
Emily stepped off the sleek electric streetcar and made her way along the freshly laid cobbles of the wide street.
Downtown San Francisco was alive with the spirit of renaissance. Painted doors and bright awnings of shops and restaurants sat between grim ruins strewn with pieces of cable car track, warped by the fires that had raged through the city only months before.
It felt a lifetime ago that she and the Farringtons had first arrived. They had ridden through the streets in a horse-drawn carriage, and Emily had seen the cable cars rattling and clang-clanging up the steep hills.
Now, the speedy new streetcars outnumbered them.
As she reached the corner she could see the café where she was to meet James.
A wave of guilt and confusion coursed through her. Why had she agreed to meet him after all this time? They had been exchanging letters for months – why hadn’t she just left it at that?
The last time she’d seen him, he’d been recuperating in a tent at the field hospital.
It was typical of him, a dedicated doctor, that as a result of his trying to help the poverty-stricken Chinese, he had caught the terrible disease that had swept through the devastation of Chinatown in the weeks after the earthquake.
But the experience had made him more determined to work for the common good.
“My dear Emily, I’ve seen such energy and spirit here,” James had said. “I feel frustrated, because I want to be in the thick of it, helping the relief effort.
“But I will recover, and so will the city. It will become more beautiful than ever.”
She’d seen the tenderness in his eyes that day as he’d looked at her.
“My greatest hope is for us to help make this happen together, Emily. But it would be wrong for me to ask you to make a commitment so soon.
“You must reach deep within yourself and choose the path that feels right.”
Emily’s heart had been torn in different directions. James had given her so much. He’d opened up a world of culture, and given her wings to soar.
And she’d used those wings to fly away from him, away from Will, away from her family.
Now she was alone and needed help. How could she be so selfish – so weak?
She must get a message to him to apologise and explain that she had made a mistake in agreeing to meet with him.
But suddenly, there he was, standing in front of her, the bright sunshine glinting off the tinges of grey that had appeared in his dark hair. “Emily.”
He was still thin from the illness, a little haggard, but his eyes were as bright as ever. He reached for her hand, and as he drew it gently to his lips she felt tears prick the back of her eyes.
He’d seen into her feelings in the uncanny way he had from the first time they’d met, the day he’d come to attend to Florence’s influenza not long after the family had arrived in San Francisco.
“We have a lot to catch up on.”
He took her arm and led her down the street and through a doorway.
“Dottore Campbell! And Signorina.” The swarthy proprietor bowed his head with great ceremony and Emily found herself smiling in spite of her turmoil.
“Signor Bertolli,” James said, “I don’t believe Miss Callow has ever had Italian coffee.”
“Ah! Leave this with me,
Dottore,” he said, showing them to a table, “I will prepare my caffe speciale!
And we are amici for long time, no? Call me Luciano.”
Emily smiled. James was well-liked and respected amongst everyone, from the destitute Chinese to the aristocracy who had
Could Emily really take advantage of James’s feelings for her?
danced at the Palace Hotel the night before the earthquake.
She found her voice at last.
“It’s wonderful to see you looking so well, James. But I . . .” She looked into his eyes and felt her throat catch once more.
“Why do you apologise?” he asked gently. “I’m delighted you agreed to come after all this time. Seeing you is wonderful.
“You look tired, though. You’ve been working much harder than you’ve implied.”
Emily found herself pouring out her problems at the sewing centre, while sipping the delicious coffee with its cloud of cream.
“You’re doing a remarkable thing, Emily, and you should feel proud of yourself. Don’t waste your energy over those women who seem to be against you. Keep your eye on your ultimate goal.”
“Perhaps that’s the problem. I’m not sure what will happen with the centre. Soon we’ll be forced to leave the camp, and I guess we’ll go our separate ways.”
“Is that what you’d like to happen?”
She bit her lip, unsure. “You’re kind to talk about this with me, James.”
“Kindness has nothing to do with it, as you know.”
Conscience pricked again, but he stopped her.
“The first thing is practicality. You need somewhere to live, and so does your friend Becky. And you need a place to pursue your sewing and designing, if that’s still your dream.”
Emily smiled. “You’re the only person who knows about that dream, James. I’ve been afraid to tell anyone else – even Sarah and Jenny. I’d forgotten about it recently – I’ve just been trying to keep going.”
“Never settle for less than your dreams, Emily. It’s time for you to look ahead, to your future and all it can be.”
The fondness she’d always felt for him washed over her. There were so many tugs at her heart – from home, from Will and from her own determination to succeed. Could she do that completely on her own?
At the same time, could she accept help from this wonderful man, knowing that he loved her?
“It makes sense to think big in terms of premises,” he went on. “You’ll need space for the women to join you, should you want to continue the sewing centre.
“Or, if you decide to go into business for yourself, you’ll need to employ help. Because you will be very successful.”
“James, it sounds like a miracle, but I cannot possibly . . .”
He held up his hand. “I never want to hear ‘cannot’ again.”
Something seemed to be released inside her. Would it be so wrong to let this man lift some of the weight of worry and responsibility from her shoulders? Or would it be taking advantage of his feelings for her?
Did she love him, or was she swept away by the exciting future he painted for her?
James laid a dollar bill on the table, then ushered her out on to the sunlit street.
“I have something to show you.”
She felt the strength of his hand on her waist as he helped her on to a streetcar.
“You’re suggesting I plough over the fields and plant strawberries? I’m not a greengrocer! I’ve been a farmer all my life, and that’s what I’m going to stay.”
“Joe, sit down,” Sarah said, trying to keep calm. “Not all the fields, but we need to think in new ways.
“It’s common knowledge there’s trouble at the Big House. Everyone is talking about the wheat crop, and how American imports are taking over.
“Besides, you’ve said yourself your knees are giving out, even with the tractor.”
“I’ll work the way I’ve always done until I drop.”
“Joe, everybody knows Lord Farrington will be making changes, but we don’t know what they are.
“The countess has been good to us, and if I could talk to her and find out what’s what, and tell her what I’ve been thinking –”
“You women are going to make the decisions, are you? Get it all sorted and give me orders?”
“Nobody’s giving you orders!” Sarah said, exasperated. “Joseph Callow, you’re so stubborn.
“The world is changing all around us. If we don’t bend and change with it, well, then . . .” She drifted off, not wanting to finish her sentence.
“How is growing strawberries going to save us, Sarah? Do you think all that will be easier on me?
“First of all, we’d need help – a lot of it. And it would have to be done before the first frost to have any hope of a June harvest.”
“As I say, I need to speak to the countess. But here’s what I think.” Sarah perched herself across from Joe. “You know Mrs Thacket? Well, she has a cousin who’s in service, and the master has opened the house up to visitors, just the way the Farringtons are doing with the countess’s racing track.
“There’s nothing special like that at this other place – just the house and garden. But gentry seem to like walking around and going for picnics in the grounds – strawberry cream teas and big luncheons in those fine baskets. It’s become fashionable.”
She leaned forward. “Some of the tenant farmers are growing berries now, for the teas and for folk who visit the houses. They’re selling them in some of the big markets, too. There’s quite a demand.”
“You can’t grow strawberries year round!”
“You could grow daffodils in the spring for those garden markets, and for selling at Farrington House. For the rest of the year you can grow other things – maybe wheat, just for animal feed. That kind of farming wouldn’t be quite so hard on you, Joe.
“I don’t want you to work until you drop. What kind of life is that? And you’ve told me a hundred times you won’t have me working at the glove factory in town.”
“That’s where the picnics come in. You can bet the countess is going to have lots of those motor races, having gone to so much trouble having the track built.
“Imagine if the visitors could buy a picnic, all ready in a basket, to eat after the races! But Mrs Wiggan couldn’t possibly prepare for a crowd when she’s got the family and their personal guests to cook for, and Lord Farrington won’t hire more staff when he planning to do just the opposite. So . . .”
“I could offer to help Mrs Wiggan, and so could Beth! I’ve packed a fine picnic in my day, and there’s no reason we’d be unwelcome in that kitchen.
“The whole thing would take some book-keeping to keep the money straight. Our Johnny’s getting on so well with his sums that I expect he’d be proud to take on that job.
“Once we’ve shown Lord Farrington how useful we can be, why, he wouldn’t dream of turning us out.
“I’m sure the countess would be keen. That lady is fond of you, Joe. Remember the day she first came to the cottage?”
None of them would ever forget the day the countess had called on them.
By the time she had finished a cup of Sarah’s tea and brack, Joseph had been paid for two puppies who would have had to be put to a watery end and Jenny had been employed at Farrington House as the countess’s lady’s maid.
Little Beth was overjoyed for the two pups, as well as being allowed to keep the third.
For weeks afterwards, Sarah
had shaken her head in wonder, remembering the look of admiration that had been on the lady’s face as she’d greeted Joe.
“You have the most divine family, Mr Callow. You must be very proud. Do you know, it seems that everything I’ve ever really wanted is right here in this happy little home.”
“Let me write to her, Joe,” Sarah said now.
He leaned back in his chair and stretched his weary knees.
“I’m going to be a laughing stock.”
“Nonsense. Everyone will admire you, as I always have, and always will. I love every obstinate bone in your body.”
He took a long breath. “Even the creaky ones?” “Those most of all.”
Jenny whisked off the sheet that enshrouded a dressing-table, sending up showers of dust which swirled in the morning sunlight.
Coughing, she hurried to the window and tried to pull up the sash, but it was stuck fast. She pulled and rattled the window frame, and with another immense effort it jerked free.
She opened it wide, letting in the welcome breeze, then turned and looked around the bedroom, trying to assess how much there was to do.
She’d decided to start with the smallest guest room, which would accommodate one of the group of visitors that Eleanor Bracken had airily told her would be arriving in four days’ time.
“Or is it three? I can’t remember. One of them is a vegetarian – isn’t that extraordinary? And,” she added dramatically, “another is Russian!”
“Lady Bracken, I need to know exactly when they’ll be arriving!”
“Of course. But you needn’t cook anything special. These people live for more than meals. You wouldn’t believe the conversations they have! Not that I understand much of it.”
“May I ask when Lord Bracken will be returning?”
“Not for another week or so. He has work to do in town, he says. So there won’t be many of us for you to look after – about six, I think. Now, I have to go back to London on the late train, but I’ll return in a couple of days before they all arrive.”
But she’d already left. That had been yesterday afternoon. Last night Jenny had longed to spill it out to Ben, but he’d been so disconsolate about the garden she hadn’t dared.
The sunny morning had done nothing to lift his spirits.
“‘Just tidy it up a bit,’ he says,” Ben had scoffed, slapping his razor against the strop with unnecessary force. “What’s the point of us being here, Jenny? I was better off at Farrington House. At least Mr Mott respected me.”
Jenny had touched his arm soothingly.
“Things could change, Ben. Lord Bracken might decide he wants to make something of the garden, after all.”
“You think that’s likely? We should never have come. And we can’t go crawling back now. I’d be so humiliated, having been hired as head gardener.”
Jenny had tried to think of a way to counter what he’d said, but she was engulfed in her own worries.
“Which part of the garden are you going to work on today?” she’d asked, trying to lighten the moment.
“I don’t know. It’s all so overgrown, clearing it will only leave empty space.”
“Maybe that will encourage Lord Bracken to take your advice.”
“He’ll never do that. Can’t you understand?” he’d exploded, and Jenny had felt tears welling up.
“I’m just trying to help you feel better about it, Ben. I’m not having the jolliest time myself. I have four bedrooms to clean and make ready for Eleanor Bracken’s guests.
“I have to think what to cook for them, and order the food, and . . .”
“We’ve both made a big mistake!” Ben had stormed out of the house.
Now she sank down on to the saggy guest bed, tears streaming down her cheeks. There was dusting and scrubbing to be done, rugs to beat, beds to make.
Where was the linen kept? She hoped it was clean.
And that was only the beginning, with decisions to make about meals, and all the cooking. She hadn’t the faintest idea how to go about any of it.
Ben was already furious, and it seemed both of them were fairly expendable as far as the Brackens were concerned.
What would become of them?
Jenny closed her eyes, trying to still her muddled thoughts.
And then, out of her anguish, it felt as if a mysterious gift had suddenly been bestowed from the blue, as a plan began to take shape in her mind.
Runciman waited nervously at the door of the drawing-room as Mrs Wiggan stood before the whole family.
“I beg your pardon, my lady, my lord. I know this is very irregular –”
“What is it, Mrs Wiggan?” Lady Farrington asked impatiently.
“My lady, it’s Jenny, Jenny Callow. She’s ever so upset. She telephoned, you see, from Orchard End – or rather from the town. There isn’t a telephone at the house, so she’d walked all the way to the hotel.”
“Jenny telephoned?” Thea was alarmed. “Whatever has happened? Is she all right?”
“Well, my lady, it seems she’s desperate for help. From me and from her stepmother.“
“Oh, that dear girl!” Thea said frantically. “What is the name of this hotel?”
“The Brackenbury, my lady. Jenny is still there – she said she’d wait, in case Mr Runciman might telephone her back.”
Thea leaped from her chair.
“I shall telephone her at once. Runciman, please tell Perkins to go to the cottage and fetch Mrs Callow in the carriage, and bring her here.
“He mustn’t alarm her – tell him to explain that I need to see her on a matter of importance.
“How I wish darling Jenny and Ben had never gone to Orchard End! I must say, I didn’t like the look of those Brackens when they suddenly appeared at the wedding.
“Mrs Wiggan,” Thea went on, “you and Sarah and I should go to Orchard End just as soon as possible.
“And I have had a lovely idea! Malaika, perhaps you’d like to come along as well?”
Lady Farrington looked from the departing Thea to Mrs Wiggan.
But Lord Farrington’s eyes were on his brother, who sat beside Malaika, his face a ghostly white.
“Did she say Bracken?” Hugh’s breathing had quickened. “From Orchard End?”
“Of course!” Reginald said slowly, looking at his brother. “I hadn’t grasped the connection before, though the name sounded familiar.
“Surely Robert Bracken must be the son of Charles, that arrogant, unpleasant boy who was several years above you at boarding school? I remember the fear that gripped you at the end of the Christmas holiday when it was time to go back to school.”
But Hugh sat staring at nothing, his stony expression unreadable.
As Jenny wept, overwhelmed by her duties, an idea formed