Flower Of Hope

Illustration by Ruth Balir

Episode 37

IF you wish to bid for something, Carrie, then do so,” William said.

His health was so much better that Caroline felt little need to worry.

Accompanied by Albert, she put on her warmest coat and gloves and went out.

The auction was under way by the time they arrived at the house. It was an old building set back from the road, with a broad drive.

The previous owner had been reclusive. But he’d cherished his gardens.

“Some very nice plants,” Albert muttered. “And how about that lovely carved bench? Your father would enjoy that in a sunny spot.”

Caroline gazed at it thoughtfully. She’d come to look for plants, but an outdoor bench would please her father.

“It would fit into that corner between the outer wall and the raised beds at the top of the pathway,” she agreed. “I’ll look at the plants first, though. I shall make up my mind later.”

She moved away, and Albert would have gone with her had she not sent him to take a closer look at some bamboos.

As she stood alone, contemplating a rose that would do very well as a subject for painting once it flowered, Caroline became aware of a familiar figure amongst a nearby group. What was Luke doing here?

He turned.

“Caroline!” he said. “Have you decided what you will take home yet?”

“I was a little late. I am still deciding,” Caroline said, shaking her head.

“You’d do well to hurry,” Luke advised briskly. “The early bidding has started!”

Caroline had hoped they might speak longer, but he seemed eager to leave.

She felt a pang of disappointment as he disappeared in the crowds. Had she done something wrong?

She drifted along the gravel pathways, looking for anything her father might enjoy. It was nice to meet people she hadn’t seen for some time.

She lingered, talking, until she realised if she wanted to bid for the bench she should take Luke’s advice.

She wasn’t too late. She caught Albert’s attention and he hurried over to bid on her behalf. The elegant garden bench was popular, but she knew she could make a good offer.

As the price climbed, it seemed there was just one other person in the crowd bidding against her.

Albert glanced in her direction and she realised the price had gone too high and it was time to stop.

“I’m sorry, miss.”

“We did our best.”

Now her father would never get to enjoy sitting on it in the sunshine at Lyon Place.

She wondered who had bought the garden seat.

“I have the bamboo secured for you, ma’am,” Albert said. “But I’m afraid there is nothing that might replace that bench.”

Caroline, resigned, shook her head and stepped back. As she did, she caught sight of the person whose bid for the bench had been successful.

It was Luke Hathern.

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