Flower Of Hope – Episode 04

WILLIAM Waters slumped into a chair in the study, threw out a cushion lodged awkwardly in his back, and sat down again.

“I have lain more comfortably in a hammock! Is there no chair that will suit me?” he demanded.

“Let me help, Papa.”

Caroline picked up the cushion.

His daughter was a good girl, but William knew she didn’t understand his present state. Life felt uncertain at the moment, even in his own home.

“I shall be glad when Mr Hathern has been and gone today, my dear, and that’s the truth,” William said.

“No, you won’t,” Caroline told him, moving on to tidy papers that had fallen from his desk. “Mr Hathern will cheer you up and you’ll be sorry to see him go. You always are.”

“I still feel badly about not going to see him personally,” William said.

He realised this was probably why he felt so beleaguered this morning.

“Mr Hathern does not take it amiss, Papa. You will be able to exchange all your news here as well as anywhere.”

“I don’t suppose he’s happy to hear details of the loss.” William glowered.

“Resigned to it might be a better description,” Caroline admitted. “But he doesn’t blame you.”

William looked at his daughter and realised she had come into the room dressed for the outdoors.

“Why are you going out?”

“I have some purchases to make, Papa.” Caroline sat beside her father on another chair, pulling on a pair of gloves. “I meant to ask if you’d heard more from my sister?”

William shook his head. Eliza, his elder, widowed daughter, lived a day’s journey away. A long letter from her, full of family woes, had awaited them on their return.

“Poor Eliza worries too much about my grandson, I think,” William said.

“Sometimes with good reason.” Caroline sighed but the conversation got no further before the study door rattled and Luke Hathern was announced.

Caroline stood up.

“Please don’t leave on my account, Miss Waters!” Luke said quickly.

“Not at all,” she said. “I was on my way out.”

“I see Jane Allebone has settled in.” Luke nodded towards the open door where Jane, neat in grey, waited for her new mistress.

“Thanks to you, Mr Hathern. You will be pleased to hear I no longer walk about London unattended.”

William was suddenly struck by the ease with which his daughter and young Hathern smiled at each other. All the awkwardness of their parting a year ago seemed to have evaporated, and he was relieved to see things back to normal.

Caroline moved briskly to the door, while William felt his hand enveloped in a firm grip.

“My dear Waters, I’m so glad to see you at last!”

William started to speak about the lost Flower of Hope, but Hathern quickly made it clear he wished only to hear facts, not apologies.

“It’s useless to become mired in regret,” Luke said firmly. “Clearly, you will first need rest. I propose, meanwhile, we plan an exhibition of Miss Waters’s paintings here in London. It will generate interest and benefit the business. I hope you agree?”

“Yes. My daughter will be pleased, provided you allow her some say.”

“I will consult her, of course. I can’t think of anyone who could organise an exhibition as well.”

William, feeling more at ease than he’d imagined possible not ten minutes before, rang for refreshment. As they waited, he spoke of Caroline’s ambition to go plant-hunting again as soon as possible.

“I suspect she plans to discover what came of the missing seeds,” he fretted.

“I had hoped mounting an exhibition in London might provide a distraction,” Luke admitted.

“For a while, I’m sure it will,” William said.

“You don’t imagine she’d think of going off alone?” Luke asked, alarmed.

“There are women brave and organised enough to do so. My daughter would manage better than most.”

“But surely, as her father, you wouldn’t encourage anything so foolhardy?”

William smiled.

“I have seen Caroline deal with everything, from scorpions to snakes. Cut through tangled creepers where no path existed. Win over suppliers, servants and headmen alike.

“She can also pitch a tent in less time than it takes to tell! If she wanted to travel anywhere, I don’t doubt she would find a way!”

“But concern for her father’s wellbeing would keep her at home, wouldn’t it?” Luke argued.

“I don’t want my daughter – or anyone else – worrying about me,” William said emphatically. “I shall be right as rain in no time at all.”


Alison Cook