Flower Of Hope – Episode 05

ALBERT Lea, that tough ex-soldier, had a soft spot for the new maid. Why, she actually listened to him when he offered advice!

“I found these hidden under her bed!” she told him, a parcel clutched in one hand. “These are not the sort of shoes my former mistress ever wore!”

“Well, old Miss Hathern never left her house except to visit the theatre!”

“But surely Miss Waters wears more ladylike shoes now she’s back in London?” Jane asked, puzzled.

Albert shook his head.

“She prefers to wear what’s comfortable. If them’s her old travelling boots then you’d best clean ’em up.”

“She walked the jungle in these?” Jane held up her mistress’s boots in awe.

Albert laughed.

“She did.”

“But she does not wish anyone to know she still wears them in London?” Jane asked.

“Exactly!” Albert smiled. “Particularly her father. Of course, her sister will certainly visit soon, and then we may see trouble! Mrs Field is keen on the latest fashions. Those great skirts, and so on. No two sisters more opposite!”

“I think the crinoline style is an improvement for ladies,” Jane said thoughtfully. “The device makes it cooler, for it saves having to wear so many thick petticoats in the summer.”

“It don’t stop some women getting stuck in doorways, do it, my girl?” Albert teased.

“Perhaps I should be grateful I’m never likely to wear anything so expensive!” Jane grinned.

Albert felt pleased that this quiet, practical youngster had discovered her sense of humour. Life improved when you knew how to make light of it.

“Here,” he said comfortably. “No-one else about just now. Come downstairs and I’ll show you how to clean this old leather up a treat!”

A gossip with a friend was Albert’s favourite way to pass time.

“Tell me,” Albert said once Jane had spread a paper on the floor and set out the boot brushes. “What is Mr Luke’s household like?”

“In what way, Mr Lea?”

Albert leaned on the wooden arm of the kitchen chair. He wanted to know about Luke Hathern. For instance, how did he speak to associates? Or to his servants?

Albert decided to risk speaking his mind.

“In your opinion, is he kind?”

Jane considered.

“Yes,” she said firmly. “Not just to me, but to everyone. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I believe he had – perhaps still has – hopes of marrying our Miss Caroline, that’s why.”

Jane’s expression told Albert she’d not heard this particular news before.

“In that case, Mr Lea, I would advise caution.”


“I heard from the cook when I was in his household that last year he stayed from home for weeks. And that nobody knew where he was!”

“He vanished without explanation?” Albert gave the boots a furious drubbing.

Jane nodded.

“I feared as much,”

Albert said. “Another lady has taken his eye, perchance.”

“On his return, he looked paler than usual. I think it’s more likely he was unwell.”

Albert felt uneasy. He should have kept his misgivings about young Hathern to himself. But he’d heard rumours that Luke Hathern was less reliable than his old father.

Now Jane had confirmed that. He had stayed away from his business for no good reason, leaving no word where he might be contacted.

“Either way, then, it is as well that Hathern’s Nurseries employs an excellent manager!” Albert said, forcing a smile.

He delivered Miss Waters’s battered, but now gleaming, boots into the hands of her maid.

“There you are. Never let it be said old Albert is unhelpful! Why, even Miss Waters’s sister might not notice too much wrong with these wonderful boots!”

Jane smoothed her fingers against the leather.

“Thank you, Mr Lea. Is Mrs Field such a hard taskmistress? If I had a sister I wouldn’t let her dictate what I should wear!”

“If Mrs Eliza Field was your sister,” Albert said, “take it from me, you’d do exactly as she suggested!”



Alison Cook