Flower Of Hope – Episode 07

THE household at Lyon Place was on edge all morning for the sound of the bell. At two o’clock Jane Allebone opened the front door. Miss Waters appeared and reached towards her sister on the doorstep.

“Hot tea for Mrs Field, Jane,” she ordered. “To my father’s study, instantly.”

Mrs Field’s brow was creased beneath the brim of a purple bonnet. She had the look of someone holding in tears.

“That her, then?” Cook asked in the kitchen.

“Yes,” Jane said. “I am to take them tea.”

“Best add some fruitcake. She’ll be needing to keep up her strength, poor soul.”

“What is Miss Waters’s nephew like?” Jane asked. Matthew Field seemed an intriguing young man.

“Impossible not to like if you meet him, impossible not to scold for the trouble he causes! Now, take this.”

William’s study fell silent as Jane brought in the tray. Mrs Field accepted her steaming teacup from Jane.

“I beg we should go, Papa!” she said urgently.

“We should plan first lest we make Matthew’s situation worse,” Caroline cautioned.

“Carrie, my son is wounded and detained in a foreign place! How could his situation be worse?” Eliza cried.

William paced the room.

“We must go to Florence, of course,” he said. “But we must also be prepared. Will Matthew’s health allow him to be brought home? Suppose a ransom is expected?”

“Papa, you would not refuse?” Eliza’s voice rose.

“We must be realistic,” her father said.

“No-one has mentioned payment,” Caroline cut in. “Let’s not dwell on imaginings.”

“We will make enquiries,” William said. “Mr Hathern has many connections.”

Jane, standing quietly, wanted to weep in sympathy. But all she could do was carry the tray quietly away.

Albert was on the other side of the door.

“How do they do?”

Jane bit her lip, shrugging.

“Upon my word, the boy does not deserve it!” Albert said vehemently. “But he won’t learn from his mistakes. Mr Hathern has advised him often . . .”

Jane paused mid-stair, holding the tray.

“Mr Hathern knows Miss Waters’s nephew?”

Albert nodded.

“Surely it was the father’s place to have taken his son to task?”

“Young Mr Field lacked that parental guidance,” Albert said. “His father being gone this long while.”

Jane hurried to the kitchen, agog to hear more.

“I won’t gossip,” Cook said, “but it was told me the young man suffered a broken heart.”

“Ah,” Jane said sadly.

“A pretty girl, but a low sort,” Cook went on. “Mrs Field forbade marriage.”

Aloud, Jane agreed Mrs Field had acted wisely.

But privately she felt some admiration. Try as she might, Jane could not prevent her own young heart going pit-a-pat in sympathy.

Alison Cook