Flower Of Hope – Episode 11

WHEN the Étang de Berre, the freshwater lake not far from Marseilles, came into view on their right, everyone climbed out of the coach to breathe and to stretch their legs.

“See to it no-one wanders,” Luke warned. “We shall not stay long.”

But when the ladies reassembled, Jane was not among them.

“Caroline, my dear!” William called. “Where is your maid?”

“She was with Eliza.”

“No, she was not,” Eliza said, overtaking her sister to climb first into the coach. “I believe the girl was with you!”

Luke exchanged a glance with William.

“Shall I go and look for her, sir?” Albert asked.

“Someone should!” Eliza said tartly from out of the carriage window.

Luke politely ignored her. He moved slowly along the stony edge of the road with Caroline beside him.

It surprised Luke all over again that she could keep pace with him so easily.

“Are you not scared of getting lost also?” he asked dryly.

“I have an excellent sense of direction,” Caroline informed him.

At that moment Caroline spotted her maid, utterly engrossed, wandering the lake shore.

Jane scurried to join them, carrying something green and leafy to thrust into Luke’s hand for identification.

The passengers at last boarded the Sea Goose at Marseilles. William sat on deck watching Luke appear from a cabin below. The younger man leaned heavily against the rail that ran the length of the ship, staring into the sea.

William made out Caroline’s smile as she came to sit beside him in the softening twilight. His heart warmed to see his daughter happy and in her element.

“Eliza is settled in our cabin with Jane to take care of her. I hope everything’s well with you, Papa?”

William nodded towards their employer.

“I couldn’t help noticing Mr Hathern,” he said quietly. “It’s unusual for him to look so forlorn.”

A lamp swung overhead, scattering shadows.

“It’s true that he was a little brisk with Eliza just now. She would keep asking about lodgings!” Caroline said. “She knows we will be staying somewhere well known to Hathern’s, so she pressed for more and more detail about Paola, the landlady, until Mr Hathern had clearly said all he wished.”

William sighed. His elder daughter could sometimes be insistent to the point of rudeness.

“I’m certain Mr Hathern doesn’t regret coming with us,” Caroline said, her thoughts chiming with her father’s, as they often did. “I think he just preferred not to go into detail about the lady.”

Alison Cook