Flower Of Hope – Episode 16

CAROLINE had returned to the garden after making Eliza comfortable. As she ducked beneath a leafy archway to collect her things, Nico sped along the path towards her. They nearly collided.

Nico sang out an apology, skipping sideways to avoid knocking Caroline’s empty chair, along with her brushes, into a nearby flower-bed.

In two strides Luke reached the boy and held him by his shoulder until he stopped jiggling.

“No harm done,” Caroline said, stooping to retrieve her equipment and smiling at Luke over Nico’s head.

“His mother does her best,” Luke said, releasing the child who skipped blithely on his way to the kitchens. “But the lad is apt to run wild. I have just spoken with Doctor Bradlin. How is your sister?”

“I left her with a cool cloth for her head.” Caroline sighed. “Although she begs to come with us, I’ve persuaded Eliza not to venture out today.

“But if we are going to receive some answers from the monastery here, shouldn’t we be leaving shortly?”

“Yes, of course. Let me help.” Luke hefted her easel under one arm.

As they made their way up the path William appeared, sheltering beneath a large-brimmed straw hat.

“The bell has chimed for ten,” he called. “Are you both ready?”

Hearing anxiety in her father’s voice, Caroline’s own fears forcefully renewed themselves.

“Have we thought what we will do if the monks can’t, or won’t, answer us?” she asked.

“Let us wait and see,” Luke chided, but gently.

“We cannot afford to waste time!” Caroline said, and then regretted her sharp tone.

“I understand, Miss Waters,” Luke said, propping her easel against the courtyard wall. “But it’s my aim to keep things calm, if possible.”

“Come along, my dear!” William said. “We shall know more very soon.”

They travelled on foot, the better to negotiate the narrow streets, and their purposeful walk calmed Caroline’s agitation.

They reached a steep hill with a jumble of walls and buildings that ran down to a square. Half the street was in bright sunlight and half in deep shade.

Caroline felt her father take her arm as they crossed into the sunshine. In this far corner of the city nobody stopped, they only passed by on their way to market or business.

The hospital buildings were ranged on two sides of the square. The wall enclosing them seemed shut and inaccessible.

Luke halted as they came at last to a deeply set door.

“This is the place, I believe,” he told Caroline.

He rapped the heavy timbers with a black-headed cane. The three of them stood in silence, tense and listening.

Caroline glanced at her father, whose face was stern. Then she looked up to where the massive wall was pierced by several oddly placed narrow windows.

“How dreadful to think my nephew might be kept in such a forbidding place,” she murmured.

“We don’t know yet if he is here at all.”

Luke glanced at William.

“Let me!” the older man urged. “By Harry, I’ll summon them!”

Luke shook his head briefly, leaned forward and beat a second tattoo so loud the door rang like a kettledrum.

There was a thump, a clang, and above them a grille slid open. Two dark eyes and a shock of spiky hair appeared between metal slats.

“We are searching for a young Englishman, Matthew Field!” Luke called. “We have letters from him written in this place.”

The spiky head dipped, and a bolt was drawn.

They were in, and the gate slammed behind them. The servant crossed the yard steadily without looking back.


Alison Cook