Flower Of Hope – Episode 25

LUKE attempted to lever himself from the chair but the acute pain in his side forced him to sit down again.

“I’m sorry you were hurt,” Caroline said.

“Worse than the kick of that wretched mule was returning this morning to discover you’d disappeared before first light! What on earth made you think it was right to leave the city?”

“To find Matty! I made very careful arrangements.”

“But had you the least idea of the possible outcome?”

“Yes, if you mean bringing Matthew to safety, and restoring his mother’s health. The outcome we all wanted! Didn’t we?”

Luke did not appreciate the challenge of her final question, but deliberately bit back the acid reply that came to mind.

“Let me speak plainly, Miss Waters,” he said, controlling his voice. “The morning you chose to make this foolhardy attempt was the very same morning your father and I spent negotiating with Kellard. You must see how he will view our efforts once he finds what you’ve done!”

“I don’t care about annoying Mr Kellard,” Caroline said. “I believe he only wanted Matty to bargain with!”

“Do you imagine Kellard will think of offering us the seeds now?” Luke asked.

Even as he spoke, his heart sank, knowing how Caroline would reply.

“People are always more important than plants, Mr Hathern. I wonder you should think otherwise!”

She stalked out, shutting the door with a decisive click, leaving Luke to throw his head against the chairback in despair.

They’d never spoken so angrily before. He’d tried to be reasonable, never imagining she’d react so.

His ribs ached and his head pounded, but that wasn’t all. In the mounting anxiety he’d felt as he awaited her return that morning, he’d discovered he still cared very deeply for Miss Caroline Waters.

Now it would be foolish to think they would ever even be on speaking terms again.

Caroline, buoyed up by her family’s happiness at seeing Matthew again, did not allow herself to be downcast by Luke Hathern’s criticism. She slept well and ate a good breakfast.

Jane was about to clear her plate when Luke, later than usual, took his place at table .

“I hope you’re feeling better, sir,” Matthew said politely.

“Indeed,” William said. “A walk, sir! A walk, that’s what I’d recommend. No good sitting about.”

Luke thanked them and lowered himself stiffly into his seat. Caroline couldn’t help noticing he ate very little. An odd compassion overtook her.

With time to think overnight, she remembered admitting to Jane her regret at asking the doctor to keep secrets from her sister.

However excellent her reasons, she now felt equally unhappy about hiding those plans from Luke Hathern.

“Perhaps you would like to walk in the garden later?” she asked.

Luke looked puzzled, even surprised, but accepted.

Alison Cook