Flower Of Hope – Episode 28

IMPOSSIBLE!” Eliza snapped. “The girl is your personal maid, except she’s too often in the kitchens. If you hadn’t been so lax . . .”

“What do you mean?”

Accompanied by Matthew and Albert, some paces behind them, the sisters were making their furious way to a museum. The visit was to be a quiet interlude before packing for the journey home.

Instead, Eliza wagged an accusing finger.

“If properly employed, there would have been no occasion for a lady’s maid to go riding in a cart with this man. Let alone learning to drive it! It’s scandalous. And now the landlady’s brother thinks he can ask for marriage!”

“I am not minded to keep any servant against their will.” Caroline countered.

“I don’t imagine the wretched child has the least idea of this foreign country,” Eliza persisted.

“She already speaks some Italian.”

“Where will you find a maid as useful?” Eliza changed tack. “You cannot allow this. Mr Hathern will agree with me.”

“Why should he? Paola is Luke’s friend!”

“Because we must protect any servant while in our employment!” Eliza said forcefully.

“Jane is no longer in my employment,” Caroline replied. “Fabio and I agreed it this morning. Papa and I haven’t blessed their wedding yet, but we shall.”

“We’ll see what Mr Hathern has to say.”

“This has nothing to do with Luke!” Caroline kept to herself a doubt. “Let’s discuss this when we are both calmer.”

They reached the museum. Eliza, still indignant, stormed up the wide steps.

“As you wish, Caroline,” she said at the top. “Meanwhile, I intend to enjoy this visit before we all leave for home.”

“Before you and Matty leave,” Caroline corrected.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Papa and I have decided to stay a little longer. Also, Luke may see Mr Kellard before he goes.”

“Kellard? The blackguard who stole Papa’s seeds?”

“Yes. He’s been invited to reclaim his dog.”

“But I insisted Matthew make arrangements for the animal at the pensione!”

“I know Matty is fond of Rufus, but Luke recognised the dog as Kellard’s, and has asked him to come.”

William and Matthew had caught up. Stiff with annoyance, Eliza hurried inside the museum.

Luke paced to and fro across the mosaic moon. Kellard had not yet arrived, as expected. By the time they heard a knock at the great double doors, Rufus had fallen asleep.

Jane hurried to open the door. But it was only Mr Kellard’s servant.

“I have the honour to collect Mr Kellard’s dog.”

“We were expecting your master,” Luke explained.

“He is visiting a client, and sends his apologies,” the tall man said.

“Mr Kellard himself must resolve this,” Luke said firmly. “Do you know where to find him?”

Luke stood next to Matthew and Rufus, wishing he knew what to do. Kellard, not for the first time in their acquaintance, was forcing everyone to dance to his tune.

Yet Luke dared not show frustration in case it made matters between Eliza and her son more difficult. Early on, Matthew’s mother had forbidden her son to take the dog to England as he wanted.

“I will not share a journey with such an animal!” she’d said emphatically.

By that time Luke had guessed who Rufus belonged to, and had decided to invite Kellard to the pensione to lay his claim.

For Matthew’s sake, Luke wanted the arrangement properly supervised.

Rufus woke and scratched himself, claws scrabbling the mosaic floor. He growled low in his throat at being disturbed.

As he lowered his head to his paws, his gaze shifted between Matthew and Kellard’s man.

The servant continued to do his insolent best to deny he knew his master’s exact whereabouts that morning. But at last he agreed to take Luke’s message.

Alison Cook