Violet sat in her room later, pondering this turn of events. She’d heard that David had returned and Mr Holmes had come to her with the news that she was not to be dismissed as David had explained his mistaken notion of using her to classify his plants. He had been made aware by his father that this was not possible and the matter was now closed.
Violet sighed as he left, with no word of apology or regret for not believing her. She was too agitated to sleep, so she decided to go for a walk to sooth her spirits. She knew that the family were enjoying a musical evening as the sound of Louisa’s slightly off-key piano playing reached her ears. She held her breath as she slipped down the back stairs and out of the scullery door to freedom.
Immediately she felt better as she breathed deeply the sweet musk of the lavender plants in the kitchen garden. She plucked a sprig of Rosemary and crushed it to release the oils, so she could smell the herb on her fingers. She felt that it always lifted her mood and even made her feel more alert when she was tired.
As she wandered aimlessly she saw the Orangery in the distance and wondered if her father had changed his hiding place for the key since he’d found her in there. She walked in that direction determined to have a look inside one last time. She reached up and put her hand inside the drainpipe and it closed around the familiar shape. She smiled to herself.
She felt calm in there; it was her favourite place on earth and held many wonders for her. Soon she had forgotten her worries as she examined the new saplings and plant shoots that had been delivered recently from the docks. They looked a little like grasses, but not ones she’d ever seen before. She bent closer to them to examine their peculiar shapes.
“I think I owe you an apology. I seem to have got you into trouble!”
She spun round to see David standing behind her.
“I was going to say the same to you…” she stammered “I didn’t mean to put myself above my station.”
“No, no” he said, almost tenderly “It was entirely down to me. I am very sorry for having put you in that position.”
“So there is no chance…” she asked, hope shining in her eyes, “that we can continue this work…”
“I’m afraid not, Violet” he gazed at her “My father is insistent. Though I really cannot understand why we cannot use your talents to the full.”
“So, if I were a boy there wouldn’t be a problem?” she ventured
He laughed and nodded “If you were a boy then there would be no problem.”
There was an awkward silence between them then, as neither seemed to know how to proceed.
“I’d better get indoors then,” Violet hesitated for a moment “But first, may I ask you how your trip went?”
“Oh Violet!” he cried “You wouldn’t believe what I have learned!”
The tension between them was dispelled in a second as he told her all about his visit to London. Words tripped over words as he tried to get it all out in his excitement and enthusiasm. She caught some of his fervour as she asked more and more questions and watched in admiration as he patiently explained the finer points of the new invention and his hopes of taking some Wardian cases with him on his next voyage.
She watched him as he talked so animatedly, and noticed his dark brown eyes shining down at her. She gazed at his soft curling hair and wondered what it would feel like to touch it. She felt herself blush.
“I curse my sex!” She declared suddenly “I wish I’d been born a boy,”
He stopped what he was saying and looked at her.
“But Violet, you are very attractive. Why would you say that? Just to be able to work in the gardens?”
“Yes that – and there is something else.”
Promise you won’t make fun of me?”
“Of course not!”
“I wish so fervently that I could come with you on your next voyage of discovery”
She’d said it out loud. She waited for his reaction. Surprisingly he didn’t laugh, but seemed to seriously consider this.
“You’ll have to be like Anne Bonny, dress like a man and smuggle yourself on board!”
“Who was Anne Bonny?” she was immediately intrigued.
“It was a story I heard when I was on board ship. One of the old sea dogs told me – you’ve heard of pirates haven’t you?”
“Yes of course, they terrorised the seas, didn’t they?”
“They still do,” he replied “and Anne Bonny was a notorious female pirate!”
“Tell me about her!” she demanded as he sat down among the benches of the Orangery and bid her sit beside him. “Where did she come from?”
“Well it is thought that she came from . She was the daughter of a Lawyer and his wife’s maid.”
He looked doubtful for a moment, now that he had started he wasn’t sure that he should be telling such an immoral tale to a young lady. This was a man’s story – only heard among male company. He didn’t want to scandalise her.
Violet however seemed totally unfazed and eager to hear more.
He shrugged and continued with his tale. He explained how there was some scandal surrounding her birth and her parents moved to the Carolinas, so that they could remain together. This proved to be the making of them as they amassed a fortune in the new world and they got to know some of the most notorious pirates of the day.
“Like who?” Violet asked
“Ah, I have no idea” he laughed, then continued. Anne grew up and married Jack Bonny, a sailor.”
“Not a pirate? queried Violet
“No the pirates came later – let me continue!”
She settled back to listen to him once more.
He explained that she was only sixteen when she married and her father, fearing that Bonny had only married her for her money, disowned her. So, she soon grew tired of her husband and his treacherous ways. He spent most of his time betraying pirates to the authorities in return for cash and favours. It wasn’t long before she was spending all her time in the company of pirates where she met Calico Jack Rackham. He was besotted in no time as she as a headstrong girl.
Violet smiled with satisfaction to hear this.
Anne did not want to be left behind while her husband was off on his pirating adventures so she decided to go with him. She dressed herself in men’s clothing and boarded the ship under the flag of the skull and crossbones. It is said that she was skilled with sword and pistol. They patrolled the in search of ships laden with treasure and then took them by force. She was often in the actual boarding party as they were taken. She was said to be totally fearless – as brave as any man, if not braver.
Violet’s eyes shone with admiration. She could hardly believe that a woman could be so free to do as she pleased.
“What became of her?”
“Ah, that is a mystery” David replied looking suitably mysterious. She couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well no one really knows her final fate. It was documented that she was captured and sentenced to hang, but there is no record of this having taken place. It was thought that her father used his influence with the Governor to get her off.”
“I’d like to think so” sighed Violet
“Yes, me too” David smiled at her. “Anyway I had better not keep you any longer, or we’ll both be in trouble again!”
Violet only then realised that it had gone dark while they had been talking.
“Oh no!” she cried “I will have been missed! Probably by Agnes too. I’m sure she watches my every move.”
“Listen” he said, before she rushed off “I am sorry we couldn’t do this together. I’ll try and think of something, some way to get round this. Don’t give up hope.”
She flushed as they looked at each other, then opened the door and raced to the house and crept back upstairs.
Lottie was in bed but Agnes was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is she?” Violet whispered
“She’s gone off with Mrs Salt, I think that she is getting the final fitting for her new uniform.”
Violet breathed a deep sigh of relief
“Good. Does that mean that she will be moving out of our room?”
“I hadn’t thought of that” said Lottie brightening for a moment “Could we be so lucky?”
Violet chuckled then hurriedly got ready for bed and blew out the candle.
She was tired, but her head was full of visions of pirates and ships and adventures on the high seas.
Then she suddenly remembered a snatch of conversation from earlier that made her sit up in her bed again, heart thumping
Did David really say that she was attractive?