The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 18

Violet was pacing up and down outside the kitchen door. She’d had time to scrub the pans from dinner and set out the china and cutlery needed for breakfast and Edgar still hadn’t returned. She had no reason to still be hanging around the kitchen.

“Off you go to bed, girl” scolded Mrs Salt, “I don’t want you moping around the place tomorrow because you are too tired.”

Violet tried to play for time

“Please may I make some tea first, Mrs Salt?”

“No, if you missed it earlier it is your own fault, and anyway I’ve locked up the tea caddy for the night.”

“Just a mug of hot water then?”

“Well hurry up then, and blow out the kitchen lamp when you go up to bed”

“I will Mrs Salt, thank-you.”

She busied herself with the hot water kettle over the dying fire stealing occasional glances up at the kitchen window.

She sat by the dying embers of the kitchen grate sipping her drink, when she heard a tapping at the door. She leapt up and opened it and there, at last, stood Edgar smiling once more.

“I have some here” he informed her “It is from some of the younger branches, more tender, I had to climb up” he showed her his bare arm, covered in fresh scratches.

“I don’t know how to thank you” Violet said

“Oh I think you do” he answered “You do remember your promise?”

“Yes, yes” impatient she turned to get the hot water and put some into a small saucepan. She put the bark on the table and started to cut the inner portions into thinner slices and put them into the water.

Edgar stood watching her, she looked up at him

“I don’t think Mrs Salt will be too happy if she catches you in here” she hinted

“Don’t you need help?”

“I think you’ve done enough don’t you?” but before she could open the door for him he was over by the grate, stoking the fire into life again and adding more wood.

He insisted on staying until the water boiled and the bark could be added. It took around ten minutes before they could smell the bitter aroma from the concoction.

“Ugh it smells awful, he’ll never be able to stomach this” she fretted

“It needs sweetening with something”

“In the book it says to add it to wine, but I don’t have any. It all gets locked away by Holmes.”

They looked at each other and then around the kitchen.

What do they have for breakfast?”

“Hot buttered toast, kedgeree, maybe porridge if it is a cold morning.”

“Do they have anything on the toast?”

“There’s old Bertha’s home made plum preserve or sometimes honey”

“We’ll add some honey!” he exclaimed “That will make it taste better.”

Violet went to the larder and found the honey pot, full of the sweet nectar obtained from the estate’s own beehives.

They added a rounded tablespoon to the mixture and Violet tasted it tentatively.

“Needs a little more” she gasped as the taste took her breath away.

They added two more dollops before it could be declared palatable, and she carefully strained the mixture into a jug.

“How are you going to get it to the patient?” he asked “It is the son of his lordship, I take it? I’d heard he was sick.”

“Yes, and don’t worry, I have a plan!”

Edgar gazed after her as she disappeared up the stairs and out of his sight. He was almost wishing that he was the one who was lying upstairs sick, as he let himself out of the kitchen door.

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