The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 20

Downstairs in the kitchen Agnes was getting restless. She paced up and down and went up the back stairs to see if she could see where Violet had got to. There was no sign of anyone, not even the ghost of Lady Dearing’s mother who was rumoured to wander the corridors at night looking for her misplaced lorgnettes.

The house was silent and all she could hear was the heavy tick tock, tick tock of the grandfather clock in the hall. She sighed in exasperation and made her way back up to the attic. She would be mighty glad when she’d moved out of that tiny room and had a room of her own, as befitted a Lady’s maid.

As she entered the dark room she could hear Lottie’s snoring. She looked at Violet’s bed and saw that she too had gone to sleep. She poked her spitefully but got no response. She tried again, harder this time, but only felt an uncharacteristic softness. She pulled back the sheet to discover a bundle of rags and no Violet.

“Lottie!” she woke the poor girl from her dreams.

“Where is Violet?”

“I don’t know” Lottie lied “I thought she was asleep.”

“Has she got a follower? Has she gone to meet a man?”

“No!” protested Lottie “I don’t think so.”

“Mrs Salt will hear of this, I’m going to get her now!”

“No, leave it until the morning. You can’t go waking the house up now, think of the sick young master.”

Agnes thought about him for a second, but the temptation to get Violet into trouble was far too great. After all, she’d tricked her tonight; she’d had no intention of chatting with her in the kitchen. She could have been in serious trouble herself!

She marched out of there and down to the housekeeper’s bedroom. Lottie was worried; Violet had really done it this time.

Soon Mrs Salt was in the doorway, shawl wrapped round her nightclothes and rags twisted in her hair. Lottie would have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so serious.

“Where is she, girl?”

“I don’t know, Mrs Salt. I thought she was in bed.”

“Do you know of any young man she may have been seeing?”

“Of course not, no one!”

“Something fishy is going on here, and I am going to get to the bottom of it” she warned her. Lottie flinched.

There were noises from below. The commotion that Agnes had caused waking Mrs Salt had also woken the whole household it seemed. They all went down to the Hallway, then up the grand staircase, to where there were people talking excitedly.

“What’s happened?” demanded Lord Dearing as they appeared on the landing “Is it David? Has something happened to him?”

“No, no Milord” she replied “We are just missing a servant that is all. I am so sorry that you have been woken.”

He was joined by his wife. She was white with shock. “Tell me the worst” she asked weakly

“It’s just a lot of fuss and nonsense about a missing girl” he tried to reassure his wife.

“Let me go and see him now, as we’re awake” she replied as she walked down the corridor.

They all followed her to David’s room.

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