The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 21

Violet was weary, but continued her vigil unstintingly. She’d managed to get some more of the liquid down him over the last couple of hours.

David had calmed a lot now and lay still. His breathing was not so audible and he seemed at peace. She felt relief and hope. She was thinking about going to fetch Tom, now that she had done everything she could. He would have to be back in place before the rest of the household woke in the morning.

She froze as she heard voices in the corridor outside his room. She was not quick enough to hide as the door burst open and Lord and Lady Dearing came in followed by Mrs Salt, Agnes and then Lottie.

“Violet!” they cried in unison

“What are you doing in here?” David’s father demanded

“I’m sorry Milord,” she stammered “I was just letting Tom take a rest whilst I took over for an hour”

Tom appeared behind them all, woken too by all the noise.

“What were you thinking? Lord Dearing spun round to shout at him. “I told you to stay with him no matter what!”

Tom looked distraught as he looked from Violet to Lord Dearing, trying to think of an excuse.

“What is this?” a chilling voice quietened them all. Lady Dearing stood by her son’s side holding out the small jug.

Everyone looked at Violet now.

She opened her mouth to try to explain. “It is a cure for fever, Milady”

“Where did you get it?”

“I...well, I made it myself”

“Oh my lord! What in God’s name is in it?”

“Willow bark, just that and some honey and water.”

Tom had moved over to David’s bedside and was looking concerned.

“Milord I think we’d better get the doctor now – and fetch a priest”

They all fell silent and looked at the prostrate form of David.

“What do you mean, boy?” Lord Dearing looked grave

“Doctor Lee told me that if he fell quiet and his breathing slowed we need a priest.” He whispered the words

“You have poisoned my son” Lady Dearing wailed at Violet

“Get out, GET OUT!!”

Violet looked at David then fled, sobbing, down the corridor.

Tom was dispatched to wake the grooms to ride to the village to fetch the Doctor Lee and Father Clark immediately.

The servants were shooed back to their quarters and David’s parents waited anxiously by his bedside as the morning light started to filter through the heavy drapes over his windows. They shivered and commanded Mr Holmes to close the window.

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