The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 23

Violet was still crying on her bed when Katie came up to say that she was needed in the study.

She groaned, as she tried to get up. She had heard that the priest and doctor had arrived and she feared the worst. Now she was going to be dismissed for sure. This time she didn’t actually care what happened to her. She felt so guilty about what she’d done, she had to make them believe that she was really only trying to help.

She followed Katie downstairs and stood outside the study and waited to be called inside. Katie let them know she was there, then she was ushered inside. There were Lord Dearing and Doctor Lee standing before the fire.

“Violet” said Lord Dearing softly

“Is he dead?” she blurted out, unable to stand the suspense any longer.

“No, my dear” said the doctor with a smile “He is definitely not dead.”

She looked at them in astonishment.

“I know what you did was unconventional” continued Lord Dearing “but whatever it was it has certainly worked. We are grateful to you, my dear. The doctor here would like to know exactly what it was that you gave him.”

Violet could feel her heart beating as she tried to take this in and give a sensible answer to the doctor.

“My father had a book, I knew I’d seen something about fevers, I just tried it.” She babbled.

“Can you show me the book?”

“Of course, it’s under my bed. Just a moment.”

She raced up the stairs and found Agnes getting her things together, ready to move rooms.

“So you are surely leaving us now, then?” she asked slyly.

“No, actually I am going to be staying quite a while!” and without another word she took her book and skipped off back down the stairs.

Agnes watched her go, her mouth open, scowling.

Doctor Lee looked at the page concerning bark with Violet.

“You know” he said “Culpepper is dismissed by many in my profession, because of his emphasis on astrology. He doesn’t follow scientific principles, but actually, much of this is based on sound facts.”

“There are many cures connected to plants,” said Violet “My father has always sworn by them. Well, they are cheaper than a doctor!” she looked ruefully at the good doctor. He just smiled.

“You are wasted as a scullery maid” he said looking at her.

“I know” said Violet unselfconsciously

“What would you like to do, if there were no barriers to one of your sex?”

“I’d be a gardener like my father, a Head-Gardener maybe, a world-famous landscape gardener whose services are sought by all the royalty in Europe” she laughed, she was getting carried away now.

“I have no doubt that you could do it, my dear” the doctor smiled back

“Doctor Lee, may I ask you something?”

“Of course!”

“Do you know of any female doctors?”

“No, my dear, I don’t, not in at any rate. Although there was something in my journal last month about a woman who had qualified over in . I think she was called Elizabeth Blackwell. In fact I do believe that she was born here in .”

“Really?” Violet was impressed

“Yes, maybe that would be the way to go, emigrate to ”

“I can’t see that being possible” Violet said “anyway I’d better get back to the kitchen grate, I was meant to have it cleaned out by midday.”

“Wait a minute, wouldn’t you like to go up and see how our patient is faring?”

She looked gratefully at the kindly grey-haired man with twinkling eyes

“Don’t worry, I’ll make it all right with the housekeeper” he reassured her

With that, Violet left the room and ran up the stairs two at a time. She tapped on the door and heard a familiar voice bidding her to come in. David beamed at her from his bed.

“It’s okay, you can leave that now Tom” he dismissed his valet “I’ll call you when I need you”

He turned to Violet as soon as Tom closed the door.

“My angel!” he said. Violet could feel herself blushing.

“I understand that I owe you my life”

“I did the only thing I could think of, I was so worried that you wouldn’t get better.”

“You really cared?”

“So how are you feeling now?” she changed the subject

“Well I am rather weak, I’m afraid. I wobbled over when I tried to get up this morning, like a baby, learning to walk!” he laughed

“A few more bowls of Mrs Salt’s nettle soup and you’ll soon get your strength back”

“Ugh, I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but do you think you could stop her sending that up to me now?”

“Oh I don’t think so” Violet teased “She has a whole cauldron full of it!”

He groaned and lay back on his pillows looking pathetic until Violet relented

“Well I guess I could accidentally spill it when I’m cleaning out the grate” she looked at him with a glint in her eyes.

He laughed again and then they stayed looking at each other, neither knowing what to say next.

“How did you know it was me?” she asked at last “Do you remember me being here?”

“I thought I was dreaming, I had some very strange dreams” he replied “but then I found this.”

He reached under his pillow and gently pulled out a folded handkerchief, opening it up to reveal a rather flattened sprig of African violets”

Violet blushed and smiled once more

“I take it you left it on my pillow?”

“I..ah.. well, I thought a familiar smell might bring you back from your coma.” She shrugged “You had been cultivating them just before you fell ill.”

He smiled at her “Violets from my Violet” he said “I love their scent”

Then he suddenly sat bolt upright, a worried look on his face.

“What is it?” asked Violet in alarm

“I hadn’t given anyone instructions about the new seedlings, they needed attention right away.” He looked as if he was about to leap out of bed.

“Don’t worry!” she told him “I did it the other day. I noticed them while I was in the hothouse and carefully separated them,

“Did you make sure they had the correct mixture?”

“Of course, some earth and compost, and I watered them in well. I will check on them again today.” she reassured him

He visibly relaxed and smiled once more.

“You really are an angel” he sighed.

“I’m just a scullery maid” she reminded him “and I need to get back to my duties!”

There was a tap at the door and Katie and Polly came in to change the linen on his bed.

“We’ll see about that.” He murmured as she left the room and went back to her scullery.

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