The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 24

At lunch in the kitchen Violet was the talk of the staff.

“I hear you are quite the heroine” said Agnes a trace of bitterness in her voice

“She was very daring” chimed in Lottie admiringly

“If I’d known what you were up to…” Mrs Salt started to say

“You’d have stopped me!” cried Violet and she had to admit that she would have.

“That is not to say that I allow such behaviour, normally” she said

“Of course not” said Violet “I won’t make a habit of it, I promise”

“Right, let’s get all this cleared away” said Mrs Salt bringing the chatter to a close “We have the chimney sweep coming this afternoon and there will be a lot of dust-sheets need laying down before he gets here. We’ll start with the drawing room”

Everyone finished eating quickly and went about their tasks. Polly came down into the kitchen where Violet was getting out some old sheets.

“The master wants you to go and fetch his lunch dishes down” she said to Violet. She looked over towards Mrs Salt,

“You’d better do it then, girl” she prompted, behind her Agnes glared at her.

Violet knocked and entered into his bedchamber once more.

“Violet!” he cried as she came in “I need you to do something for me”

“Anything I can do to help” she said

“I have spoken to father and he agrees, this time” he grinned at her “I can’t have the gardener’s tramping through the house every time I need to ask them to do something and I am going to be confined to bed for a week at least. So I wanted you to take my instructions to your father so I can keep on top of everything.”

“Of course”

“It will greatly aid my recovery if I can be sure that everything is being done correctly, well that’s what I told father. He suggested I used Tom, but I told him that he doesn’t know a tuber from a tuba!”

He laughed at his own pun. Violet joined in delighted to have been given a new responsibility.

“Are you sure that this is approved by your father?” she wanted to be sure she wouldn’t have her hopes dashed once more. That would be too much to bear.

“How could he refuse you anything now?” he asked “You saved his only son and heir!”

“What about Mrs Salt?”

“He’s to ask Mr Holmes to talk to her, there won’t be a problem this time. It is just temporary, as far as they know.” He winked at her.

Violet nodded and David went on to tell her what he wanted to happen with the ferns in the big hothouse and the precious plants in the Orangery.

“Wait a minute” he said suddenly “I just remembered I have a present for you!”

Violet was startled

“For me?”

“Yes” he replied “It’s vital for your new role. You’ll need to write down my commands!”

He reached over to his dark oak bedside cabinet and opened the top drawer. He lifted out a book with a picture of flowers on the front. She took it from him with trembling hands

“Oleanders!”

“Right first time!” he felt should be used to her astuteness by now

She opened it and each blank page was covered in faint lines.

“It was Louisa’s, I hope you don’t mind. I asked if she had a notebook that she didn’t need and she brought this one”

“It is beautiful!” Violet tried to look away so he wouldn’t see the tears that were gathering in her eyes.

“Here is a pencil to go with it” he reached into the drawer once more and handed it over to her.

She bent over the notebook and he watched as her tongue poked out just a little as she concentrated on her writing. Her hair fell down over her face and as the sun shone in through the windows it illuminated it like sun-kissed straw. He was dwelling on the curve of her neck and shoulders when she looked up and caught him.

“I think that will be all for now, Violet” he said trying to disguise his embarrassment.

Violet left the room with a smile on her face and a happy feeling that she’d never experienced before.

Mr Holmes was with the burly housekeeper when she reached the kitchen.

“Seems your duties have changed for the next week, at least” Mrs Salt said to her “I don’t know how we are going manage, it is all very queer, but I suppose we’ll muddle through for a week.”

“Thank-you Mrs Salt” Violet replied, desperate not to upset her and make her change her mind.

“Well, we have the chimney sweep booked today and I was hoping to get started on the jam making this week” she grumbled as Violet slipped on her outdoor shoes and shawl and went out to find her father.

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