The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 31

Violet was back in the kitchen as there was so much to do before David and his guest arrived. She was excited at the thought of seeing him and was hoping that he would be delighted with all she’d done so far.

There was much speculation at the breakfast table about the arrival of Caroline and the upcoming nuptials but she tried to put that out of her mind.

All the specimens that had survived his last voyage were thriving and some had even produced cuttings for further propagation. Also in the Conservatory stood six sturdy hardwood and glass cases ready to hold the most delicate flowers and protect them on the hardest decks and through the roughest seas. Violet felt that her constant daily visits to the carpenters’ workshop had yielded dividends. So what if it had irritated them at first? They soon got the message that they would not cease to be pestered by this strange girl unless they actually got these curious constructions finished. They also soon realised that if they cut corners, skimped on the materials or tried to deviate from the drawings not only would she notice, but she would threaten them with dismissal from The Grange’s good books.

They were outraged and tried to find out more about her, from the staff of the house. They were told that as she had saved the young master’s life she had been given a special position in the household and anything she said regarding the gardens was pretty much to be taken as gospel.

Once they got used to her, and she grew to respect their skills and expert craftsmanship, they fell into a kind of truce and they got used to the sight of her in their workshop. They learned to temper their language while she was there, but all in all they treated her as an equal. They discovered that she did indeed know what she was talking about, but equally she was willing to listen and learn from them.

If something on the drawings did not work they explained it to her and together they came up with the best alternatives.

Working in this way had enabled them to get the cases finished without having to wait for David to return and instruct them further. They were as close to his original plans as the available materials and their skills would allow. In fact both they and Violet were very proud of the results.

Violet had even ventured as far as knocking on Lord Dearing’s study door one day to politely inform him that the cases were finished and suggest how happy David would be to see them displayed in the Conservatory on his return to The Grange.

The good Lord was rather taken aback by this show of initiative from this young girl. He wondered exactly when he had ceased thinking of her as a scullery maid and simply thought of her as their “Violet”. One of a kind!

He simply thanked her and instructed some of the grooms and gardeners to carry them, with great care, into the Conservatory leading off from the ballroom. They stood proudly in the sunlight, glinting with new glass and polished wood. He reflected that she was right. David was going to be delighted.

Violet was not sure exactly when David would arrive home, she guessed that it would be quite late in the evening.

She finished her kitchen duties as quickly as she could and then went out into the Orangery to check that everything was tidy and just as David liked it. She checked again on the saplings and sturdy seedlings – making sure the water levels were right and that all the windows had been closed tightly. She would not be surprised if there wasn’t a frost tonight so she was determined to protect his investments, at all costs.

She was leaning over the potting benches looking at the labels to make sure that they were all correct when she heard the door to the Orangery open and felt the presence of another in there with her. She smiled in anticipation as she heard footsteps behind her. She pretended not to notice as she hummed to herself as she worked.

Suddenly she felt hot breath on her neck and momentarily she leant back, when suddenly an arm grasped her round her waist and pulled her close.

She gasped then spun round and there was an unfamiliar face leering at her.

“Let go of me!” She shouted “Who are you?”

He tightened his grip and she could smell whiskey and smoke on his breath as he said

“Let go of me, SIR! Where are your manners, girl!” his face was ugly with anger. He started to pull at the front of her dress, yanking down the material and exposing her breasts. She kicked his shins hard and he let go quickly as he yelled in pain. He toppled over and caught his head on the corner of the potting bench.

“How dare you?” she demanded

“How dare I?? He looked at her his head poring blood “Just wait until my cousin hears how his servants speak to me!” he looked at her with fury in his eyes. “I’ll have you dismissed, you little trollop!”

She looked towards the Orangery door just as David was entering. He saw how distressed she was and looked questioningly at George

“What’s going on here?” he asked them both.

“I was writing out some labels, so that everything would be perfect on your return and this man sneaked in and grabbed me round the waist and wouldn’t let go.” She held the ripped dress to her ashamed.

“That wildcat kicked me and pushed me over” George said still holding his head, blood staining his white shirt cuffs.. “Anyway, she was responding to my advances at first. She was enjoying my embraces.”

Violet looked at him aghast and then looked back at David

“I can’t believe that of Violet. Anyway why would she kick you if she welcomed your attentions?”

“I …” Violet tried to explain but how could she say that she had thought it was him? Just for a split second she had thought that her dreams, her daily fantasies were coming true. Her fancy that he would have missed her as much as she had missed him and that he would seek her out as soon as he returned to tell her how he felt lay in tatters and she saw them for the false hopes that they were.

She had been looking forward to David’s return so much and now this monster had ruined it and now David thought her a common harlot.

She ran past him and back to the house. She lay on her bed in her attic and cried.

David turned to his cousin and for the first time in his life shouted at him

“How dare you treat one of my staff in this way?”

“Your staff? You mean your father’s! Anyway that’s what scullery maids are for aren’t they? If you’re lucky enough to have a pretty one, why not take advantage? She should be grateful!”

David was appalled at this attitude. He glared at George

“What’s the matter David? Got a soft spot for her yourself? In that case then I am sorry!” George tried to wriggle his way out of this awkward situation. “Anyway, I’m sure she only responded because she thought I was you!”

“What?”

“Well as soon as she turned around as saw it was me, she turned into a wildcat and attacked me!”

“I don’t believe you George” he said “Violet is a great help to me in all matters relating to the gardens. She is one of the best staff we’ve got, I will not have her treated in this way! She deserves respect!”

“Why does she? She’s a nobody, whatever her talents” he said his lip curling in an ugly way “She is still just a poor, worthless servant, they are ten a penny!”

David was seeing his cousin in a new light and he didn’t like what he saw. He could not afford to make an enemy of him though and certainly did not want his father to hear about this. He tried to lighten the mood and get him back to his usual jovial self.

“Come on” he said “Let’s not argue now. Come in and have another glass of whiskey”

“Lead the way, old boy!” George looked disgruntled though and David did not know how he could get to see Violet and reassure her.

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