David lay awake that night worrying about Violet. He had asked Lottie to bid her come down and speak to him after dinner in his study, but she had returned with the message that she had a violent headache and could she please be left alone. He couldn’t force her, although he wondered why she was ashamed to see him. Surely she wouldn’t have allowed George to touch her? He smiled when he thought of her kicking him! It must have been with quite some force as George, bandage on head, showed him the bruises later in the evening as they started to turn purple!
Could there be anything in George’s assertion that she had thought it was him? The thought almost thrilled him, as he tried to rationalise his feelings. It was true that he had often surprised her in the Orangery, they had made a game of it over the last few weeks before his departure to . She always said she knew he was there, but he had felt sure that he’s managed to startle her on more than one occasion!
His thoughts returned to the present.
He knew that his return that day had been expected by the household and had been amused to find that everyone had assumed that the “guest” he was bringing with him was going to be Caroline. In fact his sisters had actually groaned when they saw George climb down from the carriage. All except Alex, of course who still seemed to hold a torch for him. Although with what David had learned over the last few weeks and particularly this evening, he had begun to have his doubts about the suitability of such a match.
He did not think that he held the same views on women and marriage and servants as his cousin, but he wondered about his feelings for Violet. Out of all the women he had ever talked to she was the most understanding and fun and he actually felt that he was talking to someone on his own level, an equal.
But wasn’t he acting just like George and taking advantage of her too? Certainly not in a physical sense, although his mind did keep wandering to what would have happened if he had entered the Orangery tonight and put his arms around her. It was not anything he would have ever dared to do, but just thinking of her turning round and pressing herself against his chest gave him palpitations that he’d never felt before.
Perhaps it was wrong of him to get close to her and cause her to have feelings for him if they could never be together? He just loved her company so much, and he valued her help and her knowledge that made his plans and projects so much more real. He had never had anyone who had his own level of enthusiasm before. It is true that his father was very keen to get the gardens done, but only for the prestige of having one of the most curious and famous gardens in the country. He did not particularly care which plants and shrubs and trees were planted, just as long as they were rare, no one else had them and they had come a long, long way.
Violet was different. She loved to see the plants grow and thrive and was always upset if a seedling or sapling died. She would try to think of different ways of nurturing them, using different mixtures of earths or by varying locations with more or less light and water. These all made a difference to how things grew and she was learning from him all the time by asking endless questions and by experimenting herself.
He enjoyed passing on his knowledge and she certainly kept him on his toes with her constant queries. Sometimes he had to go back to his old school books and notes to look things up for her. They were learning together.
He tried to imagine being married to Caroline. How would she feel about living at The Grange? He wondered how she would tolerate his absences while on his plant hunting journeys. Also how she would take the presence of Violet and her unusual situation in his household? He had got the feeling that she was rather indulged by her parents and seemed to get her own way.
Things had been rather tense over dinner. His mother had also been surprised that he had brought George back with him. She had welcomed him, of course, but she had confided in David later that both she and his father had expected the arrival of Caroline, when he’d mysteriously asked to bring home a “guest”. There was a palpable air of disappointment from both his parents.
She had grilled him on his visit to Caroline’s parents’ house, who he had met during his holiday, how he had got on with everyone, what events they had staged for him while he was there. He told them everything he could about the local gentry and the balls and hunts that he had taken part in. They looked pleased that they had given a ball in his honour the night before he left.
He had more difficulty answering her probing questions concerning Caroline. She asked if he’d approached her father with a view asking for her hand in marriage and he had to admit that he hadn’t. He could not really explain to her exactly why, just that he was just not sure about the match.
“It would be perfect for you, Caroline is very accomplished. She could run a household and I am sure would provide you with healthy children.” David shifted in his seat. He was not used to discussing such subjects with his mother.
“I do not know if I could love her” he said lamely
“Don’t worry about that, I’m sure that would grow with time. You do enjoy her company though do you not?”
He thought about it for a moment
“Yes, she is just like another sister. She is pretty and charming and…”
He tried to think of something else he could say about her.
“There you go then” she encouraged him. She became serious again “There isn’t anyone else that you prefer is there? You met someone maybe in ?”
“No, of course not, mother!” he said, a little too quickly “No-one in caught my eye.” He finished more truthfully.
He thought about this conversation now as he lay in his sumptuous warm bed. As every traveller knows, there is nowhere more comfortable than your own bed. He was glad to be home. He had thought that as he was exhausted he would have fallen asleep quickly, as soon as his head touched the duck down pillows. He sighed, closed his eyes and tried once more to get off to sleep.