Violet was busy in her attic room looking under her bed for the notebook with her designs in it. Lottie was there, darning her black stockings, before having to go downstairs to start lunch.
They had enjoyed life so much more since Agnes had moved out of their room. They had been informed that there was to be a new scullery maid to replace her, a young girl from the village called Mary. Violet and Lottie were talking about their own first days at work and how scared and alone they had felt. They resolved to take Mary under their wings and help her through the first few weeks. Keeping her out of Agnes’ way would be a good start.
“Any news on the new girl?” Violet asked Lottie as she retrieved her book and flicked through it.
“Polly was saying that she will start on the first of December. I heard…” Lottie hesitated
“What is it?” Violet prompted
“Well, I am sure they said that one of the below stairs girls was moving on, to a new family in the town.”
Violet looked alarmed, she did not want to lose her best friend.
“I don’t know, no one seems to.” Lottie said puzzled
Violet wondered about this. Surely they would not send one of them away without telling them?
“I have to show my designs to Master David” she told her friend excitedly “He thinks that it is a good idea to look at manufacturing them.”
“That is good” said Lottie worriedly “But are you sure that you are not getting too involved in things that you shouldn’t?”
“I don’t know what you mean!” she replied “You know that he is interested in my talents and designs regarding the gardens. Lottie it is what I was born to do!”
“But I have never known a maid work in this way before.”
“Well, there is a first time for everything. Soon all scullery maids will have the chance to do whatever jobs they desire!”
Lottie laughed out loud.
“You say the funniest things!”
Violet laughed too and then went downstairs. She clutched her precious notebook close to her chest as she went in search of David. Hopefully she would find him on his own once more.
There were people around in the great hall so she slipped out of the back door and went over to her favourite haunt to wait for him to show up. She could check on the exotics and water her seedlings. She placed the notebook on the potting bench as she set to work.
She saw his shadow as he walked past the Orangery, so she tapped on the glass to attract his attention. He stopped, looked guilty and then walked into the hothouse to face her.
“Here are the drawings I was telling you about” she said as he entered, offering him the notebook.”
“Oh, yes thank-you” he said distractedly as she watched him frowning
“Are you alright, David?” she asked him
“I think so. Ah, may I take this with me and look at it later?”
“Yes, I trust you with it!” she tried to raise a smile from him, without success.
He turned to leave.
“Something is wrong isn’t it?” she asked
“I need to get on.” But she stood in his way
“You can trust me with anything. Tell me what is on your mind, you were so happy earlier. Has your father said something to upset you?”
“No” he lied “well, he is pressing me on a decision I must make.”
“So let me ask you one question before you go then” she insisted refusing to move.
“Have you come back from an engaged man?” she held her breath, not wanting to read the truth in his face.
“No, I didn’t.” she exhaled, but he floored her with what came next “but I shall soon be such a man.”
He had said it. She looked at the confusion and desperation on his face.
“Is there no other way?” she asked “Surely you don’t have to marry just to keep this place going. What about my idea? We could start up a business and make money that way!”
She looked at him hopefully.
“It isn’t just a matter of money” he tried to explain.
“But why David, why, if you don’t love her?” she was getting frantic now
“You don’t understand.. “ he started
“Tell me then!!” she was close to tears
“Because if I don’t – they will send you away!” he blurted out.
She looked at him in confusion.
“How could they? Where would I go?”
Then a look of horrified understanding crossed her face.
“They were talking about ME!” she gasped “today in the kitchen they were talking about me being sent to another family!”
He looked at her, tears in his eyes too.
“I can’t lose you Violet” he whispered “I would do anything not to lose you.”
She turned and went back to the potting bench, putting her hands on it to steady herself. He followed her and turned her around. He put his hands on her arms and pulled her close. This time she did respond. She felt her knees weaken as he pulled her in close to his chest and she put her arms around him and tried to pull him even closer, as he found her mouth with his own..
Violet had never been kissed by a man before and she had no idea how it was meant to feel, but this was like waves of dizziness and pleasure through her whole being. She clung to him, entwining her fingers in his soft dark hair. She did not want it to end. He broke away and looked at her with love in his eyes.
“I cannot live without you Violet, can’t you see that?”
“You don’t have to” she said “I am devoted to you.”
“But how are we going to be able to stay together? Don’t you see? Unless I agree to marry well, my parents will send you away. They can see that while you are here I cannot look at any other woman.”
Violet gazed at him and put her arms around him once more. As they embraced they did not see a shadow pass the windows.
They sat together and talked for the whole afternoon.
“You are beautiful, Violet, you deserve the best finery that money can buy. Though even in your maid’s garb you outshine any woman I have ever seen” he touched her cheek and traced a finger down her neck and along her shoulder. Violet was becoming rather hot.
“You are dreaming though” Violet sighed. “I can never be a Lady or dress like one”
“There must be some way” he cried “I cannot bear the thought of marrying anyone else.”
“A relationship between us may be tolerated, as a discreet affair, but we could never hope to marry.” she warned “no matter how much we want to.”
“I can see you as my wife, mother of my children, working alongside me here at The Grange for always” he said
“It is a dream, a lovely dream, but still a dream.” She reasoned. “Your father would disinherit you. He’d give the estate to anyone rather than let this happen”
“There has to be some way we can be together. I would do anything.” he said
They sat in silence for a while, holding hands, fingers locked together.
As the afternoon got darker they reluctantly took leave of each other. David went to his room to bathe and dress for dinner. Violet ran back to the kitchen to prepare the meal and wash the dishes.
He sat on his bed and looked through the notebook that she had given him. As he turned each page he gasped at the intricacy of the drawings and the beauty of the designs. He did not know where she had seen such shapes before. Then he realised as he looked more closely. She had the cases topped off with Fleur de Lys, polished acorns, pineapples and even leaves and grasses. She took her inspiration from nature and the shapes of the plants that would be inside her heart.
She had obviously been looking at the chapel windows as she had tiny panes of stained glass around the top of the cases. He sensed a growing feeling of excitement as he saw the possibilities before him. If he could get enough money to start this up with the local blacksmith and carpenters and even the glassmakers in the town, they could have a thriving business here.
He knew that the owners of some of the grandest drawing rooms in the country would pay a lot of money to own one of these, as a centrepiece. He thought about how wonderful his own plain cases looked standing in their Conservatory. Violet was very astute, she seemingly had quite a head for business.
The problem would be, once again, his father. He did have a deep distrust of business and businessmen. He looked down, as many of the aristocracy did, on people who had been born to modest means and had made money by their own hard work, skills and even cunning.
He allowed him to have accounts with the local craftsmen, for all the things he needed for the gardens. He paid the bills at the end of each month, although not always on time or without quibbling. He wondered if he could get the first few made on account, then once he sold those he could pay the bills himself and start to commission more and more, as the demand grew.
He could use his father’s contacts in the capital to advise him on financing it once it took off and they had samples to show. He could even advertise in the popular journals and newspapers, maybe everyone would want these in their homes. In his mind’s eye he could see some of Violet’s drawings in the Illustrated London News or The Lady’s Newspaper and Pictorial Times.
For the first time in a long time he felt optimistic that everything would work out, somehow.