The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 35

Down in the kitchen Violet was feeling just the opposite. She had been scrubbing the carrots clean and peeling the potatoes when Agnes sidled up to her.

“So, have you been working hard in the garden all day?”

“Well, of course Agnes” she replied “I have got most of the species labelled and catalogued now.”

“Right” she said looking at her in disbelief.

“How are things going with your new job?” she tried to get Agnes to change the subject.

“Well I am getting on really well with the young ladies; I think they are pleased with my work.” She smiled a sickly smile “but obviously not as well as you are getting on with the young master.”

Violet could feel her heart beating fast as she asked “What do you mean?”

“Oh I think you know.” And with that she sloped off back above stairs.

Violet’s mind was racing. Surely she had not seen anything? What if she had? Who had she told?

Her evening passed in a state of anxiety. She knew that her position there was already under threat and one wrong move would mean that she was out of the door. Even being demoted back to scullery maid would be better than being sent to another family in another place. At least she would still see David occasionally and still be in the same house as him.

Over the servant’s dinner that night things seemed rather strained among the staff. Katie and Polly seemed too embarrassed to meet her gaze and every time she tried to start a conversation everyone soon fell silent again. There was an unspoken tension between Mr Holmes and Mrs Salt too. He mentioned that the family above stairs were unusually grave over dinner and Mrs Salt replied that she was not surprised under the circumstances. When Violet asked what she meant by that she was met with a stony silence.

At last Mr Holmes spoke.

“I don’t think that we require your help tonight, Violet. I think that when you have finished your meal you may go to your room.”

Violet was confused, but left them, with a serious sense of foreboding.

As she climbed the backstairs she heard her father’s voice. Something was going on and she knew that it was to do with her. He never came inside the house as part of his normal duties.

As she lay on her bed she heard raised voices from below.

David had also been summoned to his father’s study. He had been warned by Sophie earlier, that he was on the warpath.

“It was Agnes” she told him “She came up with this cock and bull story about you and Violet in the throes of passion in the hothouse!” she laughed expecting David to do the same. When she saw his face she immediately knew that it must be true.

“She told Alex and Louisa too, they told Mama” she said sadly as she saw the look of hopelessness on his face.

David knew what was to come.

Both his parents were in the room when he got there as was Violet’s father. They all stared at him as he entered.

“You have gone too far this time, David” his father started “Is it true what Agnes has told your sisters?”

David looked defiantly at them and said “I was not taking advantage of her. I love her.”

“Think of the girl herself” his father warned, looking over at Mr Dean “You are spoiling her reputation! Who will marry her if this gets out? She will be ruined.”

The thought of Violet marrying anyone else filled David with anguish.

“I would not do anything to hurt her.” he said miserably

“Good. Well I have decided to send her home, until she can be sent to the merchant’s family. None of this will get out, the servants will be threatened with dismissal if this goes any further. You are forbidden to see her again.”

“Father, I will marry Caroline, but please let her stay, as we agreed.”

“I am sorry David, it is too dangerous. It will be better this way, believe me. You will forget her in time.”

“But…”

“No more chances!” his father said loudly.

He turned to Mr Dean “I am sorry for the harm my son may have caused. I will make all the arrangements to have her moved, and of course we will pay her wages up to the end of the month.”

Mr Dean was too upset to speak, as he stood on the hearthrug clutching his hat tightly in his hand. He nodded and left the room.

“We will arrange the engagement as soon as possible. We cannot afford to let Caroline or her family find out about this …indiscretion.”

David stood there mutely as everyone but his father left the room.

“Listen” his father tried to sympathise “you are not the first one to have fallen for someone inappropriate. It is just an infatuation. I know! When I was your age I had a crush on my younger brother’s governess.”

He laughed, trying to lighten the mood but David was too distraught to be comforted. His mind was otherwise engaged, trying to think of a way to see Violet at least one more before she was whisked away from him.

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