The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 38

Violet had plans of her own. She had cleaned through the little cottage and made her mother some breakfast. She had settled her in front of the small fireplace and brought her sewing basket to her, so she could get on with some of her work in comfort. She played with Daisy and got her to help with some of the chores. They were out at the front of the cottage sweeping up the last of the fallen oak and ash leaves from the path, when she saw Edgar approaching from the distance. She heard his happy whistling and knew that he must have news to tell her.

“Daisy?” she cajoled her sister “Will you do something for me?”

“What is it?” she asked

“I wonder if any of the hens have laid today, what do you think?”

“Well.. “ Daisy thought out loud “yesterday there was nine eggs!”

“Really? Asked Violet “I’ll bet there aren’t so many today!”

“I could go and see.” Daisy volunteered

“Oh I don’t know..” Violet pondered “I don’t think you could manage that all by yourself could you?”

“I do it for mama everyday!” Daisy was indignant

“Well, alright then, I will trust you to do it for me then. Take great care though.” She called after her as the little girl ran round to the back of the house where the hens scratched around in the dirt.

Edgar made the front gate just as Daisy disappeared. Violet looked at him expectantly

“Well, do you have anything to tell me?”

“Yes,” Edgar smiled back, “Lottie sends her best wishes.”

“Anything else?” Violet almost managed to hide her impatience. Edgar laughed “Of course. The master would like to see you at the blacksmith’s shop at eleven o’clock this morning.”

“Goodness, what time is it now?”

“I don’t possess a pocket watch I’m afraid.” Replied Edgar

“Hold on” said Violet before rushing into the front room to look at the clock on the mantelpiece.

She came back out and told him that it was almost 10 o’clock.

“I will try to get Daisy settled and busy indoors then I will set off” she said

“I will wait here, then I can accompany you.” He replied. She looked at him gratefully.

“Give me ten minutes she said and disappeared back inside the cottage.

Soon they were walking arm-in-arm down the track on their way to the village. She was glad of his company as she did not like to walk alone. Also she was not entirely sure that her mother swallowed her excuse of needing to get some cotton from the milliners for her sewing. However, as soon as her mother saw Edgar waiting patiently outside she seemed to relax and she bid her go. She was probably glad that not everyone was shunning her after her dismissal from The Grange. Violet felt sure that her mother would be more than happy to see her married and moved away.

She felt bad at deceiving her, but she had to speak to David. She could not think of anything else until she had managed to do that.

As they walked briskly along, Violet asked Edgar about Lottie and how things were back below stairs.

“I had cause to go to the kitchen to get some hot water for the heaters in one of the hothouses, so she let me sit by the fire to warm myself while it was brought to the boil. She is missing you, Violet, she says life isn’t the same without you to talk to. I think the new girl has moved into her room, but she is so timid and quiet, they can’t get a word out of her.” Violet listened intently

“Oh, there is some other news from the kitchen, Katie is to be married! Well it seems that she has to.” He looked at her meaningfully

Violet opened her mouth in shock

“Can you guess who she is to marry?” Edgar continued

“I have no idea.” She thought for a moment “Although I did come across her one day with one of the grooms in the hay barn. That was back in the summer. Is it one of them?”

“No, not at all” replied Edgar mysteriously “It is actually someone from the village, a regular visitor, you might say.”

Violet thought and shook her head slowly

“It is Jack, the baker’s boy!”

“Oh poor Lottie” exclaimed Violet without thinking

“What has it got to do with Lottie?” asked Edgar confused

“Oh well, I shouldn’t really tell you this, but I guess it doesn’t matter now. She was rather fond of him herself.”

“Ah,” said Edgar “That is why she did not seem to relish telling me then. She did seem rather upset. I thought she was worried about Katie.”

He walked along in silence for a few moments.

“Poor Lottie” he said

By now they had reached the village’s main street and they could hear the sounds of a horse being shoed as they saw the blacksmith’s shop in front of them. Edgar took his leave of her and she thanked him profusely. She entered the noisy workshop and felt the heat on her face from the burning furnace in the centre of the room. The burly smith was sending sparks flying through the gloom as he banged the red hot metal into shape to fit the horse whinnying nervously out front.

She looked around her trying to make out the shapes. As she got used to the dark interior she saw another door at the back of the shop. It opened suddenly and she was relieved to see David standing there. She ran over to him but it was just the blacksmith’s boy.

“Can I help you miss?” he looked surprised to see her there “You come for Mr. Green’s mare, cos she ain’t been done yet.”

“No, no” Violet was flustered, “I was just looking for someone” she tried to see into the darkness.

“Better get out the way before old Jabez sees you ere”

The smoke was stinging her eyes and there were livid sparks coming from the fire and she feared for her cloak so she went back outside and walked all the way round the building.

No sign of David. She sat on a wall outside the butcher’s and kept an eye on the forge to see if anyone entered or left – but in over an hour she didn’t see a single person. .

In the fevered night she had come up with a plan and she was sure it would work – although now in the cold light of day and the absence of David it seemed but a childish fairy tale.

She was remembering the story David had told her about Anne Bonny, the female pirate. David had said that her parents had to flee the country because they were master and servant, surely this was the same situation? Bonney’s mother was her father’s wife’s maid. He loved her, and their daughter and they wanted to make a life together so they moved to the Carolinas and became rich as well. Her heart had been beating fast at the thought of them doing the same.

Sitting there alone in the village square it dawned on her that David would never abandon his family, his home or his precious gardens just for her. How would they live? What could she do? She shook herself out of the reverie and stood up.

“You alright there Missy?” the old butcher was outside his shop closing up for lunch. She nodded, too full of despair to permit herself to speak and walked swiftly home.

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