The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 40

Violet stayed at home for the next two weeks, helping her mother where she could and entertaining Daisy. She decided that she would use her time to start teaching Daisy to read. She wanted her to have aspirations above those of a maid, maybe a governess, she was certainly bossy enough! She enjoyed her time with her little sister and was happy to see that her mother looked more rested and healthier than she had done for quite a while.

She did miss David desperately though. She lay in bed at night thinking about him and wondering where he was and what he was doing. Was he thinking about her? She trusted him and knew that he was working hard to ensure that one day they could be together.

Despite that she could not help thinking about him with Caroline though. She imagined her as petite and pretty with curls and powdered cheeks and all the social graces that she did not possess. Violet had never learned to dance and she did not know how to sew a fine sampler or how to paint or play cards. She knew that David could see beyond her shabby and drab clothing and her wild hair and unadorned complexion. But what if he was forced to comply with his family’s wishes? Why would he give up his family and his inheritance for her?

Her imagination was all too active as she pictured David and Caroline dancing together. All swishing silks and soft velvets brushing against him as they whirled around together. How could she compete with that? She knew that she could be a match for her, if she had had the tuition and the advantages that Caroline had. She wondered how she would look if she could have her hair dressed with flowers and feathers and wear the softest silks in the most sumptuous colours.

She sighed as she lay there, listening to Daisy’s soft breathing as she slept. She knew that people were far more important that possessions and wealth, but when you had very little, it was still hard to accept this all the time. If you had always been used to having everything that you wanted, like David had, how on earth would it be possible to live with very little? How could she have ever imagined that she would ever be enough to make him happy?

A few days later, as she was scrubbing some clothes in the dolly tub in the back garden, Violet heard someone knocking on the front door of the cottage. After a moment her mother came out to her and told her that there was a note for her, hand delivered by someone from the village.

She brushed her damp hair out of her face and sat in the small kitchen to read it.

It was a short communication from Mr Dickinson asking her to bring her work clothes and any other personal effects she may need and to come along and join his staff the very next day. She had never met the man or any of his family and she did feel a little apprehensive about starting this new post.

She packed her meagre belongings, all as clean and neat as she could make them, and she took her leave of her family early the next morning. Daisy cried as she left and she felt sad that she had to leave her just as she was getting so good at learning her letters.

She walked into the village with her bundle of belongings in her old canvas bag. She had the address in the note in her hand and she stopped at the bakery to ask if they knew where Trinity House was. The delivery boy, Jack, said that he was familiar with it as he took fresh bread and cakes there most weeks. He would take her there as he made his morning rounds. He pushed his cycle along the road and she walked next to him. She congratulated him on his forthcoming marriage as they went along.

“Ah, so you have heard,” he replied looking rather sheepish.

She felt that she was in no position to judge him.

“Well, I suppose you have heard about me too?” she tried to reassure him, they were both in disgrace.

“Oh yes!” he replied as Violet’s heart sank “I was told that you were off because old Lord Dearing could not afford to pay the glassmaker’s bills. They say he has offered your services as payment!”

Violet was relieved to hear that. Maybe her reputation was not as damaged as she had feared. Indeed when she arrived at the house she was greeted warmly by Mrs Dickinson herself.

“Oh my dear,” she said “You don’t know how happy I am to see you!” You come highly recommended you know!”

Before Violet could say anything she found herself bundled inside and shown to a room on the first floor. It was next to the chamber that the daughter of the house, Lucy, occupied and was rather more spacious and comfortable than Violet had been used to.

“Are you sure this is MY room?” she enquired in surprise

“Oh I am sorry, “Mrs Dickinson said “I know it can’t be as grand as you were used to at The Grange, but I hope that you can make yourself comfortable!”

Violet laughed. Mrs Dickinson had obviously never seen servant’s quarters in an English Country estate.

“It is just delightful!” she answered her with a grin “I am sure I shall be very happy here.”

It soon became clear that, apart from a manservant who saw to Mr Dickinson’s needs, she was the only other servant in the household. This pleased her as she realised that she would have a variety of tasks and would work alongside Mrs Dickinson to run the house and look after young Lucy.

“Please call me Celia” the lady of the house urged “I cannot cope with all this Mrs Dickinson all the time!” she laughed and her pink cheeks wobbled in merriment.

Violet felt that she was going to get on very well here.

Lucy attended the village school and once Celia realised that Violet was skilled in reading and writing, and even in some arithmetic, she was allowed to help the young girl with her schoolwork in the evenings, after the household chores had been completed.

After Lucy was in bed and the dinner things had been cleared away, Violet was permitted to sit in the parlour and read Mr Dickinson’s newspaper or sew with the amiable couple. They treated her less like a servant and more like a member of their family. She took her meals with them and attended church with them too.

She heard Mr Dickinson grumble about his workers and the price of raw materials and she soon discovered that he welcomed questions about his business. He seemed surprised that she wanted to know anything about it, as it was rare for anyone at home to take such an interest.

Once her realised that she was not just humouring him and was actually interested in what he manufactured and how long it took to make each piece, he opened up to her and told her more and more. Eventually, she showed him some drawings that she had made in the back of one of Lucy’s old school exercise books, of a Wardian case. He took it over to his lamp and scrutinised it carefully.

“Well I have never seen anything so intricate before,” he said carefully looking at it through his eyeglasses.” Do you know if an ironsmith could fashion such delicate work, stable enough to hold in the glass?”

“I do not know, sir,” she replied politely “That is why I showed it to you. I thought you may be able to find out for me.”

He looked at it once more and made some notes next to it, in the book.

“We’d need some proper measurements, drawn to scale before we could take it to an ironworks, of course.”

“I do not want to put you to any trouble, sir!” she exclaimed

“It is fine!” he replied “I am sure I shall enjoy the challenge!”

He busied himself with a ruler and set square trying to transfer Violets sketches into blueprints for manufacture.

“You will need some capital before you can even start on such a venture “he told her gravely

Violet’s face fell “I know that” she answered him “I just enjoy designing them, don’t you think they would be popular in the big houses? Filled with tropical flowers? I’m sure everyone would want them!”

“Maybe” he said “but it seems like quite a gamble. We’re very busy at the factory right now.” He put the book down and went back to his newspaper.

Violet was still undaunted and spent as much of her spare time as she could, trying to perfect her designs. She asked Mr Dickinson if he would show her how to draw up the plans herself. He said he would, although he could not take her into his drawing office, it might cause a riot among his draftsmen, he would bring home some instruments and teach her in the evenings He found her a very willing pupil and she could more than match the work produced by his best workers at the factory.

The month of November flew by as Violet settled into her new home and her new job. She loved Lucy, almost as much as her own sister, Daisy. In fact on one Sunday visit home she had taken Lucy along with her, to give her parents a little time alone, and the two girls had got on very happily together. Lucy had been fascinated by the hens and enjoyed collecting in the eggs, and was so pleased when Violet’s father told her she could take one home for her tea. She chose a big, brown speckled egg, which she said that she just knew had been laid by the loudest and biggest brown hen in the coop.

“Has she got a name?” Lucy asked Daisy

“No – it’s just a hen” said Daisy in her matter-of-fact way.

“I am going to call her Hettie” declared the little girl laughing and Daisy was delighted to agree with her strange new friend. In fact she would spend the next week thinking up names for all the hens, just to please her on her next visit.

As Violet walked back home with her she clutched it safely in her petticoat pocket, chattering all the way back about Daisy and the hens and asking if she could come and visit them every week.

We’ll have to see what your mama says won’t we?” said Violet as they mounted the front steps up to her well-lit and comfortable home.

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