Christmas Eve at Violet’s home was also a busy time. It is true that the celebrations would be much more modest that the ones up at The Grange, but there was much affection and happiness in the air.
Daisy was almost sick with excitement. She had her two big sisters coming to visit the next day and she could not wait to see what presents she might find in her stocking in the early hours of Christmas morning. She didn’t even seem to notice that Violet was not her usual self. Violet tried her best not to let it show, but the fact that she had not seen or heard from David in days did not do much for her state of mind. It seemed to her, that he’d decided that he could not bear to leave his precious gardens. She imagined over and over again how he would propose to Caroline over the Christmas holiday and how they would all be happy up at the big house when they announced it to them all.
“Cheer up Violet!” he father urged as he saw her slumped over the table as she helped to shell the chestnuts.
“I know what will put a smile on her face” her mother said to him “have you told her who is coming to tea tonight?”
Violet couldn’t bear to hear. She jumped up and grabbed Daisy’s hand
“Why don’t you keep it as a surprise” she told her mother “I have to take Daisy over to the Dickinson’s now. Lucy will be waiting for her!”
She left the cottage with Daisy chattering beside her.
“Will I see Cleo?” she asked
“Yes, I’m sure she will be under the table while you are eating your lunch, meowing for titbits” said Violet
“Will Lucy let me play with her doll’s house?” she asked a few steps further on
“She’s a very generous child, so I’m sure she will – if you’re very careful!”
“I will be!” Daisy said solemnly as she trotted along the track beside her big sister.
She was true to her word. The two little girls had a great time together as Violet helped serve the lunch and stayed to enjoy it with the family. Daisy went up to Lucy’s room to play as Violet cleared away. She had chance to sit and talk to Mr Dickinson about her cases and the problems with them.
“We couldn’t prove anything against Anthony Hendry” he told her apologetically. “I can’t even dock his wages; he seems to have disappeared again.”
“Will we ever get some new ones made?” asked Violet sadly
“I am sure that Master David will come up with something.” He replied, not entirely convincingly
“So, you have seen him then?” she asked hopefully
“Well, no.” he had to admit “but he was so committed to getting them made, I’m sure he is doing all he can.”
“Yes” she sighed. She wished so much that she could know what he was thinking and doing. Had he given up on her and their future altogether?
Before Daisy left Mrs Dickinson gave her a package wrapped up in red tissue paper and tied up with shiny red ribbons.
“This is from Lucy’s father and me, but you must promise that you won’t open it until tomorrow!”
Daisy held it as if it would break or disappear at any second. Her eyes wide with delight.
“What do you say?” asked Violet
“Thank-you” Daisy whispered looking from one to the other.
“That’s the first time I have seen her speechless!” Violet told them as they said their goodbyes and left to walk home.
Daisy walked all the way back without a word, concentrating on holding her present carefully so that she would not drop it on the muddy track.
Violet was lost in thought too as they tried to get home before darkness fell. It was a gloomy dank afternoon and it did nothing to lift her mood. The sight of the cottage, small and squat at the end of the track, its windows bright in the lowering night did little to warm her heart.
As she stepped inside she saw an extra place had been set at the table for tea. She spun round as a deep voice said
“Happy Christmas, Violet”
“Edgar!” she cried, trying to hide her disappointment “You startled me!”
“Your father was kind enough to invite me round to see you.” He replied beaming as usual. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine thank-you” she replied, trying to sound bright “I like my new position with the . They are such lovely people.”
“Yes, I think you’ve been lucky there.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Right, you two, why don’t you sit down” her mother interrupted “I’ll pour the tea.”
Daisy insisted on sitting on one side of their handsome visitor and Violet sat on his other side as her parents fussed over him.
Daisy told him about her afternoon at her friend Lucy’s and Violet for once felt pleased that she could not get a word in herself.
After their meal Mr Dean went off to check the hothouses on the estate and Mrs Dean insisted that Daisy help with the dishes in the kitchen. Violet and Edgar were left alone.
Edgar was looking a little nervous and Violet wondered why he wasn’t his usual cocky self.
“How are things at The Grange?” she asked him, hoping that he’d sit down and stop pacing up and down the small sitting room.
“Oh fine” he said without elaborating any further.
“How about Lottie, have you spoken to her recently?”
“Oh yes” he replied “She sends her regards.”
Violet waited expectantly for him to go on. He didn’t.
“Won’t you sit down?” she asked, he was putting her nerves on edge.
He didn’t, so she just carried on talking to ease the tension. She told him about the Wardian cases that Mr Dickinson had been making and how they had been ruined and that her and David’s plans for business had been left in tatters.
“You do know that there is talk of a Christmas engagement, up at The Grange?” he asked her.
She grew pale and said nothing. She had been expecting this, but now that it was confirmed it still felt like a knife in her heart.
She just nodded.
“Well,” he said gently “It isn’t that engagement that I came to talk about today. I have been wondering, and I have spoken to your father…”
Violet wasn’t listening; she was lost in her own thoughts.
“Violet, will you marry me?”
He grabbed her hand and she looked at him in shock as he tried to force a ring into it.
“What?” she said
“Will you marry me?” he asked again. He was looking far from the confident, cheery friend that she was used to. He was actually shaking.
“Edgar” she began “I am so very fond of you”
“But you know that I don’t love you.”
He nodded too “Yes, but you could grow to love me. I would do everything I could to make you happy.”
“I know that you would, and I wish that I did love you as more than a friend, but how can I marry you when you know that I love someone else?”
“Yes but you can never have him. It’s impossible.”
“Yes, maybe” she said “but that doesn’t alter the fact that I could never love anyone else.” She paused, sadly
“I’m sorry, Edgar”
“Just don’t say no!” he urged her, turning the small ring over in his hands
“Say that you will allow me to ask you again tomorrow. Just tell me you’ll give it some thought until then.”
She sighed and looked down at him, kneeling before her.
“I will give it some thought” she replied “But I can’t promise the answer will be any different.”
He looked satisfied with that and pocketed the ring, and when her parents returned he took his leave of them, thanking them profusely for inviting him.
When he was gone her mother looked at her
Violet knew that they had engineering this afternoon tea for just this reason.
“I said no” she told them
“Why?” asked her mother, aghast
“I don’t love him!” Violet replied
“Just because he is not Lord of the manor with loads of money and..”
“That has nothing to do with it!” Violet was angry “Edgar is a good friend, works hard and I have a lot of respect for him!”
“So why won’t you be his wife?” she asked her daughter in bewilderment
“I just don’t love him, not in that way.” She looked at her father for help.
“You understand don’t you?”
He nodded. “Violet, I don’t know if you will ever be with the one you do love.”
“I know father” she replied sadly “but I can’t even think of being with anyone else.”
“Well, I hope that you don’t regret this” her mother sniffed.
Violet pleaded a headache and went to bed early, even before Daisy.
She thought about what Edgar had said. She thought about the grand society wedding that would no doubt take place in the springtime, picturing the delicate, pretty bride and her dark and handsome groom. Her pillow was soaked through with tears by the time she managed to drift off into an exhausted sleep.