The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 59

Back in the modest cottage on the edge of the estate Christmas morning was unfolding for the Dean family. Daisy was up, unable to contain her excitement, begging to be allowed to open her few presents. She was delighted with the wooden baby carriage that her father had made her. She said that she would put a hen in it – and wheel it around everywhere with her.

“Cos I don’t have any dollies” she said.

“Well,” said Violet “There is one more present to open” she handed her the beautifully wrapped parcel from the .

Daisy looked at her, then grabbed for it and ripped off the bright tissue paper to reveal a baby doll. It was wearing a pink dress exactly like hers. It had been made by Mrs Dickinson from the remains of Lucy’s old dress, after it had been altered for Daisy.

She was speechless. She held it tenderly in her arms and smiled with total happiness.

“Come on” said her mother “Let’s find a blanket for her, then you can put her in the carriage, where she belongs.”

Daisy followed her mother to the kitchen where she kept her scraps of material.

Soon Daisy was bumping the wooden carriage into all the furniture in the tiny room, until her father took her outside to take a stroll along the path. Meanwhile Violet helped her mother in the kitchen, preparing the chicken and the home-grown potatoes and Brussels sprouts to accompany it. She was thinking about David and then Edgar, her mind in a whirl of conflicting emotions. She loved David and could not imagine how she would get through knowing that he was happy with someone else.

There was an insistent tapping at the front of the cottage and she went to see who was there. It was Edgar, rosy cheeked and out of breath with the icy cold.

“Happy Christmas!” he exclaimed, kissing her on the cheek.

“Happy Christmas” she replied, trying to sound as cheerful as him.

“I have a present for you” he grinned at her “But I think you’ve seen it before”

She knew he was coming to ask her the question again.

“Is there any news from up at The Grange?” she asked, hopefully

“Ah yes,” he said “Lottie informed me a few minutes ago that an engagement was announced this very morning”

Violet looked like she’d been punched in the stomach. She sat down heavily.

“Are you feeling unwell?” Edgar, face full of concern sat beside her.

“I will be alright” she said faintly

“It would never have worked for you two” he said gently “There may have been a small chance while you had hopes of a successful business, but the sabotage put paid to that, I suppose.”

Violet sighed

“The way they were smashed with the iron bars just destroyed them beyond repair.”

“I know” she replied, her head in her hands for several moments, then she suddenly sat bolt-upright and stared at him earnestly.

“Wait a minute!” she cried “How did you know that they had been destroyed with iron bars. We could not find what had been used to cause the damage. We looked everywhere!”

Edgar looked confused for a second.

“I….. well I just presumed that it must have been something like that…” he finished lamely.

She looked at him as he avoided her gaze.

“It was you wasn’t it?” she said quietly.

“Oh no! Violet…” he exclaimed

“It was!!”

She was sure now

“Edgar how could you?”

she was shocked

“You knew how much they meant to me and they were beautiful! How can anyone destroy something so precious, something that took so long to make?”

He did not reply.

“So, you thought that if you ruined things for me and David, then I would agree to marry you instead?” she continued thinking aloud.

“Please Violet, you have to understand. I was only thinking of you. You would have been the subject of gossip and ridicule wherever you went! ”

“Well, I know that he is engaged now and you have succeeded, but I will never feel this way about you!” Her eyes were blazing now.

He looked stricken, he opened his mouth to speak again but she silenced him with her hand.

“I could never marry you. Now, please leave.”

Her mother came into the front room and saw him there.

“Why Edgar!” she said “Won’t you stay to eat with us?”

“I’d love to Mrs Dean” he started, then seeing the black look Violet shot him continued “But my father is waiting for me at home.” He made a little bow and left the cottage.

Violet was seething, she could hardly speak. She felt it would be fruitless to try to explain it all to her mother.

“Let’s look at that chicken” she said as she went back into the kitchen but she seemed to have lost her appetite.

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