“Tom I want you to get a groom to saddle up the fastest horse and ride to the Head Gardener’s cottage and bring back Violet. Tell her I desire her presence here and will not take “no” for an answer.”
“Very well, sir” he replied smiling, before running off down the corridor down to the grand hall.
“One more thing!” he called after him “Don’t say anything about the engagement! Oh – and bring the whole family!”
“Everyone else – wrap up in your warmest coats, hats, gloves and gather out on the big lawn. I have something to show you all.”
There was a flurry of coats and furs as everyone got ready to go out into the night time air to see what David had in store for them. The entire household staff was filing out of the doors too – to join in the celebrations. The carol singers from the village were assembled around the new pool and a brass band was already playing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.
David had gone ahead and called all his garden staff together, along with the engineer, and the grooms were all lined up at the far end of the great lawns with lighted tapers in their hands. No one could quite see what they were standing in front of, as it was too dark.
“We are not going to be able to see anything out here” complained Sophia “There are no lanterns lit”
“Ah, wait and you will see” said David and seeing Violet arrive he beckoned her over to his side as he gave the signal to the servants and they held their tapers in front of them and lit the row of fireworks in front of them. As the first rockets soared into the clear dark sky the engineer opened the sluice gates one by one that started up the fountain. A huge plume of water shot into the air with a loud whoosh, echoing the firing of the pyrotechnics into the air. The bright blue, red and green sparks lit the water as it arched into the air and cascaded down with fiery splashes.
There were choruses of “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” as the fire and water show enthralled them all. George stood next to Caroline, still looking a little shocked at his unexpected engagement. Caroline was looking up at him crossly, but still David did not feel too bad about his surreptitious matchmaking.
Violet shouted over the loud bangs, trying to congratulate David on his engagement, but rather confused to see Caroline standing with George.
He leant down to talk in her ear.
“Don’t congratulate me!” he cried “Congratulate George. Caroline is going to marry him!”
He looked delirious.
He put his arms around her tightly and held her very close.
“How did that happen? She gasped “I don’t understand!”
“I’ll explain later” he said “I have something important to do first.”
As the last glowing embers fell from the sky, David called for quiet. The band stopped and everyone turned to face him. The grooms went around the pool lighting the lanterns.
“I would like to declare this new water feature officially open. It only remains for Miss Dean to unveil the plaque. Violet?”
He turned to her as she looked confused. He pointed towards the edge of the pool where there was a velvet curtain attached to the stonework. She leaned forward and tugged at it gingerly. It came away in her hand and David read out loud from the polished brass plate that shone in the lantern light.
“This Lily Pool is dedicated to the memory of another Lily, who was not with us for long, yet will always be remembered.”
He looked over at Mr and Mrs Dean; they were holding Daisy between them, heads bowed.
He felt a hand grasp his as Violet resumed her place at his side. He squeezed hers and waited for the noise to die down before continuing. She had tears in her eyes as she looked up at him and he knew that he had never felt happier in all his life.
“I also want to use this occasion to congratulate my cousin George on his engagement today to Lady Caroline Fitzroy.”
There was more hubbub among the staff at this surprising turn of events. Needless to say they had been expecting the announcement of an engagement – but not this one. They clapped politely and then cheered more enthusiastically as David said they could all go back indoors and continue eating and drinking.
Violet was stunned. It was the last thing she had been expecting. She looked at David as if to say “How on earth did you manage that?”
Everyone had left the gardens now except for Violet and David. She stood facing him, perched on the edge of the Lily pool.
“That was a lovely thing that you did” she told him, smiling at him
“There is something I need to ask you.” He said looking serious for a moment
“Is it about the cases?” she asked “I have something to tell you about that…
“No, it’s not about the cases!” he smiled, then to her surprise he knelt down in front of her, one knee firmly planted on the frozen grass.
“What on earth are you doing?” she started to laugh, then she caught his serious expression and stared at him in disbelief.
“Violet,” he continued “Will you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?”
She carried on staring “Are you serious?”
“Of course,” he cried “Will you marry me?” he asked again
“It is all fine and above board! I’ve asked your father. He gave his consent”
“He didn’t say anything to me!” she said
“Violet!” he was getting exasperated “Please answer me!”
She gazed down at him, the man she loved, the only man she had ever loved and whispered “Yes”
“You will?” he shouted with happiness
“Of course, nothing would make me happier!”
He struggled to his feet – and she put out her arms to help him back up. They held each other closely and kissed for a long, long time, then he pulled away and reached into his waistcoat pocket. He solemnly opened a small red velvet covered box to reveal a simple diamond ring.
She squealed with delight and held out her trembling hand as he put it onto the third finger of her left hand.
“You know that it won’t always be easy, we may meet some opposition, have some comments levelled at us and get shunned from some society.”
She hugged him again
“Because of who I am?” she asked
“No, no!” he cried “Because of who I am! If I had been fortunate to have been born the son of a gardener, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
She laughed at this, his topsy-turvy logic.
“You are perfect for me” she sighed “I‘ve never been happier.”
“You make me very happy too” he squeezed her hand
“Are you sure you won’t mind all the problems we may encounter?”
“I have never been bothered by all that” he said “I know that my father won’t disown me, he knows that I will look after my sisters until they are married.”
“Well, you are his only son.” She said thoughtfully “I’m sure he wouldn’t want to lose you.”
“Exactly, then when his grandson comes along…...” he looked at her sideways
“David!” she said “No children until you’ve taken me on a voyage with you to the !”
“Well that depends” he pretended to look doubtful “can we call him Nathaniel after Dr Ward?”
“What if he’s a girl?” she reminded him
“That sounds nice” she agreed
“Very well,” he replied smiling “It’s a bargain!”
They walked back to the big house arm in arm.