The Gardener's Daughter

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Chapter 9

The next morning as Violet was daydreaming by the Dining Room window instead of polishing the silver, she saw David, mounted on his horse riding past with a woman beside him on Louisa’s horse.

“Who’s that?” she asked Lottie who was busy at the other end of the room. She came over to take a look

“Looks like Emma, Master David’s cousin.”

“Have you ever ridden a horse, Lottie?”

“Lord, no!” she squeaked “those great beasts scare me to death. They’d either stamp on my toes with their great hooves, or tip me off as soon as I got on” she giggled to herself.

“I’d love to wear breeches and ride like the wind” Violet was wistful

“Well riding isn’t for the likes of us” replied Lottie “and if you don’t get a move on with this polishin’ you’re going to be in trouble, again!”

Violet picked up her cloth once more, the bitter smell of the polish bringing her back to earth as she rubbed the knives until they shone. As the cutlery got brighter, her fingers got blacker.

“Do you think that you’ll ever get married Lottie?”

“Lord, I don’t know” she replied “You know that Mrs Salt doesn’t like us having followers. When am I going to meet anyone?”

“There is always church. Anyway, haven’t I seen you chatting to Jack, the baker’s lad whenever he calls at the kitchen door?”

Lottie blushed furiously

“He seems nice, has he asked you to walk out with him?”

“No, I’m afraid not” she seemed despondent

“I think he’s just shy” Violet reassured her “I’ve seen him looking at you when your back is turned”

“Don’t tease me!” Lottie cried. Then a few moments later “Have you really though?” she was intrigued.

“Of course! He likes you, I am sure of it.”

Lottie spent the next half hour smiling and singing to herself as they finished the silverware and replaced it all carefully back in the box. Mrs Salt would be up later to inspect their work and to make sure that nothing was missing.

Out in the fields David and Emma were racing towards the edge of the estate, once they reached the paddocks they slowed their animals to a trot and rode companionably side by side for a while, catching their breath. The sun was warm on their backs and the breeze wafted the scent of newly cut grass towards them.

“So what is on your mind, cousin?” Emma asked

“Tell me how you are, first” he was playing for time

“Oh fine. I miss papa dreadfully of course. I know that I will be sad on my wedding day – that’s when I will miss him most.”

“So will George be giving you away?”

“Yes, he has agreed, of course”

David sat in thought for a few moments. “So when you met William, how did feel? Did you know he was the one for you?”

She considered that for a while

“I knew I liked him and I liked the way he looked. You know mama had me down for marrying old Lord Hilton, so compared to him William looked like an Adonis!” she laughed

Then she looked serious and continued

“The more I talked to him, the more I discovered that we had a lot in common. I like his values and his devotion to his family. He’s very caring - sometimes I think there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me. The best thing though – he makes me laugh!”

“So how did your mother take it?”

“Oh papa talked her round. William’s not as wealthy, but he comes from a good family. They could see that I was happy so in the end mama agreed and is really very fond of William now.”

“You are so lucky” he sighed

“So, have you got your eye on someone? You are quite a catch yourself, you know!”

He smiled and spurred his horse to a canter.

Emma shouted after him “Hey, you didn’t answer my question!” She caught him up.

“I saw you talking to Caroline Fitzroy last night. Do you like her?”

He looked at her, frowning in thought. He would never dream of talking about this kind of thing with his sisters. He loved them all, but he knew they would treat it as a joke and tease him about it endlessly. Emma was different. She’d always been the sensible one, even when they were children. He trusted her judgement and knew she would never divulge anything he told her in confidence.

“Yes I like her, but I don’t know if I would ever love her. My father thinks she’d make a perfect wife though.”

“It’s what you think that counts; you’re the one who’d spend a lifetime with her!”

“Well he is happy with my mother, he must be good a picking wives”

“You are not him though. You have to be with someone you love, someone you can’t imagine living without! Life can be very long if you are unhappy with your choice of mate.”

“You read too many of those torrid romances!” he laughed at her indignant face, then turned earnest “You know that I have a duty to support the family and produce heirs.”

Emma snorted. Then she looked at her cousin with serious eyes.

“Take care David, choose wisely, but with your heart not your head and don’t settle for anyone that you don’t love.”

With that as her parting shot she wheeled round her mount and galloped over the paddocks and raced him all the way back to the house.

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