The next day David set out for , leaving his cousins to the company of his sisters. Violet, who was outside the kitchen beating a rug with a dust-beater, saw the horses being made ready for his carriage. She was eager for his return already, to hear how this Dr Ward was going to help them with his wonderful new invention.
She went back inside to be confronted by Mr Holmes, the butler.
“Oh no” she thought “What have I done now?”
“Miss Dean” he began “Can you explain how this book came to be in your room?”
She was relieved; this was easy to explain
“Of course I can,” she replied “David lent it to me. He’s asked me to study it while he is away, so that I can help him label his plants on his return.”
Mr Holmes looked at her sternly, with obvious disbelief
“If by that you mean MASTER David” he frowned at her over-familiarity “then I’m sorry I don’t believe you. The idea is preposterous! You are a scullery maid, what would the young master want with the likes of you? He has gardeners galore.”
“But just go and ask him…”
“Miss Dean!” she fell quiet “Master David has just departed on his trip to London. I will have to speak to his Lordship about this. I cannot have thieves on my staff.”
He turned to go and Violet saw out of the corner of her eye Agnes, peeping round the creamery door. So it was her who had tried to cause trouble for her. She should have guessed!
She tried not to think about it for the rest of the day. She knew that once David returned everything would be fine, but it was going to be a long week.
However, the next day she was summoned to the presence of Lord Dearing in the drawing room. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but had heard that he was a fair man and would surely listen to her side of the story. Mrs Salt accompanied her.
She stood on the edge of the fine Turkish rug, her toe poking the fringes along the edge and her head bowed.
“Miss Dean, Violet, these are very serious allegations against you. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I didn’t steal it” she started, Mrs Salt glared at her
“Milord” she added lamely.
“So you insist on sticking to your story about my son engaging your services in this way?”
“Yes Milord” she held her head high “He was pleased with my knowledge of plants and he said I could be of use to him.”
“Mrs Salt” he turned to her “Were you aware that Master David was changing Violet’s duties? Had he asked you about it?”
“I knew nothing, Milord. I’ve never heard anything so queer in all my days..” she bowed slightly as her voice tailed off
He considered for a moment.
“If this were true, then it is very unconventional. I cannot have a female servant being put in this position. It is a job for the gardening staff. What has your father had to say?”
“I haven’t spoken to him about it.”
“Well, obviously I will have to speak to my son about this on his return, so your dismissal is postponed until then. If he has misguidedly led you to believe that this is possible then you will be allowed to stay – in the scullery. However, I am afraid that anything else will just not be possible. It is just not done.”
He turned his back on them and they realised that the audience was over.
Violet returned to her duties with a heavy heart. She didn’t know how she got through the rest of the day. Lottie could hardly get a word out of her. Mrs Salt made tutting noises at her every time she passed her. She had never felt lower. She had been offered a glimpse of a different life, she had found the thought of working with the rare plants stimulating and exciting. Something she would have never imagined, even on her dreariest days in the scullery. It was as if she had been given riches beyond her wildest dreams, then had them taken away from her. How could she go back to her normal life after being given hope of escape?
When she had finished for the day she went to her room. The book was gone and she lay on her thin mattress and cried until she was so exhausted she fell asleep.