“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Ben.” Jenny sighed as they walked down the servants’ path. “The countess knows how much I look forward to my days off, but she’s been so fretful, with Lord Witney away.”
Ben took her hand.
“Could we go into the garden for a moment before we set off?”
She paused, thinking of Sarah and Beth, who would be eager for her company. It was an agonising time for them all, waiting for news of Emily. But Lord Witney would be arriving in California soon, and the countess had said that her father had been doing everything he could to help locate Emily and the Farringtons.
“Yes, just for a short time.”
She turned to Ben and smiled softly. An air of command seemed to exude from him and it was hard to believe he was the same person as the rough, taciturn lad who had appeared at the Callows’ door two years ago.
She treasured the time they spent together, and loved seeing how happy his work made him. She looked forward to his touch and their kisses, in stolen moments when they were alone.
Whenever they went into the garden she could never resist watching Ben’s eyes light up as they entered the enchanted world that had changed his life.
It was a fresh, clear day that smelled of freshly turned earth and new-mown grass, and she turned her face to the morning sun.
“I expect I’ll barely catch a glimpse of Dad and Johnny. They’ll be out on that steam plough until the light goes. Johnny says Dad loves driving it, though Sarah says he won’t admit it.”
“I was surprised Lord Witney bought it. Must have cost a fortune. And none of the farmers were particularly eager.”
“The countess was behind it. She’s taken a shine to Dad, and she was worried about him working so hard, especially with his knees going. But I’m sure Dad would rather get used to a steam plough than a new horse. He loved Silver, and still hasn’t got over her passing. Last time Davey was home, he was so excited. He wanted to go out in the fields and have a go! The thrill didn’t last, but then Davey’s doing so well. From bicycles to motor-cycles to motor cars!”
Ben opened the door of the glasshouse. The pale spring sunlight flickered through the arched ceiling and Jenny breathed in the warm, jasmine-scented air.
“It looks . . . different,” she mused, as she surveyed the arrangements of flowers and foliage. One corner gave an impression of a wild garden, another a carefully ordered display, all of similar colours.
“I’ve been experimenting.” Ben smiled. “I’ve been having so many ideas. And Jenny, I have news I’ve been bursting to tell you.”
She turned to him as a flutter of apprehension passed through her.
“Mr Mott’s cousin, you know the one he’s talked about, who’s head gardener down in Brookbury? Well, he’s getting on now and wants to retire. And Mr Mott has put me forward for the job!”
“As head gardener? Ben!”
“The house is changing hands – being taken over by the lord’s son, who’s been living in London. He doesn’t know much about running a big house, and doesn’t want to spend much money on staff. So he’s willing to give me a try, since I wouldn’t want paid as much as someone with more experience. I never thought in a million years I’d ever be in charge of anything. Imagine, a whole garden to plan and make decisions about!”
“It sounds exciting,” she said, forcing a smile.
He was telling her that he wanted to go far away. He was leaving behind all that he’d built up over the last two years. He was going away from it, and from her.