Author’s Note: So I decided to do this for Carry On Tuesday. It fit with the storytelling idea and once upon a time, plus it continued on well after what Violet and Robert had discussed in the last part. Plus it was another opportunity to show a bit of her relationship with the other Robert Winston.
“You’re very quiet over there.”
“Can I not simply watch you doing what you do best, my nymph?”
Violet glared at him over the flowers. “No, absolutely not, and if you continue to call me a nymph, I think I shall have to leave you here for the plants to eat.”
Winston laughed. “You see? You do have a connection to them, don’t you? You keep denying what you are, but I know that you are a sprite of some kind, and I will prove it someday.”
“I am a perfectly ordinary woman with a perfectly ordinary temper that is going to order you to leave if you persist in talking such nonsense again. I do not care for it. I know that it has become common to hear and read stories of sprites and fairies, and you see it in so many decorations, but I am not one of them, and I wish you’d stop calling me that. Just because my name is Violet and I like flowers does not make me some… legend of the forest or the garden or anything like it.”
“Do not be cross with me, my dear,” he said, coming over to her, placing his hand on her cheek. “I am sorry. You seem so vexed of late, and I don’t mean to do that to you.”
“The only thing vexing to me is your insistence on calling me a nymph or a sprite.”
“Are you certain it is not your aunt? I can see her scowling at us through the window. She was so angry before I proposed, and now she’s angrier still, when I would have thought that asking for your hand would prove that my intentions were as honorable as possible. That woman hates me for no reason at all.”
“I think she believes that there is no sincerity in you rushing to make such a proposal and that I would be a fool for accepting—”
“Only you haven’t, so what is so foolish about that?”
“Everything and everyone in love is foolish to Aunt Beatrice,” Violet said, not certain who had broken her aunt’s heart and left her so bitter all those years ago, though sometimes she thought it was her father who had, taking up with her mother. In her darker moments, she sometimes wondered if her aunt was the reason for her father’s demise, but then why did she not hate her sister as well? Why blame only the man and not the woman who had his heart? For all Beatrice’s harshness, she was devoted to Violet’s mother, and no one would deny that. She loved her sister more than anything or anyone in the world.
“That I agree with.”
“Stop touching me. It is not proper.”
He sighed. “Then what would you have me do? You say I cannot watch you, I cannot call you as I would, and I am not allowed to touch you, so I don’t—are you asking me to go? Is that it? Should I bow to my lady and take my leave?”
Violet frowned at his tone, not sure why bitterness was creeping in at the end. Sometimes he acted as though she treated him like a servant, and she knew that she didn’t. She didn’t even treat their servants like servants—were it up to her, she wouldn’t have any at all, even if it meant giving up her garden. “No. That is not what I meant at all. Please don’t say ‘my lady’ like that. You sound so… mean. I am not a queen or high born lady ordering anyone about, and if you are still upset about me saying I wanted more time to be certain of my feelings, then you might consider leaving, but you are not bound by my word as law.”
He blinked, and she thought perhaps there had been some woman in his life that treated him that way in the past, though she did not think that fit with what he’d said about his mother. That woman seemed to lack the spirit Violet’s mother did, and she would never have the sort of dauntlessness that Aunt Beatrice did. A governess, perhaps? He had not mentioned one yet, but it was possible.
“Tell me about your childhood. Another story like the beehive or any you want to share.”
“You want to know what Robert Winston was like as a child?”
She almost frowned again, trying to determine what made him ask like that. He said Robert Winston almost like that was someone else and not him. “Yes. I do. I like those stories best.”
He gave her a slight smile, taking her hand and tugging her toward the bench. “Did I tell you about the pies? Robert Winston has a particular weakness for pie, you see, and it just so happened that he happened upon some strawberries set aside for just his sort of treat—”
“How old were you then?”
“Oh, old enough to know better.”
She shook her head, not liking that answer much, but he put a finger over her lips. She could listen to him tell stories all day. He had a true gift for it.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy named Robert Winston, and he liked pies far more than he should. In fact, he had become the bane of the cook, for she would have to swat and scold him out of her kitchen more than once a day as he tried to get at her delightful deserts. On this occasion, the pie was to be strawberry, but someone had snuck into the kitchen the night before and eaten them all. To hide his crime, he had replaced the basket of strawberries with the one full of tomatoes—”
“Oh, surely the cook noticed that immediately.”
Winston frowned at her. “Do you want me to tell the story or not?”
Violet sighed, feeling a bit sheepish. She hadn’t meant to stop him from telling the story, not at all, but she did think that the cook should have noticed, and she would have a hard time believing otherwise, no matter what he said. He must be lying, but she supposed she could forgive that. It was only a story, after all.