Well, here we are at the end of 'Summer's almost gone'. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading this story, and providing me with feedback along the way. It's been much appreciated. It feels fantastic to have another story completed, although I will probably go back and do a re-write at some stage just to tidy a few things up. But for now, I hope you enjoy the story, because that's what it's all about!
Summers almost gone: Part 7
What we have?
'I won't go! You can't make me go!'
The young chambermaid stared in horror mixed with fascination as her young mistress stamped her foot in rage at the old housekeeper.
The fight had broken out over half an hour ago, when it was announced to Miss Lennox that she would be departing for London at the end of the month.
'I'm afraid it's not a matter of what you want, child. The decision has been made for you.' Was the house keeper's sarcastic reply. 'Now, calm yourself down this instant, and begin to act like the lady you're meant to be.'
'Like a lady? That's the last thing I want to be. Ever!' She screamed the last word, punctuating her sentence by sweeping her dresser clear of ornaments. They fell to the floor in a crashing cascade, sending chips of broken china everywhere.
Ignoring her charge, Mrs Medlock turned to the wide eyed chambermaid.
'Sarah, can you please let Cook know that Miss Lennox is indisposed and will not be dining with her Uncle tonight. Mercy forbid he should be witness to such insolent behaviour.'
'Of course Ma'am, I'll go right away.' the young maid replied, bobbing a curtsey, before running from the room, as fast as decorum allowed.
'Can you believe it? I swear, if she hadn't been sent to see her uncle, I think she would have hit Mrs Medlock.'
The hushed whispers of the chambermaids reference to Mary caught Dickon's attention. He had been absent mindedly eating his dinner while dwelling on the events of the day. He had spent the afternoon in the garden, with Mary, and was already planning what they would be doing the following day. The weather was changing - Autumn had begun, which meant a lot of work in the garden. Not that he minded, of course.
'I wish I could have been there to see it….. I suppose when she heard she was to be sent away, well…..'
'Yes, apparently, all hell broke loose. Just like the beginning, when she first came here, they say.'
Dickon felt his heart grow cold. Surely he had misheard? Mary, being sent away? It couldn't be possible. He turned around to the two young women, giggling at the next table.
'What do you think, Dickon?' Annie Butler said, noticing him staring at them. 'Do you think they will really be able to make her leave?'
'Who?' he said distractedly. 'I don't know what thee is speakin' about?'
'Why, about Miss Mary Lennox leaving for London, of course! Don't tell me tha' hasn't heard?'
'And perhaps with her gone, tha' will have more time for us, won't tha, Dickon?' said her red haired companion, and both of the girls laughed.
'I'm sorry, but I mun go.' He muttered, pushing himself up from the table. His head was swimming, and he felt as though he was going to be sick. Rushing out the door, he breathed in the Autumn twilight, letting the cool wind sweep over his sweating brow, willing his ragged breathing to slow. Leaning up against the stone wall of the house, he felt the first beginnings of tears forming in his eyes. 'It canna be true... ' he whispered, 'it just canna'...'
He cast his mind back, many years, to when the thin, sickly girl had first come to be at Misselthwaite manor.
She had found him on the Moor, and had approached him shyly. He remembered the day well. He had been leaning against a tree, playing to the animals on his wooden pipe. He had looked up to see a pale, yellow faced girl approach him. He had smiled and spoke to her, and it had not been long before she confided in him about her 'Secret Garden'.
'Will you come and help me do it?' she had begged. 'I'm sure I can help, too. I can dig and pull up weeds, and do whatever you tell me. Oh! Do come, Dickon!'
'I'll come every day if tha' wants me, rain or shine.' he had replied with a grin at the light that shone in her eyes and the wide smile that broke over her face.
'Oh Mary...' he said softly, as he walked away from the house, and without realising it, towards the Secret Garden.
The last of summer was fading away, he could feel it as he walked. The sun was disappearing, to be replaced by rain, snow, and the cold wind that whipped over the moors. Summer would go, and Miss Mary with it. With a sinking feeling in his heart, he knew that there was nothing he could do about. Mary would leave for London, and he would remain at Misselthwaite, with only his memories of her to keep him company.
The walk towards the garden was tinged with darkness, the ivy on the stone walls swaying gently in the breeze. He walked down the path, as he had done so many times before, almost daily for the past six years. He had walked this path mainly with happiness, or curiousity, or excitement in his heart – and this was the first time he walked the familiar path with the weight of sadness on his soul.
He pushed open the door of the Secret Garden, wishing he could enter to the smiling face of Miss Mary and her enthusiastic chatter about what they would be doing in the garden that day.
The familiar wilderness greeted his eyes as he entered.
'I wouldn't want to make it look like a gardener's garden, all clipped an spick an' span, would you?' he had asked her that first day 'It's much nicer like this with things runnin' wild, an' swingin' an' catchin' hold of each other.'
'Don't let us make it tidy,' she had answered 'It wouldn't seem like a secret garden if it was tidy.'
Lost in his memories, he proceeded down the stone steps, passing by the Lilies and Crocuses, and the Roses. He followed the path downwards through the foliage, stepping slowly and tentatively, listening the whole time for any indication that she was there.
And then he saw her. She was sitting on the swing seat, at the far end of the garden – just where he had known she would be. He watched her for a few seconds, still hidden in the shadows of foliage. Her head hung low, and she reached up to wipe her eyes.
'I mun be strong.' he thought. 'I mun be strong and tell her everything will be fine. She needs me t' be strong.'
He took a deep breath steadied himself, then began to walk towards her.