Story for the Day: The Gardener Pt2
|A tribute to Harry Dodson, foreman gardener|
Mesmerized by everything that the king’s gardens had to offer, Brighel followed Harrigh into the adjoining courtyard. The illuminated flower beds and low trees, all tastefully arranged, opened upon her in an inundation of splendor, the various colours and shapes of leaves and petals, the differing textures of barks and stems, the whirling seeds and clusters of keys falling to the ground producing a sufficient foray on her senses, stunning her into silence. She marveled at the vibrancy of the blooms and the amber leaves of autumn lining the planned walk. Maple and cinnamomum supplying their sweet scents leaned over surrounding wall, cape gooseberry and groundcherry garnished the soil, and there, directly beside her as she advanced along the path, was a coppice of the Frewyn winter rose, its crimsoned-tipped petals just beginning to curl.
“M’Lady likes a winter rose?” asked Harrigh, taking his small knife from his pocket.
Brighel’s hand drifted toward the unfurling blossom. “They are so beautiful,” she said, in a soft voice. “I adore their changing colours. And when they reach their full bloom,” resting the bulb gently in her hand, “the white and red blend together to make such a striking amber. A wonder that they should flower in winter.”
“Yes, M’Lady,” Harrigh fondly agreed, his cracked lips pursing in a smile. “The Majesty likes them cut before they come to flo’er. Only a few, so as to let the rest go to flo’er and then to fruit. I take the winter rose hips to cook before she wants them.” Harrigh looked all the hale pride he felt. “The Majesty likes the hips for his tart at his birthday celebration. I am honoured to look after what His Majesty prizes, and my boy will look after them after me.” He nodded toward the journeyman gardener at the end of the walk, a young boy of about ten years old, and then, looking back at Her Ladyship, he took one of the roses in his hand and cut the bud far down the stem. “Here, M’Lady,” he said, with an affable smile. “That’ll be for her pleasure.” Careful to keep his soil-ridden hands away from Brighel’s gloves, Harrigh turned the rose about and placed the freshly cut stem between her fingers.
Brighel was overwhelmed by the gardener’s kindness, but she could not help but feel it wrong to accept such a kingly gift without having consulted the king himself. “This is very generous, sir, but the His Majesty-” she began, but Harrigh only shook his head and fixed his spectacles in place.
“The Majesty gived me ‘pecific instructions, M’Lady. He says to me, I was to walk her around the gardens and grounds, and I was to give her anything what she wanted.”
Mortified by such unwarranted consideration, Brighel had nothing to do but to but make a few abashed sighs and express her sincerest thanks. She would contrive to repay the king for the rose, for she was sensible of the expense of such a gift, and considering the humbleness of the castle and grounds, the winter rose must be the king’s only luxury, but Harrigh’s insisting of “His Majesty also says to me that M’Lady is not to think about sums,” ruined all her designs on compensation.
“He also says to me,” Harrigh added, “that M’Lady is to taste the first of the blueb’rry and tell him how she likes it.” He plucked down a few of the drupes hanging from the bush nearby and gave them to Brighel to taste. “M’Lady mustn’t stain her gloves,” he warned, holding the end of the branch to her. “Once the blue’s in, it never does come out.”
Fruits as ripe as the one’s that Harrigh’s work-worn hands could produce were worth all the stains in the world, as the sight of the round and rife drupes recommended, but Harrigh refused to give her anything that might tarnish her finery with even the smallest splotch. She removed her gloves, exposing her hands to the early frost, but all notions of cold were done away when the taste of the first few berries assailed her. The breaking of the skin, the inundation of the dulcet flesh, the sensation of the sweet succulence melting over her tongue rushed on her, and she cared not whether her fingers should freeze, nor whether the blue stains on her hands should remain through the session at court.
“I do, sir,” she smiled, the taste of the berries nestling in the pit of her cheeks.
Harrigh inclined his head to accept Her Ladyship’s commendation, and ready was he to have the berries picked and placed in the king’s chamber for the private dinner that evening.A call from the journeyman soon drew Harrigh away: signs of late blight were found on some of the mint plants and Harrigh must be applied to as to how to proceed. Stems must be cut, leaves must be burned, roots must be salvaged, and Harrigh must leave Brighel to herself for a few moments. He entreated her to walk about and explore the courtyard, but she was happy to wait for him and admire all the sights and sounds and scents that the present prospect had to offer until his return. He went with his profuse apologies and with promises of returning only a few minutes hence, strolling toward the mint beds, inspecting the land as though he were master of all he surveyed, his hands held together behind his back, his chest high, his keen eye discerning every leaf and flower, leaving Brighel to triumph in the slight chill of the autumn morning, the gales tingeing her cheeks and the tip of her nose and ears with a delicate blush, her green eyes sparkling and dancing about under the ascendancy of the white morning rays.