The next morning, Loyala and Violet went downstairs to the kitchen.
“There is nothing to EEEAT!” was the distressed cry that welcomed them as they entered and saw a small woman bustling around the room, furiously opening and closing cupboards.
“Um, Cook? This is- I want you to meet my friend, Violet,” Loyala said timidly.
The cook looked up quickly and made eye contact with Violet, then intensely held her gaze for a long moment. “I know who you are,” she finally said in a solemn tone.
Loyala and Violet were so startled, they looked at each other in wonder at the cook’s perceptiveness. “Really?” they said in unison.
“Yes,” she said. Then she bent over and reached into a cupboard, and pulled out, of all things, a giant eggplant and set it stoutly on her cutting board. “You are just the girl to cut up this eggplant for me! Loyala dear, see what sort of cheese we have. And Violet dear, take care with this knife.” And in no time at all, the cook had enlisted the help of both ladies in creating what appeared to be a very new and exploratory recipe. By the time the dish was done and sent to the banquet hall to be served, all three of them were exhausted and reeked of garlic, but felt quite happy.
“You seem to have a gift for cooking, m’girl!” the cook commented to Violet and patted her on the knee. “If you like, you can come down and help me again.”
“Thank you, I think I will!”
And she did, the very next day. While blanching asparagus, the cook said, “Violet dear, I can see you are a high-class lady of noble blood. I am glad for your company, but I must ask, why did you come down here?”
Violet stopped slicing almonds for a moment and looked at the cook. “I’m trying to find out who I am.”
Again, the cook held her gaze for a long time, and it felt to Violet as though the cook was reading her very soul. “And you think you’ll find yourself down here? M’girl, you need to go outside! Change the world! Find adventure and chase it! You can- you can- you can start by going out to the garden and picking me some tomatoes.”
And with that, Cook handed Violet a basket and directed her to the back door of the kitchen, which led to a large and healthy bed of vegetables. As she walked along the rows and picked tomatoes, Violet was enchanted by the colors and the smells of the plants. She reached down and sifted a handful of the rich, damp soil through her fingers.
“Hi there, miss! What’re ya doin’ here? State your business!” Violet jumped at the harsh sound of a man’s voice behind her. She turned around and saw a man with salt and pepper hair, dressed in old clothes covered in dirt, with a trowel in one hand and a sack in the other.
“Oh, I beg your pardon!” Violet said, “Cook asked me to bring her some tomatoes, so I am, but I just wanted to see the garden a little bit before I went inside.”
“Oh, she did, did she?” he snapped grumpily. “And ya did, did ya? Well, whatdya think, eh?”
“I think it is wonderful, and I wish I could learn to make things grow like this!”
The old man studied the lady, and his eyes crinkled in the corners and his lips tightened, as though he was trying not to smile. “Well, miss,” he said, “you’ve only seen a piece o’ the gardens. If ya wanta see more, ya gotta take part in it. Come out here early tomorrow mornin’ an’ I’ll give ya some work ta do.”
“Really? You mean that?” Violet was so excited she nearly dropped her basket full of tomatoes.
“Yes, I am,” he said and chuckled in spite of himself. “Wear a hat and some old clothes,” he added as Violet ran inside to tell Cook and Loyala.