Our characters read the diary of Hester Mordaunt.
She starts talking about Walter, the man who proposes to her. She is dubious and is reluctant to accept his proposal because she doesn’t love him. Yet, her mother tells her that his could be the only proposal she gets, and if she turns him down, she will become a burden to her brothers. So Hester says yes.
Hester seems to be interested in gardening, but her mother thinks that a woman shouldn’t do a thing, not even arranging her flowers. The day after accepting Walter’s proposal she goes for a walk, and when she sits on a bench, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, she finds William Hatherwick hovering over her. He says that he didn’t want her to leave her alone and waited for her to wake up. They talk about plants, and he promises to lend her one of his books. I think this is the start of something sweet. It is in the book that Hester finds a seed packet used as a bookmark, which she keeps after returning the book to William.
War breaks out, and Arthur, Eddie, Walter, and William join up. Hester only lives for the letters of the men who are at the front. Before leaving, William gave Hester his books and he said she should keep them if something happened to her. Misery soon fills the house when Arthur is killed in Ypres, and on hearing the news her father collapses, and shortly afterwards he dies. Hester’s brother Eddie is also wounded in action. Hester feels the house has filled with misery. Her mother has become aloof and doesn’t acknowledge the deaths that had taken place in the family, living in her own world.
The only solace Hester has is her strolls and her visits to Violet. The girl reads William’s letters to her, and in these letters he describes how he and some soldiers have been creating a garden. Hester loves the letters and finds that in the middle of destruction and misery there is also room for something beautiful.
I have the hunch that the seed packets containing the love letters were exchanged between Hester and William. I am not sure when this took place. Was William sent home after being wounded in France? Was it then that their love story began? And what about Violet getting pregnant? I wonder if in reality Hester became pregnant but for appearances’ sake people were told that the baby was Violet’s, and then Hester pretended to adopt the little girl who actually was her real daughter. Was that what Ivy read in the letter?