by Roger Noons
a remnant of Boxing Day punch.
Her Ladyship embraced tradition, especially when it came to the Festive Season. On Christmas morning the family, visitors and all the staff except Cook and the kitchen maid who had drawn the shortest straw, would walk to church and occupy the front pews on the right hand side. Everyone was expected to wear their finest clothes, and boots, so often appropriate for the weather, had to reflect the sky and landscape. Which is where I came in. I spent the Eve collecting the footwear that had been placed outside the bedrooms and it was my job to make them shine before I returned them. Household staff polished their own.
This year, I began as soon as people started to retire, but occupancy was such that it was after eleven o’ clock before I returned the final pair. I rushed downstairs and Elsie was waiting in the corridor near the parlour. When she smiled, I moved towards her but looking up, saw the mistletoe without a single berry. She must have registered my disappointment as she took my hand and drew me into a darkened corner, where we kissed, as if a freshly cut bunch had been placed above us.
Walking along the drive the following morning, I found Elsie alongside me. When we reached a frosty patch, she took my arm and that was my best ever gift. After the service we gathered outside the porch, shaking hands and offering felicitations. After she had finished speaking to the Vicar, Her Ladyship spoke to each of us in turn.
‘Happy Christmas, Roland,’ she said to me.
‘And the same to you, Lady Massington,’ I smiled.
‘Elsie’s a good girl, make sure you take care of her.’
‘Oh, I will, Your Ladyship, I promise you.’
As we walked back to the Hall, Elsie again took my arm, although the frost had melted.
Roger is a regular contributor to Café Lit. He is also the author of Slimline Tails which was published by Chapeltown Books. A DVD has been produced of seven of the stories included in the book.