As a Christmas present, I’d like to give you a short story which takes place between the end of Shades of Milk and Honey and the beginning of Glamour in Glass. Unavoidably, it contains a spoiler so I’ve hidden the story below.
|Please enjoy: Christmastide with the Ellsworths||SelectShow>|
With any newly-wed couple, there are many trials which must be met and, without a doubt, the first Christmas is among the chief of those. Whose traditions should one follow? To whose home should one go? What of the Christmas pudding? It is infrequent, however, that one inquires about the reasons that one’s husband has hidden himself in the bedchamber.
Jane knocked on her bedroom door and waited a moment before entering. She leaned close to the door, endeavouring to hear over the jollity from the dining room of their rented apartments. Her parents and her sister were making merry with some cousins who had come to London for the holidays. She waited by the door until Vincent said, “Come.”
Though it was not her common practise, she did not want to surprise her husband if he happened to have a Christmas gift in hand. Jane slipped through the door, shutting it behind her. The drapes had been drawn hiding the last light of the setting sun. Vincent sat by the fire, cast into silhouette against its flames.
“My love? It is nearly time to light the Yule candle.”
He did not stir but heaved a great sigh.
Uncertain, Jane stood by the door. They had been married but two months prior and spent all the intervening time in London creating glamours for his majesty the Prince Regent. This night marked their first surcease from labour and Vincent had seemed out of sorts all afternoon although he denied it soundly.
Were it not for the fact that he wove a strand of glamour she might have thought he had fallen asleep in his chair.
The strand of glamour twisted in the air above his hand in random patterns, as if blue smoke were billowing from his fingers. “Please do not wait upon me.”
Jane bit her lower lip. She tried to make her voice light as she approached him. “Though I know it was rank superstition, I doubt that I will be able to persuade my mother to discard the belief that something ill will befall the family if we are not all present when the candle is lit.”
“I am certain you exaggerate as I am not family.”
She stopped, aghast at his statement. “How can you think that? Who has made you feel so unwelcome.”
“No one.” Vincent groaned and leaned forward in his chair to rest his elbows on his knees. His face, thus illuminated by the fire showed damp streaks. He could not have been– but Jane saw no other explanation than that her husband had been weeping. “By word and deed I have been made most welcome and yet find such earnestness hard to credit. How can your family be pleased to have a stranger in their midst on Christmas Eve? Especially one who has dragged them from their home?”
“They chose to come and gladly, to be with us.” Jane crossed to his chair and rested her hand upon one of his broad shoulders. “My mother, in particular, adores you.”
“Adores? I doubt that.”
“But she does. You must know that she despaired of my ever marrying.”
“Then she feels gratitude, not adoration. Adoration is reserved for saints.”
Jane laughed. “You are inconsistent, my love. Many times have you told me that you adore me.”
Turning his head, he took her hand and kissed it. “There is no inconsistency in my statement, Muse.”
As always, when he called her thus, Jane’s heart seemed to fill her bosom. Her knees weakened and she sat upon the arm of Vincent’s chair. He shifted to the side and, with one arm, drew her down to sit upon his knee. With a sigh, Jane leaned against his chest, fingering the end of his cravat. “Why are you sad?”
His breathing roughened and he tightened his grip upon her waist. “I am overwhelmed.” Turning his head from her, Vincent pressed his free hand against his mouth.
Jane traced the path of his tears with her finger. She had seen him argue with the Prince Regent, face down critics, and work from dawn to dawn but never had she seen him display anything like a fragile sensibility. She waited, pressing tender kisses upon his brow as he collected himself.
Clearing his throat, Vincent made a mocking laugh. “My family does not observe these traditions, save to impress and certainly without any sense of piety or earnest feeling. To be amidst such palpable good will… it undoes me.”
Her husband but rarely spoke of his life before he left his family and changed his name. Jane had yet to meet his father, the Count of Verbury, and no strong wish to ever do so. She squeezed his hand. “What may I do to help you?”
“You have done more than I can express simply by your presence.” He cleared his throat. “Will I truly be missed if I am not present?”
She longed to tell him that he could remain in the solitude of their bedchamber but she knew that her mother, no matter how much she adored Vincent, would feel a slight at his absence. Mrs. Ellsworth would perceive it as a refusal to participate. Knowing the truth of his parentage, as few of their acquaintances did, she would think that Vincent thought himself superior to them. To tell him that would only make the evening more difficult to endure. “I would miss you.”
“Then that is sufficient.” He lifted her from his lap and rose to stand beside her.
“Truly… if you do not wish to–.”
Vincent pressed his finger against her lips to silence her. “How could I not follow my Muse?”
He took her hand and let Jane lead him out to join the Christmas festivities. Let it be said that, though it was a foreign affair to at least one member of their party, and though the Ellsworths of Long Parkmede were at a remove from their family home, the Christmas dinner was an event of great joy. As they sat around the dinner table, with the Yule light burning bright, the Ellsworths and the Vincents wished each other a very Happy Christmas.
May that same sentiment be the true for us all, no matter how near or how far.