(A Christmas Tale Countdown series, Part 4; see Part 3)
The three friends met at The Bedfordshire Inn to talk about the last two days. Silas and Ebenezer wanted to know what Elizabeth thought about her gifts.
“She is mostly pleased, but surprised. Naturally, she wanted to know who they were from, but I said that for now the gentleman in question prefers to remain anonymous and would reveal himself in time. However, she did mention that the first gift had included a poem that made her think it was someone she knows.”
“I didn’t write a poem. Silas?” Ebenezer looked at Silas with narrowed eyes.
“No one said I couldn’t, but no matter. When I pay her a visit, I will make sure she knows how I feel about her,” Silas said.
“I, too, will likely do the same,” Ebenezer said.
“About that . . . I forgot to expand about the rules of this plan. First, no extra words other than Anonymous Admirer. Second, we no longer discuss her opinions about the gifts until the eve of Christmas, and . . . ” Horace cleared his throat as he observed his friends’ faces getting increasingly flushed as he continued, “. . . third, no visits until . . .”
“Look here, old chap, who are you to make such rules . . .” Ebenezer started to demand, as Silas said at the same time, “These are too many rules . . . “
“Before you both explode with apoplexy, let me tell you why it’s prudent to follow the rules I’ve laid. If both of you don’t see her until the best man wins, then your heartbreak will be much less painful, if you lose. Also, if you continued your visits during the gift giving, you will be inclined to ratchet up your declarations of love, leaving our whole plan moot and both of you back to your dueling ways.”
“It is easy for you to have a clear head in all this. I admit you make some sense,” Silas said.
“Now that we’ve sorted this out. Let’s drink on it and be done with it,” Horace said, as he raised his tankard of ale to his friends.
Horace faced Elizabeth’s aunt again, who saw with delight the three French hens he had brought with him this time. Eagerly, she went to get Elizabeth.
“Dear me, this anonymous admirer of mine is quite generous,” Elizabeth said as she led Horace into the kitchen to drop off the hens. She then took him to the sitting room where her youngest sister, Lily, was embroidering a pattern on a cloth.
“Hello, Lily, this is Mr. Freeley come to pay a visit and to drop off another gift from the same anonymous admirer.”
Lily’s acknowledgment was a nervous giggle at Horace, who said, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lily. What picture are you stitching there?”
“It’s a Christmas surprise for my mother,” Lily said, embarrassed at the attention from such a handsome man. She got up and left the room to hide her awkwardness.
“Please sit for a bit. You always come to deliver but never stop to stay and chat,” Elizabeth said, smiling.
Horace was mesmerized by the pearliness of her teeth and the fresh pinkness of her lips.