(A Christmas Tale Countdown series, Part 9; see Part 8)
Ebenezer was back in the market, looking around for the peddler with the luscious daughter. He learned from Horace that Elizabeth’s household needed some help. He spotted the peddler hawking the same line. So much for thinking he had a bargain the other day. He approached him nevertheless, so he could also chance a glance at his daughter.
“Good day to you, old man. I wonder if your daughter here and some of her acquaintances might want to earn some coin by doing a chore or two for a family I know.”
“Why, I would be glad to oblige. You certainly came to the right person, sir. I happen to have four other daughters and three visiting nieces staying on with me. Such is the reason I work so hard each day. So many mouths to feed, but they help earn their keep here and there. It is early still so I shall have Ursula go fetch them. They are just down the road.”
“What luck, indeed . . . “ Ebenezer thought, liking the sway of Ursula’s hips as she walked quickly away.
Horace introduced the young maids to the pudgy woman, who greeted and walked them to the back of the house where they would help milk the cows. Elizabeth took Horace inside the house to the sitting room, where Lily sat in the corner reading a book. She looked up and shyly smiled at Horace, who returned her smile and said, “Nice to see you again, Lily. You appear to be back in good health.” He and Elizabeth sat on a sofa across from Lily.
“I’m feeling much better, thank you,” Lily said, as she wished he were here to visit her instead.
“Lily is a hardy one. I think she takes after Aunt Beatrice,” Elizabeth said to Horace.
“Aunt Beatrice? The one who has been answering the door for me every day?”
“Yes, she’s such a love. She takes care of us and we have fun with her. Do stay a while. You left rather in haste yesterday. I’d like to know more about my admirer.”
“I wouldn’t want to compromise him for I swore that I would leave no hints for he truly wishes it to be a surprise for you come Christmas day, when the two of you will finally meet.”
“What kind of a man would let someone suffer through such suspense?” Lily asked.
“I hardly consider myself to be suffering, Lily,” said Elizabeth. “What with all these handsome gifts? Thoughtful ones . . . and rather romantic ones too . . . “
“I see you’re wearing the golden rings. You look very comely with them on,” Horace said.
“Thank you . . . I also want to say that I spent a long time studying that beautiful picture you gave me yesterday. It’s a clever sketch for it has all kinds of hidden images and surprises. I am so moved by the beauty of it.”
“Well, I’ll, uh, pass that along. Although I can’t tell you much about this admirer of yours, I do tell him what transacts between us.”
“What do you tell him about my sister?” Lily asked Horace.
“I tell him how gracious she is in receiving me,” Horace gazed at Elizabeth as he described her genteel ways. “. . . how splendid she is in unwrapping those gifts that are covered . . . how she . . . “ His monologue went on and sounded like an ode to Elizabeth. Both ladies were enthralled by his eloquence.