(Conclusion to A Christmas Tale Countdown series, Part 13; see Part 12)
The Bedfordshire Inn was busy with many people. They came from all over to take part in the Annual Christmas Festival, an event for which the town was fast becoming known as each year passes. Horace stepped inside the Inn to seek inspiration for his final gift to Elizabeth. He looked around for familiar faces. A particularly raucous crowd caught his attention. They were a large group of white bearded men and a mix of young and older women. They seemed like a merry group. He walked toward them.
“Good tidings to you, ladies and gentlemen,” Horace said, his glance landing on a man, who looked similar to most of the other men in his party. A number of them had long, snowy white hair, with the same white fluff over their lips and chins. They looked like they had seen many a season.
“And a Merry Christmas to you, good fellow,” replied the man with a foreign accent, whom Horace had addressed. He introduced himself as Ansas Schmidt and invited Horace to join the party. They spoke to Horace about their annual pilgrimage to his homeland. As they exhausted with their stories, they inquired about Horace’s plans for the holidays. Feeling sentimental from his new acquaintances’ tales of adventures, he related to them his romantic aspirations, including finding the right gift that would win her hand.
“There’s nothing I like more than a good love story,” Ansas said. “Your story reminds me of how I won my Elza’s hand. God rest her soul . . . . Let me talk to my friends here, Horace. We might have something for you.” Horace got up to order a round of drinks for them.
Horace led Ansas and his cohorts to Elizabeth’s house. They were former military men who enjoyed the drums. They performed all around the countryside during the holidays. They were here for the Festival, but they would help Horace relay his message of love.
Elizabeth, Lily, their two other sisters, their parents, and Aunt Beatrice were already outside. They anticipated another impressive show even though they hadn’t a clue what it could possibly be. When they saw what looked like an army of men in full uniform regalia, they gasped with surprise. Horace came forward and bowed to his intimate spectators.
“Elizabeth, I present to you the last and most exciting present . . . . the Prussian Men of Drums . . .”
In two rows, six abreast, the twelve men drummed with passion.
Horace and Elizabeth were in the sitting room. Both sat on the sofa together, while Lily sat across from them on a chair. She had again volunteered herself to be their chaperone. Horace looked deep into Elizabeth’s eyes and asked her which presents she found were most to her liking. Before she could answer, Lily blurted out, “I loved the drummers. They were fantastic! I also found the men who leaped completely incredible. “
Elizabeth laughed and said to Horace, “As you just witnessed, Lily is irrepressible.” She then said to Lily, “My dear, I hope you won’t be offended, but I think this is the point when I will learn the identity of my secret admirer. I would prefer to have this be a private matter. Would you kindly excuse yourself to the other room?”
Lily looked disappointed, but she also respected her older sister’s wishes. She left the two of them. Horace again asked Elizabeth which gifts she liked the most and to rank them. He didn’t expect her response.
“I want to thank you first of all for being such a good friend to my anonymous admirer,” she smiled at him, making his heart beat all the more. “I would also be remiss in not acknowledging at the way you have been looking at me. One would think you were my secret admirer.” Horace felt hopeful. He was about to dismiss the ranking and speak of his sentiments to her when she continued.
“However, these last few days gave me pause at what is truly at heart here, which is my future. All the presents were outstanding. How can I rank them for each affected me in different ways? Admittedly, some touched me more deeply than others but their placement in my heart is the same for they are all from the same person. From day 1, I suspected who it might be because of the beautifully composed poetry; it was when I received the picture of swans and what I read from under the musical box that confirmed my belief. The graceful curve of the lone swan’s neck is like the ‘S’ of Silas’ signature. How happy I am, Horace, to learn that it is he who is my secret love.”
Horace was flabbergasted and expelled his breath. “I am such a fool to have thought that all along it was a mystery to you . . .”
“Don’t take it as a reflection of poor judgment on your part, my dear Horace. I have gained a new acquaintance and friend, and Lily has taken a strong liking for you. I didn’t want to embarrass her with this admission.”
Horace nodded, at a loss for any more words.
Christmas day was merry indeed for Silas and Elizabeth. Together they announced to their family and friends of their plan to marry. Their wedding was grand with the leaping lords, pipers piping, and the drummers invited to perform.
Lily was relieved that her sister, Elizabeth, had been pining for Silas all along. Now, Lily is hoping to re-live the same experience with herself at the receiving end. She got more than she ever realized.
Horace soon recovered from his unrequited love. He found himself recalling how Lily had ranked his gifts so highly. Perhaps he could have better success with her. After all, she resembled a younger Elizabeth and had her own unique charms. Later, the two would elope, raise a fine family, and go on to travel many countries.
Ebenezer was having so much fun with Aunt Maisey away, he forgot to retrieve her. This resulted in making his aunt very unhappy and unforgiving for weeks, but she eventually got over it with help from her birds. In time, Ebenezer inherited Aunt Maisey’s fortune. Alas, so much wealth made Ebenezer even more penurious . . .
[To read the complete series, start with A Christmas Tale Countdown.]
©2015 Karina Pinella