Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Quotes: A Very Morland Christmas part 2

Like yesterday's quote, today's is taken from The Long Shadow, book 6 of the Morland Dynasty books by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (pages 315 to 317)

Hugo was delighted, but somewhat surprised, that his mother remained at Morland Place for Christmas: he had expected her to take the opportunity to go to London. But she threw herself into the celebrations with a will, organising a large party to ride out on Christmas Eve and fetch the holly and ivy and mistletoe and bay to decorate the hall, and to drag back the Yule log. The day was sharply cold, dry and crisp; snow had been falling for a week, but on that day the skies cleared and were wide and curved and blue as a robin's egg, and the snow glittered like diamond dust, and crunched and cracked beneath them with a noise like dry twigs. the sun shone down on them, pale, brilliant and heatless, and their voices rang and echoed as if the sky were as close as it looked. It was a day of brilliantly contrasted colours - the bitter white of the snow, the heraldic azure of the sky, glassy green holly, red holly-berries like fallen drops of blood in the snow. His mother wore a cloak of Kingfisher blue, and its folds hung vividly across the burnished copper of Banner's rump. She was laughing all the time as she exhorted them to greater efforts; Maurice found her a pheasant's tail-feather, and she stuck it into her hair as if she was wearing a hat, and Hugo remembered how it swung against the blue sky as she turned her head this way and that.

When they reached home the servants ran out with cups of hot spiced wine, and Clement brought the brand preserved from last year's Yule log, with which the new one must be fired if good luck was to come to the house. The log was dragged indoors in procession while everyone sang the Yule-log carol, and was put into the hearth in the great hall; Clement lit the brand and Father St Maur blessed it and Martin fired the new log. There was a breathless silence while everyone watched and waited, and as the first smoky crackling flames jumped up a great cheer rang around the hall and set all the dogs barking madly. The cups were refilled, and everyone stood around drinking and laughing and talking. Annunciata crouched down by the hearth like a child to rescue the little creatures driven out of the log by the heat, and Martin teased her gently for her tenderness.

It was a lovely Christmas, twelve days of freezing sunshine and the house filled with the smells of delicious cooking and the sounds of merriment. Great fires burned in every room, and at night there were enough candles to light the house as brightly as day. The house was full of people , too: Maurice and Karellie were home, of course, and Daisy and John Ailesbury came for the season - Daisy was pregnant again, as was Caroline, so they had plenty to talk about. Sabine and Crispian came too, and they joined in cheerfully with everything, although Hugo thought that Sabine looked rather wistfully at the two women whose bellies were full, and at the two babies, Arthur and James Matthias.

Hugo had never known his mother in such a mad mood, and when Martin named Karellie as Lord of Misrule, he and his mother seemed to conspire to make it the merriest Christmas ever. Each of Karellie's pranks was wilder than the last, and Annunciata urged him on to still more lunacy, until Martin protested that they would not reach Twelfth Night without some broken limbs. Karellie acquired a long, striped cat's tale from somewhere, and had it sewn to the seat of his breeches, and he wore odd-coloured hose, one leg white and one yellow, 'To shew my authority,' he said.

Then when everyone was exhausted with playing games and dancing and charades, there would be music and singing. Martin played to them, and Daisy and Maurice sang, and they all joined in the carols that everyone loved, 'In Dulci Jubilo', and 'Quem Pastores', and 'Green Groweth the Holly' and 'There is no Rose'. On Christmas Evening there was a special surprise for them all: Maurice had written a piece of music especially for Christmas night, and over the past week had taught Martin the second part, and they played it together on two cornetti for the assembled family. it was very beautiful: the cornetto was thought to be the instrument that most closely resembled the human voice in its range and flexibility, and Maurice played it exquisitely. Martin had never played a cornetto before, though he could play any reed instrument, but the second part was simple, and he managed it extremely well for his one week of tuition. When Hugo closed his eyes, it sounded like two voices, distant and pure, twining one around the other - it made him think of angels singing out in the clear dark night.


  1. This passage (and the one previously posted) has reminded me that I really must start this series next year!

  2. This was very evocative and the imagery was so colorful and well fleshed out! I would love to read these books, and think that you picked a really great passage to share with us! I particularly like the bit about the feather.