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.
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)