This short vignette follows the characters of The Admirer, and picks up about four months after the end of the novel.
James Grey wished for little more than the happiness of his wife. The courtship had been short and carried under tumultuous circumstances. Some of the memories made during that period would likely be the worst of their lives. He could hardly imagine an occasion for them to create worse memories. Nevertheless, he was determined to use every opportunity to create better memories, the best memories, for them both. He had applied himself to that effort since their wedding, a little over a month ago. But this, their first Christmas together, should be nothing less than magical.
The usual touches had been applied, of course. A tree was decorated, their new cook was preparing special treats, they would attend a great dinner at his father’s house. Yet James had something ever greater planned, and the most important touch would be delivered any minute. To preserve the surprise, he needed to get Rose out of the house very soon.
“The viscountess will be expecting us, my dear.” The viscountess Latimer, a longtime friend of the Grey family who had offered Rose her patronage for the season earlier that year, was having a little gathering of friends that afternoon. Taking her in on the secret had been risky, but she loved little better than a great romantic gesture, and James was certain that this was one secret she could be trusted to keep.
“Yes, I am ready.” Rose quickly walked to the entrance, leaving the book she had been reading on the console. As their coats were being fetched, James took the opportunity to see what had so engrossed his wife. “A Christmas Carol,” he read aloud with a smile. “I have always loved this story. My brother and I would gather friends and act out the tale.”
“Of course! A ghost story, what could be more appealing to a group of young boys? We did not have the talent of Mr Dickens – have you ever seen him read; he is as gifted an orator as an author – but we enjoyed ourselves. My brother especially enjoyed playing Scrooge and being horrified by the apparition of his dead partner Jacob Marley, or at the sight of his own grave.”
“I suppose.” There was something in her expression, something she would not say. Rose had been schooled to keep her thoughts to herself on almost every subject. He wanted her to know that she could tell him what she thought and felt, that he hoped she would, and so coaxed her when she retreated into herself.
“What is it?”
“Well… I was thinking about that moment, when Scrooge sees his own grave. It felt like it should have been more frightening than it was. The… atmosphere, I believe, was suitably horrible. The silent Spirit, shrouded in black, guiding Mr. Scrooge through the graveyard. And yet… why would that moment be such a shock to him? Did he never expect to die?”
“Perhaps not. Or perhaps it was the impact that his life and death had on the world. Or should I say the lack thereof. The London businessman made jokes about the funeral, servants took everything they could get their hands on and sold it for pennies, his own nephew was only just a little down. Can you imagine anyone with such a fate? Not even mourned by their nearest relations?”
“I can,” she answered softly. James could have slapped himself. Of course she could. The events of the summer had lead to exactly that fate for her uncle. The man had been a dangerous criminal and utterly deserved to go unmourned, but nonetheless it did no good to bring the subject to his wife’s mind. “Will your family be with the viscountess this afternoon?” The butler had settled Rose’s coat on her shoulders, and turned to hand James into his.
“Absolutely,” answered James, eagerly changing the subject. “Prepare yourself, my brother will likely make you sing yourself hoarse.”
“Oh, I don’t mind. I love playing and signing. I wish…” She looked stricken. “I’m sorry. I know we have no room for a piano. I didn’t mean to criticize, I swear. I love our house.”
“I know. And perhaps, someday, we may have a house with a music room for you.” Someday being that very day, when the piano he had bought was delivered and placed in the small sitting room that had been secretly renovated. Though she would only learn of it on Christmas morning.
“It doesn’t matter, really.” She grabbed his hands and smiled at him. “Being your wife, having you in my life, makes me the happiest woman alive.”
He smiled in return. “I intend to do everything in my power to always keep you this happy.” He kissed her fingers before handing her into the carriage.
This post is part of the Renaissance holiday blog roll! Find out what it’s all about here!