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Day After Day: Fifteen

Christmas is celebrated in traditional style, and love blossoms.

Jean Day continues her romantic novel of manners which is set at the end of the Victorian era. For earlier chapters please click on Day After Day in the menu on this page.

John Day arrived home from Oxford in early December. He was deeply involved in preparations or Christmas at Perdiswell Church. Entering into the true spirit of Advent he did not think it was appropriate to arrange social activities with May and Muriel until the season was at an end.

Muriel told May that she no longer was romantically interested in John Day. She would devote her efforts in trying to ensnare his younger brother, Harold. She was patient, and realised that during the three years of his studies Harold would change and mature.

Harold arrived home for the holidays at noon on December 23. He found the King's home extensively and seasonally decorated. There was a huge wreath on the front door. Holly, yew, laurel and ivy hung from every picture rail. There was a big tree, hung with cranberry chains and decorated with candles, golden ribbon tied into bows and golden stars. His own home was, as yet, undecorated. John had forbidden them to put up decorations until Christmas Eve, the end of Advent, the penitential season.

Muriel was very pleasantly surprised by the change in Harold. In just four months he had grown up. He now had a moustache which suited him and added maturity to his face. He was taller and much more self-assured. He was invited in to drink coffee with Muriel and her mother in the parlour. Muriel's father was very busy at the shop in this Christmas season. After a while Mrs King excused herself, saying she had to prepare a Christmas pudding.

Since she would not be seeing Harold on Christmas Day, Muriel decided that she and he should open their gifts to each other there and then.

Muriel was somewhat anxious as Harold removed the wrapping paper from his gift, to reveal a book bound in black leather - Traverse Tables, with an introductory chapter on Co-ordinate Surveying.

"Wonderful,'' he said with a smile. "And very useful.''

“I had to get advice on what to buy you,'' Muriel admitted. "This is a newly-published book. If you already own a copy the bookshop is willing to change this for another.''

“No, I don’t have it,” said Harold, leafing through pages of charts. “I shall treasure it all the more because it comes from you.”

Now it was time for Muriel to open her gift. She suspected it also was a book. However, it was not one book, but three, all bound in red leather, with gold lettering announcing the names of Fra Angelic, Watteau and Burne-Jones. There were illustrations from each artist, with a description of when, how and why each picture was painted. Muriel was beside herself with excitement. “I have never had such a lovely present. Thank you so much.”

They looked into each other’s eyes, and the same emotion was evident to the other. Harold gently leaned forward to kiss Muriel on the cheek. She, being the bolder by far and anticipating the gesture, moved her head slightly making it inevitable that his lips should meet hers.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” he said to cover his confusion, knocking over his cup of coffee.

“Oh please don’t worry,” she giggled as she wiped the coffee up with a serviette. “You know as well as I that you really wanted to do that.”

So once again they kissed. This time Harold was more precise with his lips.

After a while Harold said he really had to leave. He went into the kitchen to say goodbye to Mrs King and wish her a Happy Christmas.

“I hope we will be seeing a lot more of you, young Harold Day,” said Mrs King.

“You can be sure of that, Mrs King,” he replied. Muriel conducted him to the door, where there was another furtive kiss.

*

The dining table at the Kings' house had a beautiful centerpiece made from holly bearing red berries, with an arrangement of white candles at its centre.

May and her family had been invited to spend Christmas Day with the Kings. They attended church together in the morning, then opened their presents. For dinner there was goose stuffed with chestnuts, and pork with apple, gooseberry and bread sauce. Plum pudding was, of course, the dessert.

Muriel received a lace edged handkerchief from May and her family, and the Kings gave the Stintons a huge box of specialty chocolates. Muriel gave her father a hefty tome, The Great Boar War, by Arthur Conan Doyle, and to her mother she gave The Poems of Robert Browning. For May she had chosen a novel, John Halifax, Gentleman by Mrs. Craik.

From her parents she received a wonderful leather bound, gold edged Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which her father said was also partly a delayed bithday present. She was glad to receive it, though privately she thought it could not compare to the gift she had received from Harold.

After dinner the Kings and the Stintons played parlour games: charades, blind man's bluff, and the like. Then they sang carols to Mrs King's accompaniment at the piano.

*

On December 27th John Day called at Muriel’s home. He had sent a Christmas card which had arrived on Boxing Day, expressing his intention to call and asking if May might be invited to be there as well, as he had presents for both of them.

He arrived at exactly the time he had stated, looking as handsome as ever. Muriel and May ushered him into the parlour, where he marveled at the Christmas decorations. Then he gave the girls their gifts. Muriel's was a copy of Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore and May's The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll.

The girls had not found it easy to choose gifts for John, eventually deciding upon books. May gave him Great Souls at Prayer and Muriel, after much deliberation, had chosen a geographical dictionary.

He seemed pleased with both gifts, but his smile to May was perhaps somewhat warmer, in recognition of the choice of a religious work.

It seemed to Muriel that John and May had grown closer to one another since their theatre visit. She was delighted that things were now falling into place as she wished them to be.

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