A continuing series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove
Oh, the hurry-scurry of Christmas! As usual, everything is left for me to oversee. We never have enough hired help, and during this busy season–which everyone says is so festive and bright–I am frazzled and worn to the bone.
I find it amazing how, when there is much to be done, illness spreads like wildfire. Last Christmas Eve, for instance, my housekeeper and the maid-of-all-work took to their beds with influenza. Never mind that I myself am often unwell. I heroically hauled myself from bed in order to direct the household. It was most unfair!
Truly, I pity The Little Red Hen. For of course we must entertain, and of course no one wishes to help. “Not I,” they all say (more or less), when asked to do an extra task. As if the cook and the maids were not being paid good money to do work! No one understands how much is at stake when one entertains. I do not do so for my own amusement!
For a party is an invitation for critique. Everything about my home–the efficiency of my staff, the quality (and quantity!) of the food, even how well the brass is polished–will be scrutinized by my guests. “The young squire’s wife is a slacker.” I can hear the whispers now.
So it is I who send out the little men to gather the Christmas holly, the rosemary, the bay, and the mistletoe. And since no one else has a particle of artistic taste, it is I who must direct the placement of each sprig. I oversee the hanging of the mistletoe with regret, for truly there is no one in Uppercross worth kissing!
Now Christmas is a religious holiday, and yet everyone expects a gift on St. Stephen’s. And not just any gift, but one in keeping with our family’s stature. And who must procure these gifts? Not my husband, who sits by the fire with a whittling knife, cheerfully constructing who-knows-what with the boys.
It is I who must venture out into the village to shop. Oh, the crowds! And the lack of selection, not to mention the strain on our over-taxed finances! It is enough to drive one to distraction. For I must satisfy everyone, from the lowest stable-hand to my overly-particular father and sister. Charles is happy with any gift, but my family members are more difficult.
Bless me, and then there are the beggars, I mean, carolers. The same scruffy group of ne’er-do-wells come round to the kitchen door and sing for wassail–repeatedly. I do think, since we feed them (and Charles will hand out coins) that they could take the trouble to learn new songs. But then again, after so many glasses of punch, I suppose proper harmonization is impossible.
From Christmastide to Twelfth Night, it is my lot to feed the world and suffer the agonies of stress. My poor nerves will not recover until Easter, at the very least.
Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
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Romance, adventure, and Admiral Patrick McGillvary are waiting …
Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini
Vintage graphics courtesy of The Graphics Fairy