Tis the day after Christmas and all through the ballroom,
Not an author is stirring…books and packages loom.
Empty boxes are strewn round the gilt and the glitter,
And no one seems interested in being more than a sitter.
Miranda and Sarah enter with care,
Trying not to make noise – last night was a bear.
Turkey and roast beef, puddings and pie,
Hot toddies and wine…here’s mud in yer eye!
Katharine curled up on a chaise, eating cookies,
With Sabrina and Tessa—all three reading bookies.
Gaelen is brainstorming, stroking pretty green feathers,
The entire scene reads like an outtake from Heathers.
The newcomers head for a nearby chair,
Ready to call for two cups of dog’s hair,
When Lady B enters, chipper and clean,
Rosy cheeked and outfitted in hunting cloak green.
There is a collective groan from the six.
Lady B raises that eyebrow of hers: I beg your pardon?
Sarah: There isn’t seriously going to be a ball today, is there? I don’t think I can face it.
Miranda: Can’t be. It’s a bank holiday.
Lady B: A what?
Sabrina: They probably don’t have those yet, either.
Sarah: Very likely not…remember…what’s his name from Dickens? He had to work on Christmas. Day after, too. Jacob Marley?
Tessa: That was the ghost.
Sarah: Right. Well whoever. The peg-leg kid’s dad.
Gaelen: Tiny Tim.
Sarah: Right. Him.
Katharine: I don’t think he had a peg leg.
Sarah: Really? What was it?
Katharine: I think he was just small.
Tessa: Either way, I think you mean Bob Cratchit.
Miranda: Unfortunate name, that.
Sarah: Totally. Not a good hero name at all.
Gaelen: I like Jacob Marley, though. That’s a good one.
There is a murmur of agreement from the authoresses.
Sabrina: Was Scrooge a banker?
Sarah: Something like that.
Miranda: Well, take that with a grain of salt. She also thought Tiny Tim had a peg leg.
Sarah: Are you absolutely sure he doesn’t?
Sarah: Well, you’re the pirate expert.
Gaelen: I think it’s just a crutch.
Sarah: Oh…hmmm. I guess that would make sense.
Lady B: What are you six talking about?
In fairness, we had gone off on a rather long and bizarre tangent…particularly bizarre if you were living in 18wheneverLadyBlives and you hadn’t even heard of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
<squawk!> Bah Humbug! <squawk!>
Sabrina, narrowing her gaze on Albert: That bird knows more about the future than he lets on.
Lady B’s voice rises: Authoresses! I must insist you cease this prattle!
Miranda, hand to temple: Not so loud, please, Lady B.
Lady B’s eyebrow goes again: Are you overhung, Miss Neville?
Miranda: Not at all.
Lady B looks to the others: And the rest of you? Are you feeling in some way incapacitated this morning? I cannot imagine it being the case, as you are all here, collapsed about my ballroom like Christmas wrapping.
Sarah: That is an excellent simile, my lady.
Lady B’s tone turns cool: You are not the only clever ones in the room, Miss MacLean.
Sarah: Of course not! I never meant…
Lady B: Never mind. You’re all coming out with me.
They return their attention to their estimable hostess.
Katharine, cookie halfway to her mouth: I beg your pardon?
Lady B: What you need…
Miranda: Oh, no.
Lady B: …is some fresh air.
Sarah closes her eyes for a moment, then looks to Miranda: What is happening right now?
Sarah: Right. The day after Christmas. A bank holiday for everyone but what’s his name.
Katharine: Bob Cratchitt.
Lady B: What a hideous name.
<squawk> Once more, with feeling! <squawk!>
Sarah: Isn’t it a day to recover from…festivities? You know, sit around and…eat more? And read the books one received as presents? And catalog the rest of your loot?
Miranda: Unless you have a Horribly Bracing British Mother.
Sarah: I have a British Mother.
Miranda: Be thankful she’s not Horribly Bracing.
Lady B: Do pay attention! What you need is some fresh air. Foxhunting, pheasant shooting, or just a nice long walk through the mud.
Miranda, gives Sarah a knowing look.
Sarah: Ah. I see.
Miranda: Now, it’s true that a few hours away from one’s loved ones can be an excellent thing. One year we had a chimney fire on Boxing Day and apologized abjectly to the firemen for taking them away from their families during the holiday. They cheerfully told us they appreciated a Boxing Day call because it got them out of the house. December 26th is also the Feast of Stephen.
Sarah: That I knew. SHAMELESS PLUG: St. Stephen’s plays a rather important role in my February book, A Rogue By Any Other Name. There is caroling.
Miranda: Good King Wenceslas Looked Out?
Miranda: I love that carol because you get to sing in a squeaky voice for the page and down in your boots for the king.
Sarah: I love the scene in Love Actually when the Prime Minister’s security guard belts it out and shocks everyone.
Miranda: Less cheerfully, it’s the day St. Stephen was stoned to death for reasons I cannot now recall.
Miranda: Agreed. But it’s also the day for the distribution of Christmas Boxes.
Sarah: Fun! But isn’t some Odiously Perky Random Research Geek going to point out in comments that Boxing Day isn’t Regency?
Katharine: The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1833 as the first use.
Miranda (holding on to her aching head): Lookee here, OPRRG. I cede to no one, not even Katharine, in my love for the OED (see her post on the subject) but those guys had to actually read all the books, so it’s not surprising they missed things. They didn’t have the awesome search capacity of Google Books which confirms that Boxing Day goes way back into the eighteenth century. It may go even further back and be named for when the poor boxes in churches were opened and the donations distributed to the poor. Christmas Boxes, however, were mostly given to tradesmen with whom you did business and consisted of sums of money, not necessarily in a box.
Sarah: You mean shopkeepers? Like giving a gift to the guy in the cheese shop? There was this brie last night…
Miranda: Yes. The cheesemonger and the grocer and the coal merchant. Also service providers such as the livery stable, the dressmaker, the chimney sweep, the crossing sweeper.
Sarah: Like tipping the mailman or the New York Times guy. Damn. Which I forgot to do.
Lady B: Miss MacLean, language, please.
Sarah: Now, that’s more like my mother.
Miranda: A writer in 1731 complained that an unending line of people showed up at his house on Boxing Day, expecting a handout. They all went down to the tavern for the evening and got drunk and kvetched about cheapskates who only gave them sixpence. Mind you, the writer seems to have been a bit of a Grinch so I take his account with a pinch of salt.
Lady B: You’re forgetting servants. We always take care of the servants on Boxing Day. In fact, I was up early to do it.
Miranda: You are generous beyond measure, Lady B. That tradition seems to vary from house to house.
Lady B: The best ones keep to it.
Sarah: Of course they do.
Lady B: Are you trying to get out of taking a walk, Miss MacLean?
Sarah: Is it working?
Lady B: No. It shall do you all good.
Sarah: So, Lady B, which servants do you treat?
Lady B: Lord B attends to the servants and tradesmen. I make gifts of money to my personal maid, my modiste, and my coiffeur.
Miranda: Absolutely. My hairdresser always gets a gift for her sterling work in keeping the gray at bay.
Lady B: Speak for yourself, Miranda. I assure you my color is quite natural.
<squawk> salt and pepper <squawk>
Lady B: Hush, Albert.
Today, the authoresses of the Ballroom would like to share a Christmas Box with you! Comment below with a post-Holiday (any holiday…not just Christmas!) tradition from your home…and SIX commenters will receive a surprise Christmas Box…one from each of our Authoresses…and Lady B, of course!
Sorry to our international readers, but this contest is US Only.