It is the first of December, and the authoresses have gathered in their finest holiday frocks to celebrate the official beginning of this festive month. Gaelen & Miranda are chatting with a clutch of young women fluttering fans, Sabrina is deep in conversation with her cousin Mary, Katharine is feeding Albert a lobster patty, and Tessa…well she’s hovering over the Ratafia, so one can only hope she’s spiking it.
Lady B: “There are only five of you.”
The authoresses count. Lady B does not wait for someone to speak.
Lady B: ”Where is Miss MacLean?”
Sabrina: Oh, I’m sure she’ll be here.
Gaelen: She said she would be here. She was stopping on the way for something, but…
Lady B (sniffs): ”Well, she is late. Punctuality is a mark of good breeding.”
Miranda: Well, I’m not sure Sarah cares much for–
The doors to the ballroom fly open and Sarah enters with a too-loud cry and a large metal contraption in hand: I’m here!
Miranda: -good breeding.
Lady B raises a brow: “Yes. I’m beginning to see that.”
Sabrina: To be fair, no one likes a goody goody.
Lady B: “I would stay out of this particular conversation if I were you, Miss Darby.”
Tessa: Ratafia, Sabrina?
Sabrina: Don’t mind if I do!
Sarah, waving behind her at two footmen hovering on the other side of the ballroom doors: Come on! She turns to Lady B. I promise, you’re going to forgive me for being late when you see what I–
Lady B: “Miss MacLean! Is that a…fir tree? In my ballroom?”
Sarah, with a wide smile: It is! Happy Christmas!
Lady B, flustered: “Is it customary to murder flora as a gift in…where was it you were from?”
Sarah: Rhode Island, my lady.
Lady B: “Right. One of the earlier colonies, wasn’t it?”
Sarah: Yes, my lady.
Lady B raises a brow: “One of the troublesome ones.”
Sarah grins: Yes, my lady.
Lady B: “At any rate. What are you doing commandeering my footmen to interrupt my ball with this…this…”
Sarah: Christmas tree!
Lady B blinks.
Miranda steps in: Sarah…they don’t have them here. Not yet.
Sarah: Oh sh–
Katharine coughs loudly to cover the end of the sentence.
Lady B turns to her: “Are you quite well, Miss Ashe?”
Katharine: Oh, yes, my lady. Thank you. I just…er…that is…the Ratafia…
Tessa, proudly: It’s strong.
Lady B nods: As it should be. Turning back to Sarah. “Now, what did you call this…item?”
Sarah (to Sabrina): It really is a problem this whole time/space continuum thing.
Sabrina: I’ve been saying that.
Sarah: What year is it anyway? Is Charlotte still alive?
The authoresses look from one to the other.
Miranda: I’m guessing yes.
Lady B gasps: “You’re guessing? Of course Queen Charlotte is alive! You should be ashamed of suggesting otherwise, Miss MacLean!”
Sarah: My apologies, my lady. Sometimes I get confused. A beat. Being American and all.
Lady B cocks an eyebrow.
Sarah hurries to move on, waving the footmen to the edge of the ballroom where a collection of heroes and heroines move out of the way. As she speaks, she crouches low and helps plant the tree inside the metal vise. Lady B watches, skeptically.
Sarah: At any rate…take my word for it, Lady B…the Christmas Tree is soon to be all the rage! They’re very popular in Germany. And in Austria!
Lady B does not seem convinced. Sarah looks for support from the troops. “A little backup, team?”
Gaelen: Huge in the Rhineland.
Lady B: The Rhineland?
Gaelen holds out her empty Ratafia cup. Tessa fills it.
Tessa: Yes. The Rhineland.
Sarah: And I promise you, the Royal family absolutely has Christmas tree. Queen Charlotte loves them.
Lady B: “How is it you know this, Miss MacLean?”
Sarah (aside to Sabrina): I suppose Queen Victoria’s diaries aren’t the right answer?
Sabrina shakes her head. You might as well reference aliens.
Sarah, inspired: A lady never divulges her sources, Lady B.
Lady B seems to understand this adage: ”Quite. So, the tree simply stands there?”
Sarah, standing and stepping back to admire her handiwork: Well, traditionally, one decorates it.With candles…ribbon…spun sugar ornaments…
Lady B raises her brows: “From the Rhineland?”
Gaelen interjects: Absolutely.
Lady B: “How…odd. I should not be surprised, though, if it comes from Germany.” She returns her attention to Sarah. ”And for how long does it remain in the ballroom?”
Sarah: At least through Christmas day. But you’ll see, once it’s decorated, you’ll love it and want to keep it around.
Lady B raises a brow: “We shall see if I ‘love it,’ Miss MacLean.”
Sarah: Of course.
Albert flies to perch himself at the very top of the tree.
Sarah: In my house, we put an angel at the top of the tree, you know.
<squawk!> Tis the Season!! <squawk!>
Lady B considers the tree and her beloved bird for a moment: It appears we do the same at Beaufetheringstone House.
December snuck up on me this year! I feel so behind–I’ve already received three holiday cards, and the decorations are going up around the neighborhood for Christmas–I can’t believe it.
Tradition in our house is to put our tree up this weekend and watch Love Actually while we decorate. What is your favorite Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus tradition?