Thursday, November 19, 2015
Read the 1st Chapter of Clay More's "Mistletoe and Crime" RIGHT NOW!!!!!
Christmas Eve, 1882
Toby Winstanley had been desperate to leave Chimneys Hall to snatch a few precious moments with Rosalind in the snow-covered grounds before the gong for dinner.
The snow had been falling for several hours and the roof of the Elizabethan home that he shared with his father, Sir Roger Winstanley was covered in a thick white blanket through which the half dozen tall, graceful chimneys, so typical of 16th century manor houses and halls, rose to send streams of smoke upwards into the falling snow. In the moonlight the hall and the gardens sparkled like an enchanted landscape.
And that was how it felt to Toby as he made his way to his tryst.
He was seventeen years old and utterly in love. His life had totally changed in the last year, when his main interests had been sport, art and all the other pursuits of a youth of his class and breeding. Christmas too now held a different magic for him, for he was eager on this Christmas Eve to give the present he carried inside his coat and to see the effect it would have on his beloved.
The ground was covered in four inches of snow and the tracks he left from the house, across the lawns and into the copse of yew and oak trees would be obvious for anyone to see from the house.
His breath came fast, condensing into puffs of steam in the cold atmosphere. Then he felt a momentary sense of disappointment, for Rosalind had left no trail.
Why, has she not come? He thought to himself. But she must! I have to see her.
He trudged through the topiaried box hedges, covered in a patina of snow and entered the copse of trees that contained the private family graveyard of the Winstanleys. It was a place that he had loved since he was a small boy, for he had enjoyed climbing in the trees and pretended to be an explorer. Of late, it meant much to him, for his mother had been laid to rest there a mere year before.
It had worried him that Rosalind might not care to meet him there, but she had smiled and told him she would meet him anywhere, so long as it was private.
But still no tracks. She could not have forgotten their appointment, surely? That would be impossible. Unbearable, even.
He moved through the trees to the tall iron railings that enclosed the cemetery and there, standing waiting for him under the canopy of an oak tree, was Rosalind.
“My darling,” he said, rushing to her and sweeping her into his arms. “When I didn’t see your footprints I thought you had not come.”
She was a head shorter than he, who was already six foot tall and broad of shoulders. She was dressed in a black cloak with the hood drawn up over her head.
“I came the back way, of course,” she said. “I worried when the snow started to fall, lest my footprints would show. But I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
He raised a trembling hand to touch her face. “Do you mind if I touch you?”
He could see her tremble, too. Her full red lips quivered and he could swear that in the moonlight she blushed.
“I think…I think, you are so beautiful. I love your blonde hair and those dazzling blue eyes and this,” he touched her retroussé nose, “lovely, beautiful face.”
She sighed and raised her hand to touch his face. “Just as I think you are so handsome. I love your hair that is as black as coal, your smiling mouth and that dimple in your chin.”
His eyes momentarily strayed to the marble gravestone on the other side of the railings. “How I miss her, Rosalind.”
She squeezed his hand. “As do we all, Toby. All of us.”
He shook his head as if dismissing any further thoughts. “But we have so little time, my love. Here,” he said, reaching into his coat and drawing out a small wrapped package. “I have a Christmas present for you. Open it now.”
“But it is not yet Christmas day,”
“I will not be able to see you open presents on Christmas day, so humor me and open it now.”
Her mouth broke into a smile. “Only if you will open the one I have brought for you.” She reached inside her cloak and drew out a small rectangular package.
“Together, we open them together,” he said with a smile. “That is how I want us to do things forever, Rosalind. Together.”
She gave him a wan smile and tears formed in her eyes. “This place is so beautiful, so magical,” she said as carefully she opened the wrapping to reveal a small box. She opened it and gasped with pleasure to see a small gold locket studded with diamonds. “It is beautiful!”
“It was my mother’s, given to her by her mother. My grandfather brought it back from India and gave it to her.”
“But Toby, I cannot…”
“You can, Rosalind, and I want you to wear it always.”
She acquiesced and clipped it around her neck as he continued to unwrap his gift.
“My goodness, a fountain pen. This must have cost…”
“It is worth every penny if it pleases you, my dearest Toby.”
“It does and now, do you know why I asked you to meet me here in this very specific place?”
“Is it so that your mother’s spirit could see us? Bless us in a way?”
He laughed. “You are right. But look up above.”
“Why, the tree is full of mistletoe!”
“It is. Very apt for Christmas Eve, don’t you think? It is so right for me to kiss you and for us to plight our troth.”
“But Toby, we cannot. We are both only seventeen years old.”
Before she could say anything further he slid his arms around her and kissed her passionately.
“That is true. Yet when I am of age it is you that I will ask to be my wife. Only you. Until then, I want us to meet whenever we can, but especially under this mistletoe every Christmas Eve to reaffirm out vows. This mistletoe shall be a symbol of our love.”
“Our eternal love, Toby.”
They kissed again.
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