The Yule Log
"At Christmas everybody invites their friends and thinks little of even the worst weather." - Jane Austen
Snowflakes, the size of my finger pads, fell upon the ground. The chill air had frozen the window pane; ice fractals created an intricate web upon the glass. The wind howled outside, picking up snow from the roof and swirling it back into the atmosphere. The weather was remarkably cold for England during this time of year. In general, it was warm and damp during Christmas, different from what we were experiencing.
Mistletoe hung in the doorway to the parlor room. I began to think about what would happen if Darcy and I were underneath it. Sighing to myself, I attempted to force the thought out of my head. It would do me no good to daydream about a man whom I had no chance with.
The decorations had gone up today and would be taken down on Epiphany. Leaving the decorations up any longer was considered bad luck. I should have told that to my neighbors! The decorations were simple and only consisted of red velvet bows and evergreen garlands. I had always loved Christmas decorations. I could not believe how beautiful these ornamentations were. I was beginning to appreciate the great beauty in simplicity.
The Yule Log had been freshly cut and had been wrapped in hazel twigs. I watched as the log was dragged into the house. Being the first person to sit on the log was considered good luck, and I ushered Jane towards it before Lydia could. Lydia sulked as she watched Jane sitting on the log. But, this was all forgotten when the young man that had helped drag the yule log into the house turned around. He smiled at us, revealing straight, white teeth (rare in the Regency era).
"Happy Christmas!" He tipped his hat.
"Thank you for helping!" I returned the grin, "Would you care for some wassail? It is freezing outside, and it should warm you up." The rest of the sisters nodded their greetings. Lydia was speechless, something that she had never experienced. In Lydia's defense, the man was gorgeous. He was tall and had dark hair and hazel eyes. His skin was rendered tan most likely from being outdoors for extended periods of time. This made his smile all the brighter.
He smiled, "Yes, thank you."
I poured him a glass from the punch bowl, "Have you been dragging yule logs into everyone's homes all day?"
"Not all day," he remarked, "the other half was spent chopping trees down to make the Yule logs."
"You must be exhausted!" Kitty exclaimed.
"It's all in a day's work, ma'am."
"What work do you do?" Mary inquired.
"I'm a farmer."
"Oh," Lydia spoke up as though her hopes had been dashed. He was not a soldier like Mr. Denny or Mr. Wickham. In Lydia's eyes, there was nothing more respectable than being the wife of a soldier even if he was a scumbag like Wickham.
He looked at Lydia, "Yes, I work on a farm not too far from here. I intend to buy the farm soon." He finished his cup of wassail, "I'm off to deliver the last of the logs."
"Do stop by more often!" Kitty smiled with a wave. Lydia nudged Kitty in the side with her elbow.
The man, who said his name was Mr. Samuel Palmer, agreed to Kitty's invitation. Once he left, Lydia berated Kitty for being interested in a farmer. Kitty was confused because she was being welcoming to a neighbor and did not have the slightest interest in Mr. Palmer. "Perhaps," Kitty suggested, "you are interested in him, Lydia. He was rather handsome."
"Don't make me laugh!" Lydia teased, "He is only a farmer. I intend to marry higher than that!"
"Higher than Mr. Palmer?" I asked, "Are you referring to Mr. Wickham?"
"Oh Lord no!" Lydia laughed, "I am referring to Mr. Darcy."
I snickered, "Lydia, what makes you think you stand a chance?"
"Did you notice the way he looked at me at the ball?" Lydia sighed, "He was leaning against the fireplace and was watching me with most interest!"
He had been watching me, not her. I did not have the heart to tell her what he thought of her. She was an embarrassment to him. She was one of the many reasons that he had shunned me. Another was my childish behavior towards him during our last meeting and of that, I was still cringing from shame. Part of me wanted to tell her what Darcy thought of her, but the other part felt that it was no use. She would never have believed me. If I had told her, it would have created an enormous rift between us, which would not have helped matters. Instead, I stayed silent and sent her a strained smile.
"Well, are you going to say something?" cried Lydia. "A gentleman worth 10,000 pounds a year is in love with me, and you have nothing to say!" She smirked, "Are you jealous of me?"
"No. What is there to be jealous about?"
"Plenty!" Lydia boasted, "I have scores of suitors, and you have none."
Jane warned Lydia, "Lydia, stop."
Lydia giggled, "I will have to let Mr. Wickham know I am no longer interested."
"Something tells me Mr. Wickham will not care much about your interest." I chided, "He would prefer to be let go before you get your talons into him."
Lydia pulled Kitty away, and they walked to the far side of the room, whispering and sending glances my direction. Nothing was said as we watched Mr. Bennet light the Yule log with the lump of charcoal from last year's log. A sweet aroma permeated the air, and we sat by the fireplace enjoying the crackling heat. The family played various card games (all of which I lost). We drank wassail and had an informal dinner around the hearth. It was everything a family holiday should be.