A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 30

18th December, 1894

"I've told you before, Love, we are not having a bleedin' monkey puzzle tree this year." Jenny told her wife, as they looked out of the window of their coupe at the maze of stalls with Christmas trees, along with other decorations, plus small gimcrackery gifts. "It ain't traditional, it's a right pain to decorate, and it looks wrong."

"But..." Vastra replied, looking somewhat mournful.

"We're already at the market, so forget the usual protests about cold weather, tree allergies, or the needles it drops."

"It smells bad."

Jenny's reply was to give her wife a look that suggested that, if there wasn't a massive amount of evidence that the Silurian just wanted a monkey puzzle, she might have actually believed that statement.

"You know that the floor polish, which you've said several times smells really nice, smells exactly the same as a Christmas tree, don't you, you daft ol' lizard?

"Why is a tree of this type so important at this time of year?" Vastra demanded.

"It's traditional." Jenny replied.

"Ape traditions are always silly." Vastra muttered.

"What about the one involving buyin' your wife cinnamon cakes every week on the way back from the market?"

"Apart from that one." Vastra tried, defensively.

"Or the one that says you can't have a proper breakfast wi'out red meat, and baked beans?"

Vastra just hissed, before reluctantly clambering out of the carriage and heading, trying to look reluctant, towards a stall selling full sized trees seven feet tall. The trees themselves were the proper Christmas trees, with an almost perfect conical shape formed by thick, bushy branches, covered in dense forest green pine needles.

Vastra took three steps back, and pointed.

"That one." She said.

Jenny took a closer look at the indicated tree, noticing that even compared to the other trees, it was even more symmetrical, and fitted the golden ratio even further.

"'Ow much?" She asked the stall holder.

"Vor you, Vifteen shillinks." He replied, in a somewhat broad German accent.


"Ja." He responded. "Ist et gut, ja?"

"I can do twelve?" She bid, somewhat hopefully.

"Nein. Vourteen?"

"Thirteen?" She countered.

"Ja. I can do thirteen." He said, before grabbing a large roll of netting, and looping it around the tree from top to bottom, then helping her manhandle it onto the roof of the coupe, and lash it on with ropes through the open windows.

"That weren't so 'ard." Jenny reassured her wife, as the coupe rattled off, back to the Row.

Her reply was an extremely arch look, one she knew from experience meant: 'Very funny. I love you too.'

Strax helped them unload the tree, before disappearing to conduct his own operations away from the house.

Vastra vanished upstairs as soon as the tree was in the drawing room and upright, in full possession of what looked like several titbits of sugared fruit. She just sighed, before getting on with the important business of draping the tree with assorted decorations, mostly devotional objects such as angels, but also including a wide variety of other Christmas items, such as stars, and flowers with delicate patterns of colouration woven through them. She refused to allow Vastra anywhere near the tree in possession of a candle, or any other possible heat source, or to help with the decorating, as that would be seen as an invitation to have the tree hung entirely with sticks of jerky with a ribbon tied around them and to have the tree turning barer every time Vastra walked past it.

After the tree was decorated, and transformed into a medley of colours and tints, she shook her head resignedly at the sound of the doorbell.

"Comin'" She yelled, before getting back to normal life.

19th December 1894

"Remember, you daft old thing, you ain't allowed to try and catch it." Jenny reminded her wife, as Strax navigated through the traffic that only seemed to grow heavier during the festive period.

"Who made that rule?" Vastra asked, snuggled into the side of the smaller human for warmth, having never become accustomed to the concept of ice and snow at any time of the year.

"I think it was to cut down on the number o' people tryin' to save 'emselves a few shillin's and just 'avin' one, then takin' away on their 'eels without payin' for it."

"I would never steal a goose." Vastra said, sounding surprisingly outraged.

"I know you wouldn't, but not all people are like you, Love."

"Apes always seem to have greatly reduced expectations of each other." Vastra commented, before being slapped on the head by Jenny.

"No. Humans have found that other humans are usually untrustworthy if they come into position of your goods before 'avin' paid for them. Humans, not apes. Humans."

Vastra tried to look sad and mournful, but Jenny was having none of it.

"Don't you dare." She said. "You know that I dislike being called an ape, monkey, primitive or mammal." She reminded her wife. "I know you do it without thinkin', but you need to stop doin' it."

Further debate was postponed when they finally arrived in Brixton, and were able to spot the large yard full of geese busily foraging for food.

"Stay in the carriage." Jenny told her wife. "The last thin' I want is for you to be spotted, and connected to last year."

"I didn't do anything last year!" Vastra said, knowing she'd lost the argument a long time ago.

"I remember." Jenny replied, before clambering out of the coupe, and heading over to the nearest stall-holder.

"What cin I get ya?" he asked.

"I need a goose large enough four about twenty-five."

"Ya mistress having a big bash, then?"

"Yes." Jenny replied.

After a few moments, he turned and nodded.

"And what's the address?"

"Thirteen Paternoster row." Jenny said.

We'll have it round on Christmas Eve. It'll take all night to cook, though."

"That'll be fine." She told him. "'Ow much?"

"Two Guineas."

"Two flamin' guineas?" she exclaimed, at the idea of handing over more money than a working family saw in a year.

"Tell ya what; I can do you a deal. One Guinea, ten shillings."

"Done." She told him, before handing over the money.

24th December, 1894

Jenny always left the kitchen window open during the Christmas period. There were fewer smells, and the local housebreakers knew better than to attempt to force their way past the small maidservant and into the rest of the house. The last one to try such a feat had spent the next few days in the Royal Free Hospital, having a pepper mill painstakingly and carefully extracted from his rectal passage, having first been belted over the head with an eleven inch skillet pan a centimetre thick. His skull had suffered several factures in the accident.

The main reason, other than culling the human genome, that she left the window open, was as a precaution against the unexpected approach of the carol singer.

It wasn't that Vastra actually has anything against them. In fact, it was precisely the opposite. She enjoyed the carols, and got extremely grumpy if she discovered she'd missed an opportunity to join in out of tune.

She was also the reason the punch bowl had a locking cover, with a spout designed so that while punch could flow out, a stray, six foot tongue couldn't find any ingress and have the entire jugful. Vastra had managed to raid the punch bowl one year, and the interactions between sloe gin and her digestive system had kept Jenny up for two nights running.

She just smiled, as she painted the honey and mustard glaze onto the goose.

It was as large as advertised. This was going to be a problem, as, according to some quick measurements, the goose was too large for the oven door.

Fortunately, Jenny was self-sufficient in matters of domestic maintenance, and her tool bag would have looked considerably larger than average even for a plumber travelling to a large building project. Her hand initially reached for a container of small discs, originally from the 23rd century, each of which was designed to remove locking mechanisms and their attachment points from a doorframe. Hang on. She thought. The last thing I want is to blow the flamin' door off of the oven on Christmas Eve. I'd never get the bloomin' turkey done if I did that. Instead, she reached for a pair of gloves containing a polymer with an almost unimaginable specific heat capacity, but which were thin enough not to pose issues when using small tools. Quickly, she used the servicing kit, along with a small can of WD40, to dislodge the heavy slab of cast iron, before heaving it away from the oven, along with an inch of frame, which increased the effective size of the actual door by a considerable two inches, and just allowed the turkey and associated roasting tray inside, before, using several large pots and pans, she managed to chock the door back into place, and screw it on.

Then she did a patrol of the house. Vastra had been persuaded, although with less carrying than a small child, that it was time for bed. That meant that there were assorted devices spread liberally around the house, mostly using stacks of cans, but one year, once Vastra understood the Christmas tradition, she had caught the Silurian in possession of a three foot wide mantrap, and trying to lever it open, standing in front of the fireplace with the fire guards positioned to channel anyone coming down the chimney into the teeth of the trap.

Carefully, she exited the house, before cracking open the large shed in which she kept her firewood, and which Vastra had been banned from for smashing the window with a length of firewood. She was perpetually astonished that Vastra actually believed in Santa, as it meant that she couldn't just acquire all of the Silurian’s presents openly, and instead had to stash them in a sealed box in the woodshed. Vastra had been taught that you brought some presents, and Santa topped them up. In her case, that meant that sundries such as treats, new DVDs and human novels came from Santa, while items such as new additions to the paternoster row armoury, would come from Jenny.

Watching Vastra wake up on Christmas morning was always a highly entertaining prospect for Jenny. Despite her age, the Silurian was just as bouncy as any child on Christmas morning. Watching her disappear down the stairs in order to find out if Santa had been, and to check if any of her Santa traps had been tripped always brought a smile to her wife's face, although it was usually quickly wiped away when the Silurian penetrated the kitchen's and attempted to raid the oven for food. Usually this would simply result in a burnt tongue, but she had no intention of allowing Silurian saliva to contaminate the goose, or the bacon associated with it, never mind the stuffing and the sausage meat stuffed inside the giant bird.

Vastra was usually frustrated by the fact that she was only allowed to open presents that Santa had brought her on Christmas Day, although this usually provided her with a large supply of assorted sweetmeats and small items of jewellery.

At about eleven, Jenny was working in the kitchen with the window open and to produce Christmas puddings, including the traditional plum pudding, along with several jellies flavoured with fruit juice and topped with ice cream. There was also a trifle along with a Yule log and the varieties of cake. A few minutes after the clock struck the hour, she became aware of a certain racket coming from outside in the yard. Sticking her head through the window, she observed an impromptu game of football that seems to have been triggered by the mysterious appearance of a ball in the hands of one of the street Arabs that Vastra employed under the catchall term of the Paternoster irregulars. It wasn't an item that would have been called a football by any of the professional sides, consisting of little more than a mass of rags wrapped around something bearing a certain resemblance to a ball and that would give when kicked, protecting their bare feet from the near certainty of broken toes that would have resulted in kicking a regular football or one with a wooden core. Jenny allowed them to continue playing for some time, although she brought the game to an immediate halt when a careless shot threatened one of her windows.

By this time, however, she had finished laying the table, and the goose was ready, and extracted from the oven, with the aid of a harpoon, one of many relics from previous cases that had ended up scattered around the house, and surrounded by serving platters mounded with roasted vegetables, along with hundreds of sausages, several pigs worth of bacon, and four bottles of cranberry sauce.

Jenny never had any problems with any of the Arabs trying to steal any of the silverware, even while eating with it, and as such, had had no qualms about laying the table with silverware.

Once Vastra had arrived, the meal began, the huge goose proving ample even for so many diners, with seconds available in every category. There were also crackers, laden with appropriate presents, such as packs of playing cards, small notebooks with pencils and even with small, damage protected magnifying glasses. Almost before Jenny had cleared the table, several card games had broken out, using the after-dinner peanuts as tokens. It was always pleasurable for her to host a Christmas party, particularly given that the recipients of that generosity were unlikely to have too many hot meals each year.

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