Chapter 15 A Victorian Christmas

Late in the morning, William stretched out on the couch and smiled when he thought about his past weekend. On Saturday, he attended a festive holiday party his gorgeous fiancée followed by a Sunday doing naughty things with her in the park after church. Before he put his feet on the floor, he scanned the area for tacks or the tell-tale newspaper which could have a bowl of oatmeal, hot water, ice water or anything else uncomfortable sitting on top of it waiting for him to put his feet down. Then he walked into the bathroom carefully checking the tub before he bathed. After his bath, he stood before the mirror contemplating his lack of a beard and mustache. Elisabeth liked him clean shaven. Little did she realize that he couldn't grow a beard or mustache to save his life. He could go another day without shaving.

However, Justin needed to shave so William dumped glue into his shaving cup and rubbed the bristles of his shaving brush in it. Over the past few weeks William realized that brotherhood entailed endless practical jokes followed by torture. Pa and Ma Sweeney had six children: Galen, Cayden, Megan, Trevor, Sorcha and lastly Keegan. Keegan, meaning little fierce one, had been aptly named since he was the runt of the bunch both in age and size relative to the other males. Though his brothers picked on him mercilessly, they taught him to fight. During his schooling, Keegan chose to be known by his middle name to fit into society better.

With Christmas a week away and his wedding two weeks away, the women occupying the Pratt household frantically readied for both. Both he and Justin were told to "stay out of the way or they would only get underfoot." Justin made plans for them tonight but today was the day that William would pick up Elisabeth's present. As William ate his breakfast, he heard Justin roll out of bed. Just as he finished the last of his boiled egg, William deduced that Justin discovered his prank.

"Cac!" *Shit!*

"Ultionis est dulcis!" *Revenge is sweet!* William grabbed his wallet and coat.

"Go hIfreann leat William! *To hell with you William!*

"Latin est lingua of scholasticus dum Gaelic est lingua of hooligans." * Latin is the language of scholars while Gaelic is the language of hooligans.* With that, William left to shop for Christmas presents.

Very late that afternoon, William and Justin left for the docks. Near the docks, they stopped at a pub. The worn wooden sign on the outside read "Harps." All of Justin's brothers greeted them the moment they went in. "It's Runt and William." Each of the brothers was born between two and three years apart with Justin born last and five years after his sister Sorcha. As his mother's last hoorah, he was indeed the smallest of the strapping band of brothers though they all looked alike.

Cayden lumbered over and placed a hand on each of their shoulders and guided them towards a table. "Get in here. Dinner is about to be served."

"What's on the menu?" William asked craning his neck upwards to Cayden.

"Corned beef and cabbage," he replied. "It's the best around, even better than Ma's."

William seated himself amongst the Sweeney brothers. Gaylen winked. "We have a surprise for you later, a real special one."

A barmaid started bringing plates of food for them as well as bread and butter. "What sort of surprise?"

"A rather busty one who is more than willing," Trevor replied.

"Thanks but no thanks," William answered. "I love Elisabeth and I'm about to be married."

"We know. This your stag party." Trevor handed him a hard apple cider.

"I appreciate it but I promised to be faithful to Elisabeth." William savored a bite of the peppery corned beef that had a hint of mustard and honey flavorings.

"Told you so," Justin said to his brothers. "I'm sure he'll be up for the rest of the entertainment."

"So Elisabeth gave you the boot for the month," Trevor commented. "It's for the best."

"I don't think so. I haven't seen her hardly at all."

"Right before the wedding the bride's catch wedding fever. They go crazy."

After dinner, the drinking began and more patrons strolled in. Some took exception to Justin and William, recognizing them as more gentry than dockworker material. Immediately, Justin's brothers closed in and the others backed away. "Dock eleven in an hour," Justin stated.

"But you picked on Justin when he was a child," William stated.

Trevor and Cayden grabbed William and Justin in a headlock and tousled their hair. "No one but us picks on our runts."

Later that night in a warehouse at Dock eleven, the Sweeney brothers and several patrons from Harps gathered around a makeshift boxing ring. "Do you want to do this William?"

"I certainly don't want to fight you or your brothers. I think I can handle him though." He pointed to one of the grunts that harassed him a little at Harp's Bar. The man had at least forty pounds on him.

"Remember to hit him where it counts, pull from your passion and don't let him land any punches," advised Justin.

When William entered the ring, he pictured his opponent as Lord Wellington. Immediately, the man lunged at him but his movements were slow so William dodged. With that open opportunity, William came in close and punched him several times like lightening before he ducked away. Several times they danced the familiar dance until his opponent went down for the count. A few more fights occurred between various opponents as well as some betting that he jovially participated in. William went home that night feeling exuberant, a little richer, slightly bruised and looking forward to Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Elisabeth spotted William's carriage when it was nearly two blocks away due to the sparseness of the now barren snow covered trees. Quickly, she finished combing her hair and bolted down the stairs just as he entered the house. As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs, she leapt into his arms. William's tongue danced in her mouth for a long passionate kiss.

When Anne cleared her throat, William pulled away. "I missed you."

"I missed you too. I've so busy with the wedding. I mean I never thought this would happen." Then she remembered their wedding preparations they had been doing. "Mum is the dress hidden?"

"Yes dear, it's in the spare room."

"I want you to be surprised on our wedding day."

William put his arm around her and absently stroked the maroon velvet of her dress. "I know I'll love your dress." Then he glanced towards his mother who waited in the next room. "Mum, I can see you two are getting along."

"Your mother insisted I call her mum. She's been teaching me all about wedding traditions. It's a bit overwhelming. Did you know that there's sometimes gambling at bachelor parties to help the groom win money for his marriage?"

"That makes sense," William stated as he thought back to his winnings during his bachelor party.

"You didn't see any nuns or monks the day you proposed did you?"

"No, I didn't and I hadn't seen any in a long time. Why?" He noted how anxious his fiancée seemed.

"I'm not really sure but your mother wanted to know. It was very important that you didn't see any because they were a bad omen of some sort." Elisabeth bustled about lighting some candles. "Did you see any pigeons that day before you proposed?"

"Actually, I fed a few that day like I always do."

"That will bring good luck." Elisabeth rushed about making sure everything was in its place. "Marry when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind and true. Your mother taught me that. Since we're getting married on the first of January. That will be especially true. Oh and did you know that it's very good that our surnames start with different letters?"

As he watched his slightly crazy bride-to-be, William shook his head in denial and awe. *She's caught bridal fever, just like Trevor said she would.* She moved about a twice her normal speed.

"It's bad luck if they don't. To change the name and not the letter is to change for the worst and not the better. Don't worry I haven't said or written my name as it will be once we're married. That's bad luck. Oh, how did your fitting go?"

"Fitting," he said.

"Oh my God! Your suit isn't finished!"

"My tailor finished my suit two weeks ago. I tried it on and it's fine." William poured a glass of port wine. "You should drink this to calm your nerves." When the dinner bell rang and Elisabeth had already drank her glass of wine, William breathed a sigh of relief. Elisabeth's wedding fever was about to drive him mad.

William sat at the head of the table and Elisabeth sat to his right. During dinner of turkey with sage and onion dressing, everyone chatted about the upcoming nuptials and various festivities. Elisabeth noticed William looking at the turkey curiously. "From now on we'll be having turkey instead of goose. Goose sounds yucky." She then sipped her last bit of shrub before pouring a second glass.

"Very well, you'll be the lady of the house and those are your decisions."

However, she allowed the oyster rolls to be served. As the sweet orange and brandy taste of shrub tantalized William's taste buds, he felt a warm foot dance around his ankles beneath his trousers but he ate as if nothing happened. Next to him, Elisabeth smiled slyly and enjoyed her second glass of shrub. When he felt her foot rubbing his crotch, William nearly choked on his stuffing. "You're quite nimble."

"Once we're married, I'll show you just how flexible I am." She sipped more shrub. "This is so yummy." She placed another roll in his plate. "These make you horny." She rubbed more making William stiff as a board. "I told you so."

William always knew to wear loose trousers when he was with Elisabeth. Tonight he would finish the job she started. "It's not the oysters."

"I can't believe we'll be married in a week, finally."

"I'll finally be able to finish everything you start," he remarked.

"I have no idea what you mean," she said shyly.

William reached down and tickled the foot that rested in his crotch which made her giggle softly like the rest of their whispered conversation. "You give another performance like this one and I'll shag you on right on top of the dinner table next time."

"That wouldn't be proper behavior for an Englishman."

"My naughty little American vixen drives me to it."

After the royal mince pies, they adjourned to the living room to open presents. The tree sparkled with color foil wrapped candies, popcorn garland, cranberry garland, candy canes and gingerbread men. Everyone chipped in and gave Anne a hand carved marble chess set because of her love of parlor games. For her part, she gave both girls scrap books. To her son, she gave a pocket watch and to Justin a silver book clip. William and Justin exchanged liquor with Justin getting Russian vodka and William getting German wine. Elisabeth gave Jane a lace shawl and she gave her a crystal bobech. Elisabeth gave Justin an Irish clover wood plaque with a Gaelic prayer on it and in turn he gave her a book about sewing.

Three parcels from the states sat beneath the tree. Anne handed one to William, one to Justin and she kept one for herself. "Ezra sent these for the happy couples to enjoy."

William opened the box to find a long black caped frock coat just like he wore at Halloween. "Will, your little filly loved the coat so I had one made for you both to enjoy. Ezra."

Justin held up a long black frock coat like he had worn on Halloween. While their fillies fondled the frock coats, William and Justin silently exchanged a knowing nod. Anne politely excused herself and tended to kitchen matters. Justin took Jane's hand and they took their presents into the parlor for a private gift exchange.

Elisabeth and William kneeled before the Christmas tree and handed each other their gifts. Elisabeth opened hers to find a sterling silver hair comb with little emerald peonies across the top. "It's beautiful."

William opened his heavy present to reveal a monogrammed gold leaf leather bound journal with an embossed butterfly in the corner. "I love it."

"Merry Christmas William," she said.

"Happy Christmas Elisabeth," he said.

William then pulled her close for a wicked snogging session.