What a wonderful surprise I received when author Carol Cromlin emailed me wishing to enter an extract from her new story for our little competition!
A very popular pursuit was playing parlour games. Among these were Bullet Pudding and Snap Dragons; both of which figure in the following excerpt from Fitzwilliam Darcy such I was . In this passage, five Christmases have gone by since the loss of our hero's mother. During that time, the family had gathered for Christmas at the Fitzwilliam estate. Now it is time the festivities return to Pemberley and you are invited to attend the Darcy family Christmas eve party. I hope you enjoy it!
The next se’nnight past pleasantly by and on Christmas Eve the Wickhams and a few friends from neighboring estates were invited to attend the festivities, which began just after supper. To allow for the keeping of tradition, the Fitzwilliams had carried with them from Greystone, the brand saved from last year’s Yule fire. Earlier in the day, this had been placed as kindling in the great hearth of the saloon and two footmen had labored to haul in the enormous, rooted oaken stump that was to be this year’s Yule log. Now a roaring blaze brightly illuminated the hearth.
People gathered in small groups about the room, talking and laughing and a number of guests obliged the company by singing and playing the piano. Spiced wine was plentiful and many a toast to health and prosperity was heard throughout the night. At one point a footman entered carrying a large silver punch bowl mounded high with brandied raisins. Rennie was first to espy the man’s entrance and announced, “Ah yes. Now we shall have Snap Dragons!”
A crowd gathered round the table where the bowl was placed and the ripple of excitement that began to move through the room on Rennie’s announcement grew as the raisins were set ablaze; their blue flames rising high above the bowl. Those who were faint of heart stood well back and watched as those made of more sturdy stock shot their fingers through the flames to retrieve the prized raisins. These were then quickly extinguished and consumed.
Georgiana stood fairly near the front of the crowd and Darcy asked her, “Shall I take some for you?”
She giggled and replied, “Yes please.”
Darcy, Rennie and George together presented Georgiana with so many raisins that Lady Margaret felt the need to step in and put a stop to it, lest Georgiana should become ill. Once, while Lady Catherine was deep in conversation with a dowager countess whom she had known since childhood, Rennie somehow managed to convince timid Lady Anne to try taking a raisin for herself. Her outstretched hand crept ever closer and just as she was about to strike out, a raisin popped, causing her to jump back with a shriek of surprise that evolved into giggles. Her cousins now gifted her with a number of raisins that they secured for her. Eventually she tried once again and this time, was quite pleased with her success.
The evening progressed with one entertainment after another; the guests even enjoyed a riotous game of Bullet Pudding from which many emerged fairly covered in flour. It was a rather exuberant young boy who finally came up with the bullet; he then proceeded to romp about the room waving it round and proclaiming loudly of his triumph. It was long into the night, by the time all the guests had finally gone. Darcy and Georgiana stood beside their father as the family drank one last glass of spiced wine and Mr. Darcy offered a toast. “Here is to good family, good health, wonderful memories and sound future generations. And…” said he, motioning toward the hearth where the Yule fire shewed no sign of dying down, “I believe we are all to be blessed with good fortune in the coming year.”
“Hurrah,” was the general response and with no one but family members remaining in the room there could be warm shews of affection all about.
Thank you Carol for sending this - I found it really interesting to hear about the Christmas activities of the time and the excerpt was great - I cannot wait to read the book!
Your affectionate friend,