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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - America
PostPosted: 19 Dec 2011, 20:43 
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As she had freely confessed before she came out on stage, the next act wasn't sure whether to be bemused or offended by the role which had befallen her lot; in listing all of the traditions that she knew of her home country, Luigia finally gave way and admitted what her costume would have to be. Her ego had been slightly mollified by the reassurances that Miss Maynard gave her as to how long it had taken to turn her into an ugly witch, but that was undeniably what was now walking down the aisle, broomstick in hand. The way that it trailed along the floor was calculated to make Marie, the rightful owner of it, shriek in horror.

Getting onto the stage, Luigia performed a contortuplicated mime whereby she thought that she accurately portrayed sliding down a chimney, yet what she actually did was, as Jem murmured to Madge, comprehensible to neither man nor beast. Thankfully, the audience, still recovering from Evadne and Cornelia's antics, seemed happy to suspend disbelief and wait and see to where they had now been taken. Before they could find out, however, Luigia had to meander across the room, dropping something into something else occasionally, singing to herself just loudly enough that the audience could hear, as if in the mime she was murmuring a little. It was an old Italian carol to set the scene.

“Here in Italy you might see many fabulous sights as you travel over Christmas,” she explained. “Already we are part way through Novena, the three week season which starts eight days before Christmas, during which time children dress as shepherds and go singing from house to house.

“Christmas eve is celebrated by breaking the strict feast which has lasted for the previous twenty-four hours, by the sharing of a large meal including panettone and chocolates, and also cenone, or a dish of eels. During this the celebrations around the crib take place by candlelight, and the Urn of Fate is played. This is a simple game, by which each person must draw out a present, to see whether they have received something nice or simply an empty box.

“There is also Christmas dinner, which traditionally consists of cappone, boiled capon, and filled pasta parcels with broth – Tortellini in Brodo. There are many songs sung around this time.”

Luigia sang her song with a sweet, simple, unconscious air of happiness, her own mind filled with long Christmases past, where her mother had swept around the house scolding Luigia and Bianca, and also their three older brothers who had now left home. She could almost smell the cooking food, and the heady scent of candles, and picture the small nativity scene in one corner of the room, as the notes stole across her. She knew that backstage Bianca would be thinking of just the same things, listening to her sister sing.

When she had finished, she hefted her broomstick in a business like manner, as if to bring not just the audience but also herself back to the present.

“It is time that we were leaving this house. As I, Befana the witch, promised, I will show you all of the magic of Italy, but for that we must start again. I must fly across all of the country by the morning, sliding down chimneys -”

“Aah, that explains it,” murmured Jem, sotto voice, making Madge choke hastily to herself.

“- and leaving presents in stockings and shoes for those who have been good, and coal for those who have not. For tonight is January 6th and it is traditional for me to visit all children. Many years ago I was invited by the Wise Men to accompany them to see the baby Christ, only because of my delay I missed him, and now my only chance to find him is by calling on everyone and leaving gifts. I hope that you will enjoy your journey with me.”

She clambered back up her chimney quickly – or, at least, the audience assumed that this was what her mime intended to show – and, holding her broomstick firmly, moved away back down the aisle, grinning at the next girl as she passed.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Italy
PostPosted: 20 Dec 2011, 18:24 
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Presented to them next was veritably an Old English Gentleman – Grizel Cochrane, under top hat, pressed suit and full tails. All that she was missing was a cane, but none was to be found around lake Tiernsee at that time of year, and she had scorned the much loved stick as not fit for purpose. She strode across the stage with the purpose and conviction born on Eton's playing fields and honed for generations by Oxford. Her natural sporting talent had helped her to perfect this walk, in her tight trousers under riding boots (as the closest thing which anyone could muster which would fit Grizel well enough for her to walk in), so that she greeted her audience as a true Gentleman always should, even putting on a slight accent for their benefit.

“What ho and all that,” she began, delighting in having a good excuse to air her own extensive vocabulary of slang at last. “Welcome to the jolly fine old countryside – you'll have to excuse English weather at this time of year, it really is always rotten, but if we're lucky we'll see snow for Christmas.

“You may also see Father Christmas himself, if you leave out mince pies and a carrot for Rudolph and then sit up long enough. Dressed in his red robes, he comes down chimneys on Christmas night, filling up children's stockings and pillowcases and leaving presents under the tree. Rudolph is his lead reindeer, who controls the sleigh and the other eleven reindeer who pull it.

“Being English we do love a good celebratory meal,” Grizel continued, unaware of how much she was bemusing her audience by living up to everything in the English stereotype. “The main course is always a goose, covered in bacon and stuffed with a sausage stuffing. But it wouldn't be complete without the proper vegetables, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and of course some of the hateful brussel sprouts! Dessert is a Christmas pudding, drizzled with brandy and set alight before being served with brandy butter and mince pies.

“The English also invented plum pudding. This started as Frumenty, a corn porridge, but slowly things such as meat, eggs, fruit and, of course, plums were added to it before it was wrapped in cloth and boiled.”

Here Grizel paused, strode across the stage and back once more with a tiny frown on her face, and then resumed her position. Not for the worlds would she have admitted that that wasn't an intended part of the act and she had in fact forgotten her next line; luckily, however, nerves were not something which she was apt to suffer from, and she recovered herself well.

“An old English tradition which is now dying out is that of mummering. This dates from the Middle Ages, when people would dress up and perform Christmas plays. Although there are still some performance, this has been largely forgotten. What continues, however, is boxing day, the day after Christmas and so called because this was the time when boxes of money were collected, then broken open and given to the poor.

“So, chaps, that's how we celebrate Christmas in England's fair pastures!”

Grizel nodded her head just so and then turned and strode away, tossing her hair back over her shoulder as she went.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - England
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2011, 12:43 
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Thank you, Santa! I did see both these episodes yesterday, but I didn't have time to read them, let alone comment - so I've had an extra treat today!

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - England
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2011, 17:58 
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this is wonderful, I love all the traditional things! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - England
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2011, 20:14 
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One of the last acts to grace the stage was the Head Girl. Gisela was a graceful, elegant young woman, filled with common sense and a rock to her headmistress, who didn't know what the school would do without her next year, when the Head Girl was to retire from her school career.

When she had first put in a plea for the country which she wanted, Madge had been worried that she was just taking one that nobody else had claimed, for there wasn't a big part which went with it. But when she had mentioned this to Gisela, the young woman had surprised her by saying that actually she had enjoyed learning about it; a small part of her yearned to travel, but for a woman of her class there would be no hope of such a thing, unless her husband's career was to lead her down such a route, and so she meant to take this opportunity for a little faux travelling while she could.

Part of her joy was to make her costume, which consisted of her usual school uniform and a large mummer's mask. She had spent many hours crafting and shaping it, then, under the expert tutelage of Herr Laubach, she had painted and decorated it. While large, it was as simple yet beautiful as Gisela herself, and Madge knew how proud the artist was of it. Unfortunately they had not been able to find a mime, for they had agreed that it would not be quite dignified for a young woman about to try and find a husband to dance and contortuplicate in the way that mummers traditionally did, but as she stood and delivered her speech, Gisela's voice rang out with a note of happiness.

“In Canada, it is Nova Scotia where you are most likely to see mummers,” she started. “This is a tradition brought over with the Scottish highlanders who first settled there, and the mummers, or belsnicklers, will dress up and dance through the neighbourhood, making noise and seeking sweets or other treats. If, however, it is guessed your identity you must remove your disguise and desist.

“The traditional Canadian Christmas dish is the same as that in England – turkey followed by mince pies and Christmas pudding. There are regional variations. In British Colombia it may be accompanied by salmon, while in Quebec families may serve pork pie, tourtiere, and small meatballs, boulettes. In Labrador the tradition is a little different, and turnips from the summer harvest are hollowed, with a candle inserted, then given to children.

“In some of the provinces sinck tuck, the traditional Eskimo festival, is still celebrated.”

Gisela bowed a little, so that the light caught the glitter on her mask, and then turned and walked sedately from the stage. Her parents, who had both managed to come and sit in the audience for their daughter's last school play, smiled at each other as they watched her walk out; she was, they knew, a young woman to be proud of.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Canada
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2011, 20:49 
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Thank you Santa you must have sort help from many of your elves to give us such a global view of Christmas/


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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Canada
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2011, 20:54 
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I don't think I've commented before, but thank you Santa for these glimpses of Christmas around the world.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Canada
PostPosted: 22 Dec 2011, 16:23 
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Thank you, Santa! I have dual Canadian / British nationality, but I don't know much about Canada as my dad was only a year old when he left the country, and he never met his father again. So I hoped you would include Canada, and of course, being Santa, you didn't disappoint!

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Canada
PostPosted: 22 Dec 2011, 18:32 
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I am so pleased that you enjoyed our journey there, Joey! We have only this last destination now, before we go back to the school, but I have arranged with His Majesty that we may make a special journey, for it isn't often that people can travel here. I do hope that you enjoy it!

The penultimate act of the show was, for the girl performing, really very special. Indeed, her father had chartered his private plane over to watch her specially, and so she had spent the last few days in an orgy of doubt over her preparation; she would be spending the night with Madge and Jem at the Sonnalpe before she flew back to her home country and she hoped against hope that her father would be proud of her, after such effort had been made for him to come.

Naturally beautiful, as she appeared among the crowds in her angelic robes, Elisaveta was a sight to behold. Her hair had been allowed to fall loose around her shoulders, and her big brown eyes peeked out from under a delicate halo of intertwining paper daisies that matched the purity of her long, flowing white dress and the white shawl which she had thrown elegantly over her arms. She seemed to glide to the stage, through the amazed audience.

“In Belsornia, Christmas celebrations last from the 6th December until the visit of the Three Wise Men,” Elisaveta explained in her clear, pearly voice. Her life was so wrapped up in court protocol that when Madge had asked her to represent her own country in the pageant she had been able to have just as much fun as the rest in researching the rural traditions of Belsornia. “It is usually a time of quiet contemplation and peaceful religion, with many church services leading up to Christ's birth. As in many other countries, there is a midnight mass, or pasterka, which many attend, and on Christmas day the church is filled with greenery and trees as the country celebrates for three days.

“Traditionally, any Belsornian girl may tell her future. She places a cherry twig in water on December 4th, and if it has blossomed by Christmas eve then she will marry in the year ahead.

“In Belsornia we eat carp for dinner on Christmas day, and throughout the season will also enjoy cod roe soup. Many try to tempt others with tales of an infamous, yet mythical, golden pig, about whom has been written many ballads.”

With an unconscious beauty, Elisaveta sang one such old ballad, telling the tale of the golden pig who had been kept in secret by a poor and possessive farmer, who meant to show him for lots of money and keep the pig to himself. One day, however, the pig managed to escape, where he was picked up by the wise woman of the village. She and her husband decided to take him to the city, and present him to the king, and although Elisaveta was forced to omit many verses because of time constraints, it was fair to say that he brought a lot of good luck to all of those who met him on his travels! Finally, the king decreed that the golden pig should be given his own space within the grounds, where everyone could come to see him, and rewarded the loyal woman and her husband with a staggering sum of gold.

“The golden pig is not our only myth, however,” Elisaveta continued, when she had finished her simple story. “We, too, are visited by St Nicholas, who comes down from heaven on a golden rope with his companions, an angel to help him give presents and a devil with a switch for those who have been naughty.”

As the pageant was now to enter its last stages, Elisaveta had been warned that her exit must be swift and so, without any adornments, she glided away, with Mr Denny playing some simple notes to follow her.

I have borrowed liberally from Czech tradition in describing the Christmas celebrations of Belsornia!

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Belsornia
PostPosted: 23 Dec 2011, 11:33 
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Oh, how wonderful! Thank you , Santa. I've enjoyed my drabble journey so much.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Belsornia
PostPosted: 23 Dec 2011, 21:15 
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It was quiet Frieda who had been chosen to introduce the very final act of all, the nativity scene which the school always put on. The mistresses knew that she would have been uncomfortable presenting her own scene in front of such a large crowd, but when they asked her to say a short piece before the nativity she had flushed with pleasure. Because she only needed to give a short speech, dressed as the angel Gabriel, which was to be her own special role in the nativity, she had been able to help the younger ones with their costumes and performances, which she was much happier doing than if she had had to plan her own. She had also proved to be a check on some of the Middles' wilder ideas – which, as Madge remarked thankfully afterwards, was just as well given what they had still managed to get up to.

Now she stood to one side of the stage, arms spread open, and said in her gentle tones,

“Our final destination in this journey must, of course, be Bethlehem, where the very first Christmas of all began. In Bethlehem they have their own celebrations each year; a procession headed by police and galloping horsemen make their way through the town, followed by a horseman on a black steed, carrying the cross. Behind this man are government officials and churchmen. All of these people enter the church, where they leave an ancient effigy of the baby Christ, above the grotto where a large star marks the place of His birth.

“Naturally we cannot celebrate in quite the same fashion -” she paused, as a ripple of appreciative laughter rang through the room “-but we hope that you will enjoy our simple nativity.”

From behind the doors came Joseph and Mary – Luigia and Bernhilda – talking about the visit of the angel Gabriel all those months ago, and Mary's advancing pregnancy since then. As they walked down between the rows of people, they would stop, and knock at inn doors, only to be turned away again. From down one side of the audience the Innkeeper and his wife, Amy and Irma, had crept, so that they were waiting at the stage when Mary and Joseph finished their journey.

As they were shown into the stable, through the hall came a procession of sheep and cows and goats, and although the school could only afford the same costumes as from the previous year, they seemed to fit their new owners rather well – all, that is, except Maria Marani's, which tripped her so violently that she had to be rescued by Cornelia behind her. It was possibly the only time in history that a sheep had displayed such a marked American accent when hissing at “you stupid ass”.

Once Mary and Joseph had been settled, a Heavenly angel choir came – with Elisaveta still in her previous costume – led by the Robin, who carried a bundle of cloth as the Baby Jesus to lay on Mary's lap. Then she knelt at their feet, the other angels gathering around her and with Frieda at the front of them all, to lead the simple air which they sang.

Then came the Wise Men three, Joey, Simone and Marie, each bearing their gifts to give their speech. Finally was Grizel, carrying the star to hoist above them all, as Gisela gave the final, simple speech.

“We hope,” she finished, “to have shown you that no matter how Christmas is celebrated, in its many diverse ways across the world, it is all for the special day, when the Son of God and saviour of all mankind was born and came among us, from his manger in a lowly stable, to spread his message of love and peace and faith.”

It was a finish which brought a tear to more than one eye, and the applause was almost deafening. Saying farewell to the parents afterwards, Madge received so many compliments that Miss Maynard was heard to remark that the only thing the Head would need that Christmas would be a new hat. It wasn't just the parents who were thrilled with the performance; afterwards, the girls one and all were heard to declare it a resounding success, and brilliant fun to do, too.

There was, however, a very special Christmas in store yet for Madge, Joey and Robin...

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - the Nativity
PostPosted: 23 Dec 2011, 21:31 
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That scene was just beautiful - very moving and definitely worthy of Gisela's closing words. A clever device to have shy Frieda speak the introduction, too.


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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - the Nativity
PostPosted: 24 Dec 2011, 11:54 
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Thankyou all for accompanying me on my journey around the world. I do hope that you have all enjoyed visiting the different countries, and thankyou for your kind comments throughout. I especially hope that Joey, you have enjoyed your advent :santa: To finish, please allow me to leave you in Austria, to enjoy a traditional Christmas with Madge, Joey and Robin - and to wish you a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year.

Christmas in Innsbruck

‘Madge! Wake up, old thing! It’s Christmas morning! Merry Christmas to you!’

Madge rolled over and blinked sleepily up at the excited face Joey bent down to hers. She had been dreaming of the wonder-music they had heard in the great Hof-Kirche the night before, when the boys’ voices, soaring up and up in almost angelic melody, had brought tears to her eyes with their poignant sweetness. Then had come the walk home through the gay, lamp-lit streets, across the old bridge, beneath which the frozen river lay silent – dead, as Joey said – and up the much quieter streets of the suburb. Sometimes, as they passed the lit-up windows of the houses, they passed the lit-up windows of the houses, gusts of melody came out to them. Through one, where the shutters had not been closed, they could catch a glimpse of a Christmas-tree, and there floated out to them the sounds of merry voices and gay laughter. By this house stood a little girl, listening to the gay noise with a wistful face. With a vague remembrance of dear Hans Andersen’s Little Match Girl, Joey the impetuous ran to her, and pressed what was left of her money into the purple hands. ‘Run!’ she cried eagerly. ‘There are heaps of shops open still! Do go and get something to eat now!’

Joey spoke in English, but her tones and actions were unmistakable. The child gasped; then caught the kind little fingers pressing the paper into her own, and kissed them. ‘God bless thee!’ she cried, before galloping off at full speed.

The Tyroleans are a simple race. Joey’s little action seemed quite natural to the Mensches. Herr Mensch patted the little fur cap with a benevolent smile, and his wife said approvingly, ‘It was well done, my child! The little Christ Child will not forget!’

All this had got mixed up in Madge’s dreams, so that when Jo shook her awake she had to think for a moment before she could realise where she was. Then she sat up, shaking back her hair vigorously as she rubbed her eyes. ‘Merry Christmas, Joey!’ she said, when at length she had got her bearings. ‘Well, Robinette! Are you awake? Merry Christmas!’

The Robin stood up in her cot. ‘I give you ze greetings of Noel,’ she said solemnly. ‘Zoë, do lift me out, please.’

Joey tumbled out of bed and assisted the small person on to the floor. The Robin promptly scrambled up beside Madge, and planted a fervent kiss on to her headmistress’s pretty chin before she trotted over to the stove where the three had put their shoes the night before, so that the Christ Child might fill them. Jo was after her in a minute, and echoed the baby’s rapturous cry as she found the little shoe filled with chocolate bonbons and a tiny doll. Joey had chocolates too, and a dear little Book of Saints and Heroes, which she had long wanted. ‘Madge, you gem!’ she cried, as she opened it, and gazed at the illustrations delightedly. ‘Oh! Here’s your shoe!’

‘Oh, there’ll be nothing in mine!’ laughed Madge as she took it. Then she cried out in surprise. It was she who had filled the children’s shoes, and she had tucked a handful of chocolates into her own, but she had expected nothing else. Now, on top of the chocolates was a round flat parcel. She opened it, and there lay a little miniature of Joey, set in a narrow silver frame. ‘Joey!’ she cried. ‘Where did you get this?’

‘Miss Durrant did it,’ explained Jo through a mouthful of chocolate. ‘She said I was to give it to you when we were by ourselves; so I thought I’d shove it into your shoe. Do you like it?’

‘Like it!’ Madge’s eyes glowed as she looked from Joey of the picture to the pyjamaed figure curled up beside her in bed. ‘It is just what I most wanted, and exactly like you!’

Jo considered it with her head on one side. ‘No one on earth could call me beautiful, could they?’ she said with unexpected wistfulness in her voice.

‘No,’ said Madge truthfully; ‘they couldn’t. You wouldn’t be Joey if you were, either; we’d have to call you “Josephine”!’

‘I’d like to hear you!’ retorted Joey indignantly. ‘I shouldn’t answer.’

‘Oh, yes; you would if you had to! I’d see to that!’ laughed Madge.

‘Well, it can’t happen – mercifully! I hate it when you call me “Josephine”! I always know you’re going to rag me about something.’

‘Exactly!’ Madge’s tone was dry. ‘Well, now, you’re going to get up and get dressed. Hurry up about it, too!’

Joey chuckled and tumbled out of bed. ‘What frock shall I put on?’ she demanded presently, as she stood in her short white petticoat brushing her hair. ‘My brown velvet?’

‘No,’ replied her sister, who was dressing the Robin. ‘You’ll find your frock over there, on the chair.’

‘Madge!’ Joey made two wild leaps across the floor, and stood enraptured before the little silky frock of soft dull green which lay over the back of the chair. ‘Oh! What a gorgeous colour! Where did it come from?’

‘Dick sent the stuff, ages ago,’ replied Madge. ‘Mademoiselle made it for you, and embroidered it too. Like it?’

‘It’s beautiful!’ Joey took it up with almost reverent fingers, looking admiringly at the exquisite embroideries in darker shades of green, gold, and dull pinks.

‘Put it on,’ said her sister. ‘I want to see how it looks.’

Joey slipped it on, adjusting it with quick, delicate fingers that had the Latin gift of making a garment sit right. Then she turned round. The little frock suited her. The soft green brought out the faint flush of colour in her cheeks, and the pink of the embroideries helped too. It was very simply made, with a short skirt and a round neck, and the silky material fell in graceful folds, which helped to hide her angles.

Madge nodded. ‘Yes; you’ll do,’ she said. ‘Now for your frock, Robin. Here we are!’

The Robin’s frock, of the same silk, was a warm crimson, and had holly leaves embroidered round the hems of skirt, sleeves, and neck in very dark green. Madge had tied up her hair with a big dark-green bow, and with her rosy face and velvety eyes she looked like a Christmas fairy.

‘What have you got, Madge?’ asked Joey when she had exhausted all her adjectives over the Robin. ‘You’ve got something pretty too, haven’t you?’

Madge nodded and waved her hand to a frock of vivid jade colour. ‘There you are – I hope it meets with your approval!’

‘It’s topping!’ said Joey. ‘Do buck up and get into it! I think they’re gorgeous presents, and Dick’s a dear!’

‘Oh, these are just extras,’ laughed Madge as she twisted up her pretty curly hair at express speed. ‘Dick’s real presents are – but you’ll see later!’

‘Are what?’ Joey pounced on her. ‘Do tell me, Madge!’

‘Not one word! Get out of my way, Joey, or we shall be late for breakfast!’

‘Well, tell me this: Is it nice?’

‘Is what nice?’ asked her sister in muffled tones as she slipped into her frock. ‘The presents?’

‘No; the surprise part of the business!’

‘I don’t know. I’ve never spent Christmas in the Tyrol any more than you have. Hang up your pyjamas to air and come along.’

They filed into the Speisesaal just as the bell rang for Frühstück, to find Frau Mensch and the girls already there in full Tyrolean dress. Frau Mensch wore the black full skirt gown of the elder women, with a soft white lace kerchief knotted under the square-cut neck, and heavily embroidered apron of fine white linen. Bernhilda and Frieda had shorter skirts, and their dresses were dark green. Both wore their long flaxen hair in the double braids typical of the Tyroleans, and both looked as if they had just stepped out of a fairy tale. Jo cried out with delight when she saw them. ‘Oh, how jolly!’ she exclaimed. ‘What topping dresses!’

‘Froliche Weihnachtsfest!’ said Frieda, dancing up to her friend and giving her a hearty kiss. ‘Do you like our dresses, then? It is to please Grossmutter that we wear it. She joins us to-day, you know. Papa and Gottfried are carrying her into the salon now, and we shall go there when we have finished Frühstück.’

Meanwhile, Frau Mensch had been greeting her other guests, and leading them to their seats at the table. ‘My sister is with my mother-in-law,’ she explained; ‘and here come my husband and Gottfried.’

Herr Mensch and his son were also in national costume, wit the well-known green knee-breeches, belt with huge filigree silver buckle, full-sleeved white shirt, and green jacket. Their stockings were light fawn, and their shoes had big silver buckles. It was a dress that suited them both, and Joey voiced the feelings of her sister when she said, ‘It’s like Hans Andersen, or Snow White and Rose Red come to life!’

Herr Mensch’s deep laughter rumbled through the room at that, but Gottfried looked uncomfortable and shy. He was not accustomed to being likened to fairy-tale heroes. Luckily, Gertlieb brought in the coffee just then, so they sat down to breakfast. When the meal was over, the girls helped to clear away, and then to tidy the room, after which they went into the salon.

‘No one must go to the part we have hung curtains before,’ said Frau Mensch. ‘That will not be looked at till to-night. But we will sing carols, and Grossmutter will tell us stories of her youth. This afternoon we will hire a sleigh and go for a long drive into the country, if the snow has ceased; but now it falls heavily.’

She was right. It was coming down almost like a blizzard. If it had been a fine morning, Madge had intended taking Joey to the English service held in one of the rooms at the Tiroler Hof Hotel; but it was out of the question now.

‘You shall sing to us your English carols,’ said Herr Mensch, who had guessed at the disappointment the English girls felt. ‘Sonntag, perhaps it will be fine, and then you can worship at your own service.’

He led the way into the salon, where Tante Luise sat with a little old woman. Very, very old she looked, with a face full of wrinkles, and snow-white hair under her fine muslin mutch; but her eyes were bright, and still blue; and when she smiled, she showed a set of teeth any girl might have envied. She was, indeed, one of the old school. Her granddaughters curtsied to her as they wished her ‘Frohliche Weihnachtsfest,’ then Bernhilda took Joey by the hand and led her forward. ‘This is our English friend, Josephine Bettany, Grossmutter,’ she said.

Something in the old lady’s bearing seemed to impel Joey to curtsy, and she made her prettiest curtsy too.

‘She is well-mannered,’ observed old Frau Mensch – ‘Exactly as though I couldn’t understand!’ said Joey indignantly afterwards – ‘and she has a modest bearing.’

Madge nearly choked over this, but Frau Mensch was introducing her, and under the circumstances she felt that she couldn’t do better than follow her small sister’s example, which pleased the old dame enormously. She patted a chair by her side and said, ‘You may sit here, mein Fraulein, and we will talk.’

The autocratic Miss Bettany, Head of the Chalet School, meekly took the seat assigned to her, and then it was the Robin’s turn. Old Frau Mensch looked at her with softened eyes. ‘Das Engelkind,’ she murmured. Then she turned abruptly to Madge. ‘I had a little daughter like that once,’ she said. ‘Der Liebe Gott gave her to me sixty-seven years ago on this very day. Sixty years ago on this very day He took her away to spend Christmas in Paradise. I pray that you, Fraulein, may never know such loss. My sons are good sons; but I can still hear my little Natalie’s baby feet, and feel the clasp of her arms as I laid her down when she had wished me Frohliche Weihnachtsfest for the last time.’

The Robin came up to the old lady’s knee. ‘Mamma is in Paradise also,’ she said. ‘Papa is very far away in Russia; but Tante Marguerite looks after me. Perhaps my mamma is playing with your little girl.’

‘It may be so,’ said old Frau Mensch. ‘Sit on that little stool, mein Liebling, and I will tell thee tales of when I, too, was a little maiden – nearly ninety years ago.’

They sat down, and she began. And what tales she told them!

Tales of a little girl who lived in Innsbruck when Prince Metternich was an idol of the people, and Austria ruled Northern Italy. Tales of the days when children were not allowed to sit in the presence of their parents; when all little girls learnt to spin and wave; when Innsbruck was merely a name to most of the Western peoples of the Continent, and the only means of travelling was by coach. They heard of the wonderful doll’s house made by a busy father in his few moments of leisure, with all the furniture beautifully carved, and real baby chests filled with house-hold linen spun and woven by the mother who was strict over many things, but loved to indulge her one little daughter in this way. All the dolls had been of wood, too, by they made up for what they lacked in beauty by the wonderful assortment of their clothes. Grossmutter told them, too, of one terrible winter spent in Vienna when the cold was so severe that the wolves came howling round the city walls, and the poor died like flies. ‘We get no winters like that now,’ she said. ‘It was cold- so cold! I was not allowed to go outside for fear I should be frost-bitten, and the great stoves had roaring fires in them day and night. I can remember old Klaus creeping into my room during the night to put more billets of wood into the stove, and coming to pull my plumeau closer over me.

‘How thrilling!’ said Joey. ‘Are there wolves in Austria still, please?’

‘But yes, my child. But it needs very bitter weather to bring them to the towns from the forests. You need not fear.’

‘I am not afraid,’ said Jo truthfully. ‘Only it’s interesting to know someone to whom these things have happened.’

‘And it would be bears at the Tiern See, not wolves,’ added her Mensch, who was seated on the other side of the stove, smoking his long china-bowled pipe, and listening contentedly to his mother’s stories. ‘Do not weary yourself, Mamachen, telling these naughty ones your interesting stories. – Shall we not sing a carol, my children?’

Bernhilda rose at once and went to the piano, and they sang Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, and Adeste Fideles, and several other carols. Then Frau Mensch said smiling, ‘And now Joey will song for us, nicht wahr?’

‘Rather! if you want me to, that is,’ replied Joey. ‘What shall I sing?’

‘Sing “The Little Lord Jesus,”’ pleaded Frieda. ‘I love it so much!’

Madge went to the piano, and Joey stood facing them all, and sang with round
golden notes, as sweet as any chorister’s, Martin Luther’s cradle hymn:

‘Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head:
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay –
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.’


When she finished, Frau Mensch wiped her eyes. ‘It is very beautiful,’ she said seriously. ‘Now I must go and see to my goose that it may be cooked properly!’ And, with this funny mingling of the artistic and the matter-of-fact, she went off to overlook Gertlieb’s attentions to the goose.

‘Sing to us again, my child,’ said Herr Mensch. ‘There is time for one more song before we are called to Mittagessen.’

So Joey sang again, ‘The Seven Joys of Mary,’ and then, since there was still time, the old Coventry carol, ‘Lullay, thou little tiny Child,’ with its quaint little refrain of ‘By, by, lully, lullay.’

A frantic fantasia on the bell by Gertlieb summoned them to the Speisesaal after this, and they had a magnificent dinner, even though the English Christmas pudding was wanting. The home-made sausages were far nicer than anything the Bettanys had ever tasted in England, and the goose was a miracle of good cooking. The meal was finished off with raisins, nuts, and grapes; and a big box of crackers, which Madge had shyly offered Frau Mensch the day before.

‘Now to get ready for our drive,’ said Herr Mensch. ‘The snow has ceased, and it freezes hard; so wrap up warmly, every Mädchen.’

There was a rush and a scramble to get into woollies and furs, and old Frau Mensch was to be heard reminder son that he must take many rugs and hot bricks, and be sure that all were warm.

‘Isn’t this gorgeous fun?’ giggled Joey as she snuggled down between Frieda and Bernhilda, with the Robin wedged in, in front of them, while Herr Mensch and Gottfried tucked in the bearskins round them. ‘O-o-o-oh! Listen to the bells! Isn’t it topping!’

‘Glorious!’ agreed her sister as a loaded sleigh drawn by two horses dashed past, the bells on the harness making silvery music in the snowy world. ‘Joey, are you sure you are warm enough?’

‘I’m cooked!’ declared Joey. ‘I couldn’t get on another thing if you paid me for it.’

‘Josephine,’ said Aunt Luise’s voice, ‘here is my fur-lined cloak for you. We cannot have you ill at Christmas-time.’

Joey groaned aloud. ‘I can’t get out,’ she said.

But Aunt Luise was in the sleigh, fastening the great cloak round her, and tucking its folds well over her. ‘No,’ she said, ‘we cannot run any risk of bad colds. Now you will be safe, I think.’

She climbed down, and went back to the house, while Gottfried got into the diver’s seat with his father beside him. Frau Mensch and Madge sat facing the girls, and an extra run or two was tucked into the bottom of the sleigh under the hot bricks which were to keep their feet warm. Aunt Luise was not going, for someone had to stay with old Frau Mensch, and Gertlieb was to have two hours off to go and see her mother, and take her Christmas gifts to her brothers and sisters.

‘She is a god girl,’ said Frau Mensch as they drove off towards the bridge; ‘so I give her more freedom than most get, and she is always grateful and repays me for it by working harder for a little holiday. Next week I shall give her a whole half-day and a gift of money so that she may enjoy herself.’

Madge though of their own maid in England, who had demanded Christmas and Boxing Day in addition to her Sunday and weekly half-day, but she held her tongue. She knew that Gertlieb considered herself very fortunate, and that Frau Mensch, while she demanded much work from the girl, was a kind mistress, and never overdrove her servants.

They were going at a fine rate now. The horses were young and in excellent condition, and Gottfried was a good driver. They had left eh main streets of the city, and were driving through the suburbs in the direction of the Brenner Road. Other sleighs were going in the same direction, and the usually quiet streets were gay with the jingle of sleigh-bells, the shouting of merry voices, and, here and there, bursts of song, as sleigh-loads of young men went flying along. All round lay the mountains, beautiful and remote in their snow-clad splendour, and over all the grey sky, heavy with snow yet to fall.

Herr Mensch, pointing to it, turned round. ‘We dare not go far,’ he shouted. ‘I had hoped to make the expedition to Bern Isel, but it will not be safe with that sky. We must return when we have reached Wilten. See, Fraulein, that is our University Klinik – where we take the sick. Now we shall turn out of the streets, and it is the country. Over there lies our cemetery, which we shall soon, pass; and we return from Wilten by the road that winds out into the country, past he Exercier Platz and along the banks of the river.’

Madge nodded. She was enjoying the drive as she had never enjoyed anything. Innsbruck under snow has a loveliness all its own, and out here in the country she felt as though she were living in a story.

‘Christmas-card land!’ laughed Joey. ‘This is topping – the jolliest ride I ever had! Just look at those trees!’

All too soon they reached Wilten, and there Gottfried turned the horses; heads to the west, driving towards the river. Just as they reached the Exercier Platz, which lay bare and white under its covering of snow, the first great flakes began to drift slowly down from the skies, and by the time they reached the bridge they were enveloped in a whirling white mist, which made driving difficult. Luckily they had not very far to go, and ten minutes later they drew up before the tall house in the Mariahilfe suburb, where Aunt Luise was standing at the door, looking anxiously out for them.

Herr Mensch and Gottfried carried the younger girls across the snow into the house, and they reached upstairs, thrilling wildly; for now there was coffee, and then – then there was the Christmas-tree and their presents. Frieda, Joey, and the Robin were so excited they could hardly eat anything, and Frau Mensch, laughingly remarking that they must make up for it at Abendessen, led the way into the salon, where the curtains had all been taken down and the Christmas-tree in all its blazing glory in tinsel, glass toys, candles and frosting stood before them.

‘Oh!’ gasped Joey. ‘How beautiful!’

Bernhilda laughed. ‘It is a lovely tree, mamma – the best we have ever had. It is like the tree in the book of Marchen!’

Then Joey noticed that all the little tables in the house were set in a row, and that each was covered with parcels. A card gave the name of each owner, and Frieda was pulling her towards the one marked ‘Joey,’ while Herr Mensch had carried the Robin to another, where the doll she and Madge had got the day before sat smiling at her new mamma.

It was thrilling work opening the parcels. Frieda was in raptures over her fountain-pen, and Frau Mensch exclaimed with delight at Madge’s collar and Joey’s bracket, while her husband regarded the fretwork pipe-rack with rather a puzzled air.

Jo herself found books, perfume, sweets, a Kodak, a paint-box, and a fountain-pen like Frieda’s. Madge was rejoicing over a copy of Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, and a string of fine amber beads; and the Robin sat on the floor cuddling her dolly, and alternately admiring a set of doll’s furniture and a toy town.

It was nine o’clock before everyone had thoroughly examined everything, and finished exclaiming over it and thanking the giver. By that time, supper was ready. When it was over, the Robin was carried off to bed by Madge, nodding like a sleepy fairy, while Jo and Frieda followed, clutching all their new possessions. When midnight came the elders went too. Joey woke up as her sister switched on the light. ‘Hullo!’ she said sleepily. ‘Hasn’t it been a glorious day?’

‘Hssh!’ said Madge warningly, coming over and sitting down on the bed beside her. ‘Don’t wake the Robin.’

But Jo was asleep once more, and Madge hurried up to join her as she lay dreaming of her first Christmas in the Tyrol.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Austria
PostPosted: 24 Dec 2011, 12:35 
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That was lovely, Santa. Thank you for allowing us all to share this drabble with Joey. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Austria
PostPosted: 24 Dec 2011, 15:36 
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Thank you Santa for the fantastic journey around the world. I've loved every minute of the journey, and what a fitting place to end it in the Tyrol :D

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Austria
PostPosted: 26 Dec 2011, 23:06 
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Joined: 20 Sep 2004, 18:32
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Oh Santa, what a wonderful way to end the tour! Thank you so much for my extended Christmas present. I've enjoyed it so much.

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 Post subject: Re: Around the World - A Drabble for Joey - Austria
PostPosted: 28 Dec 2011, 19:02 
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Thank you Santa, I've really enjoyed learning about all the different Christmas customs. Finishing off with the first Christmas in Tyrol was wonderful.


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