I would LOVE if the club critiqued this.
The sitting room at Elm Manor was a bright apartment. It was a very modern room and all the decorations and furniture were the latest fashion. The windows, reaching from the towering ceiling to the cherry mahogany hardwood floor and swathed in lacy white curtains, let in vast amounts of the December sun. They looked out upon the drive which had a small pond in the center surrounded by a circular bed of flowers. Within this room, sofas and armchairs of olive green color complemented the mahogany trim and doorframes. A cherry mahogany fireplace was against the adjacent wall with a warm fire crackling in it.
Within this pleasant room sat a rather regal looking woman with a young child of about ten seated on a stool by her side. The woman, Mrs. Davis, was teaching her daughter, Maria, how to crotchet and the little child was becoming impatient. Maria was the youngest of four child and was especially spoiled by all who knew her.
“Why don’t you take a quick break, dear.” Mrs. Davis said at last as Maria’s temper started to rise. “You can run down to the kitchen and see if Nan has a treat for you.”
Maria rose eagerly. “Thank you, mamma!” she exclaimed running off to ask the cook for a morsel to eat.
After Maria had left the room, her oldest sibling Isabel entered and leaned against the mahogany door frame. “May I go to the city, Mamma?” she asked blinking in the bright sunlight.
“Stand up straight, dear,” Mrs. Davis said firmly from her armchair throne. “Yes, you may. Could you please fetch me some yarn to match this?” she asked handing her daughter a tiny spool of yarn.
Isabel straightened quickly, reaching for the yarn. “Yes. I’ll be back in an hour.” She said turning to go.
“Good. Jon would like us to decorate the tree before dinner.” Mrs. Davis said referring to her husband, Isabel’s stepfather.
Isabel agreed before turning to run upstairs to change for her trip to the city. Her nurse, Martha, changed Isabel’s plain house dress to a fancier pale pink gown and helped her with a warm wrap. Soon she was climbing into her carriage that had been brought around to the front door by the groom, Sampson, and she was on her way.
The city was a bustle with people carrying out their business with greetings of “Merry Christmas!” and joyous smiles. The store fronts were draped with deep green evergreen boughs and red ribbon. In some windows, paper snowflakes hung, helping to spread the feeling of joy at the nearness of Christmas.
After procuring the necessary articles, Isabel was preparing to step into her carriage when a familiar boyish voice spoke behind her.
“Miss Isabel. It’s good to see you.” Russell, a tall boy with shaggy, thick, honey blonde hair, greeted her as he took Isabel’s hand and bowed formally.
Isabel smiled. “You don’t have to act like that with me, Russell. We’re cousins.” She said inwardly feeling proud that he treated her like a lady.
“I just like to see the look on your face when I do.” Russell explained still holding her gloved hand.
“What face?” Isabel asked curiously.
Russell shook his head helplessly. “I don’t know how to explain it.” He said shyly.
“Hey, Isabel.” Another tall boy greeted her as he crossed the street. He had shorter honey blonde hair that he kept neatly styled. His sapphire eyes sparkled with fun. “What are you doing in the city today?”
“Just fetching some yarn and such to finish some Christmas presents. What about you, Kevin?” Isabel responds to Russel’s younger brother.
“I’m just tagging along with Russell because I have nothing better to do. How are your brothers?” Kevin asked.
Isabel groaned. “Don’t get me started.” She warned shaking her head.
“What did they do this time?” Russell asked seemingly not at all surprised by her response.
Isabel immediately launched into a rant about everything her younger brothers had done to her since she had last seen her step-cousins. The two boys listened with traces of smiles on their faces. This type of rave wasn’t new to them, it happened almost every time they saw her.
“What I understand is that you’re not exactly pleased with them right now.” Kevin said when Isabel stopped talking.
Isabel shook her head vigorously. “Am I ever?” she asked half joking.
Kevin chuckled. “Not that I know of.” He replied.
“Any way, we have to go. I told papa that we’d be back soon.” Russell said pulling out his silver pocket watch. “I just wanted say hello.”
“Oh. Well tell Uncle Mark and Aunt Amy hello for me.” Isabel said disappointedly.
Russell agreed before helping her climb into her waiting carriage. “Catch you later, Isabel,” he called as he turned to go.
Isabel watched as he and Kevin crossed the street, mounted their steeds, and cantered off. They were soon lost to sight amongst the shoppers, buggies and horses that crowded the market place. ‘Russell sure rides like a gentleman.’ She noticed. ‘He sits a lot better then he used to.’ She thought recalling with a smile one of their rides when he got bucked off.
Isabel reached home just in time for the midday meal and after that event was over the family and servants gathered in the seldom used drawing room for the big event of that season. Decorating the enormous fir tree that had been brought in earlier that day by one of the servants.
Bowls of fluffy popcorn, golden nuts, and crimson raisins were set out on the beautifully carved cherry mahogany fireplace along with strong thread and sewing needles. Other supplies were also set around the room to make decorations.
“We’re going to have the best tree ever!” Isabel’s youngest brother, Ivan, said excitedly. He ran to the waiting pile of paper. “I’m making the snowflakes.”
Jon laughed. “You say that every year and you always say our tree is the best ever!” he said reaching for the scissors.
Mrs. Davis seated herself in a fancy maroon armchair and took on the job of supervising the fun. “Don’t hang a snowflake there, dear,” She said addressing Maria. “When the candles get lit, it will be scorched. Why don’t you hang closer to me?” she suggested.
“Brenda, would you like me to hang the candles right away?” Jon asked his wife from his seat on the floor with Ivan. The two of them were busily snipping the sheets of white paper into beautiful snowflakes. Zack was helping to decorate some of them with paint, yarn, and glitter.
“Yes please.” Mrs. Davis responded as her husband rose. “They should be in that box by the door. Cato.” She said to the dark servant hovering in the doorway. “Take Isabel and hang the pine sheaths on the doors.”
Cato nodded his dusky head eagerly as Isabel followed him from the room.
“Cato, can you help me decorate the staircase? I can’t handle a garland alone.” Isabel asked after all the sheaths had been hung on the main gate and various doors around the house.
“Yes missy. Ol’ Cato is jus’ de man to help you.” Cato agreed following her back to the drawing room.
After obtaining permission to decorate the rest of the house, Cato and Isabel had their afternoon’s work set out for them. The winding staircase was done first and soon it had been swathed in a red velvet ribbon and evergreen branches. huge red bows graced the bottom posts along with sprigs of red berries. Russet pine cones were nestled at intervals in the evergreen.
The main sitting room was tackled next and when the two were down it did indeed look like a work of art. Above the plain mahogany fireplace bows of fir were hung. The two golden candelabra rested on a snowy white cloth and had a garland of red berries wrapped among and around them with a pile of green needles and brown pinecones between. The curtains rods were entwined with deep green garlands and their original olive green tiebacks had been replaced with large red velvet ribbon bows. The door frame was draped with another green garland, a string of berries and a few pieces of red ribbon.
The front of the house and veranda however topped it all. It is true that Cato and Isabel spent a great deal of time to make it so. In and around the lattice at the top of the tall white pillars they draped a garland of berries that was intertwined with a fir one. Around each post was tied a big red bow that held up a string of more pinecones. The lower porch lattice was the same as the top except that the loops were more generous and there were two different sets. Around each pillar about half way up was hung a beautiful red candle. They would be lit Christmas eve to welcome all the family back home from the dance. At intervals along the railing, mounds of pine cones were set, each of them carefully secured to prevent the wind from blowing them down.
The tree was a beautiful object in itself. Garlands of scarlet raisins and snowy popcorn wound around and through the thick green needles. Several sparkling, paper snowflakes hung from their red yarn loops. The base was surrounded by fluffy white cotton and a scattering of piney smelling needles and cones. A shiny tinsel star topped the tree, barely clearing the lofty white ceiling. Scattered periodically around the front of the tall tree were dozens of tall slender white candles. Although they were not yet lit, they already supplied a Christmassy effect.
“Our whole house is the most beautiful in the world!” Ivan exclaimed after making a complete trip around the mansion.
“I’d have to agree, Ivan, although I haven’t seen every house in the world yet.” Jon granted looking approvingly around him.
Mrs. Davis rose from her imposing armchair. “Did you array the company dining room, Isabel?” she questioned turning to face her daughter who had just entered the drawing room.
“No, mamma. I’ll do that now.” Isabel said her skirts swishing as she turned quickly. She found Cato in the entryway and enlisted his help.
The fancy dining room looked similar to the drawing and sitting rooms although on the back each cherry mahogany chair a green garland and red velvet bow was hung. Down the center of the long mahogany table were several silver candelabra, each one holding five tall, slender red candles. They were surrounded by a huge green garland with red bows on the ends.
“Thank you for doing most of the decorating, dear,” Mrs. Davis said to her daughter after inspecting the dining room.
Isabel smiled. “I’m happy to help.” She replied turning go upstairs to her room. When she reached the seclusion of her room, Isabel threw herself, rather unladylike, upon her bed. She sighed and let her hair down in relief. She hated having her tied up and whenever her mamma wasn’t looking, Isabel would let it loose.
Knowing she had an hour before the dinner bell rang, Isabel set about finishing her Christmas present for her mother. It was a shawl made of maroon colored wool trimmed with tassels and tan beads. Isabel had spent quite a bit of time before settling on this project and now it was almost finished.
Fifteen minutes before the bell rang, Martha, Isabel’s nurse, entered the room to dress her mistress for dinner.
Mrs. Davis insisted that Isabel dress as a lady at all times and Martha was under strict orders to never let her young mistress go down and mingle with the family if she was not so. After Martha replaced Isabel’s rumpled grey dress with smooth fresh blue one, she brushed and did up her nursling’s golden curls in a neat tight bun.
After the evening meal, Isabel was climbing the winding staircase to her room when Marie grabbed her hand. “Tell me a story before I go to bed.” The little child begged trying to stop her big sister.
Isabel sighed slightly annoyed at this interruption to her hoped for peaceful evening. “Fine. One story but that’s it.” She relented following her sister to her little room. Isabel watched as Marie’s nurse dressed the little girl in a cute pink and white ruffled nightgown and tucked her into bed.
“What story do you want this time?” Isabel asked after Marie was settled snuggly under her comforters.
“A princess who finds a flying pony with a sparkling mane and tail.”
Marie requested eagerly with a yawn.
“Does she live in a castle or someplace else?”
Marie thought for a minute. “In a castle that is underwater.” She decided.
Isabel considered the requirements that Marie had set before launching into her wonderful made up story of the ‘Mermaid Princess’s Pony.’ Before she had gotten very far into the asked for story, Isabel noticed that Marie was sound a sleep with a smile on her face. “At least I made her happy.” Isabel whispered pressing a kiss on one of the rosy lips before leaving the room.
Isabel retired to her own room, seated herself in her bay window and resumed her work on the beautiful shawl. After a while she glanced out at the dimly light snowy drive. The sunset was just barely peaking over the horizon and it turned the white snow beautiful hues of red, orange, and yellow. The ice covered pond in the middle of the circular drive glittered brightly despite the dim light and it created a rather pretty picture the more one looked at it.
Martha entered the room and began helping Isabel prepare for bed. “Sleep tight, missy.” Martha whispered as her dark hands tucked Isabel into her bed.
“I will. Goodnight, Martha and thank you.” Isabel smiled as Martha left the room.
Even after crawling into bed, Isabel stayed awake for a while thinking about the upcoming holiday. Would it be as much fun as the previous year? Would it be just family or would other friends stop by for the day? Maybe she would meet someone special at the Christmas eve ball. When she finally fell into a deep sleep, she didn’t awake until the sun was streaming through the curtains the next morning.