I would have been happy to lie in front of that fire forever but it seemed that Margaret had a better idea.
As I rose to build the fire up again, she pulled her robe on and handed me mine. I raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“We're getting dressed,” she said.
“We are?” I may have sounded a little petulant.
“We are.” She got to her feet and headed for the door. I followed, curious as to what she had in mind.
Once in our bedroom she told me to dress in old clothes that I wouldn't mind getting wet, then took me out into the back garden. It wasn't much of a garden at the mill house but blanketed with fresh snow, it looked beautiful.
We proceeded to build a snowman. Despite the many layers I wore, I soon grew cold. My hands and feet turned numb, my nose turned bright red and I don't believe I have ever been so cold in my life. I enjoyed every single second of it; laughing and playing, stealing the occasional kiss and creating a snowman that had rather a lopsided coal smile and spindly twigs for arms since we could find nothing larger. It would not be winning any prizes for beauty, that was certain.
After that, a snowball fight ensued and after knocking Margaret off her feet and into the soft snow, I claimed my prize as victor; a kiss. I would have claimed more but it was even too cold for me!
We returned to the house; Margaret warmed some mulled wine that Cook had left for us while I went to build up the fire in our bedroom. I stripped out of my cold, wet clothes, dried off and pulled my dressing gown on. I then laid the eiderdown from our bed on the floor in front of the fire and sat down to wait for my Margaret.
She kept me waiting quite a long time but when she returned she had a tray laden with food and drink and I rushed up to help her.
“Get changed,” I told her. “You'll catch your death if you stay in those wet clothes for much longer.”
Margaret handed the tray over to me and headed to her dressing room. I placed the tray down on the closest table and followed her through.
“John!” she cried, shocked that I had entered.
“Well since you have no lady's maid, I thought that you might want my assistance,” I smiled.
Margaret laughed at my impropriety and I reached out to take her hand.
“Margaret, you're freezing!” I admonished, grabbing up her dressing gown. “Come and stand by the fire.” My firm grip on her hand let her know that I wasn't fooling and she allowed me to lead her back to our bedroom.
Her skin was icy cold and I rubbed each area of skin that I uncovered to warm it. Margaret stood placidly and allowed my ministrations. I dried her carefully, not wanting her to suffer chapped skin and once she was dried and at least a little warmed, I held her robe out for her, which had been laying by the fire and was nice and warm.
Margaret stepped willingly into the garment and wrapped it around her as she leaned back against me.
“You do take care of me,” she said softly.
“I try,” I sounded a little tart. Truth be told I was angry at myself for not realising how cold she had become.
“I'm fine, darling. I spent many hours in the snow in Helstone and have been much more chilled than this.”
She turned in the circle of my arms and reached up to kiss me.
“Now, are we going to let this food go to waste?” she asked.
I shook my head, 'no' and we sat down on the eiderdown with the tray beside us while I examined the treats she had brought up.
There was a large plate of sandwiches, a bowl of sugar plums, another of fudge and a third of sugared almonds. There were also two slices of the Christmas pudding that Cook had left us; a carafe of mulled wine and a jug of milk.
“It will still taste good,” I assured her.
We spent the rest of the evening by the fire, venturing downstairs only once for a pot of tea and some supper. When the daylight faded we lit only two candles, rather enjoying the romantic atmosphere that the firelight gave us. We talked a lot, swapping stories from our pasts that we had not yet shared, reminiscing about our favourite Christmases past and just enjoying one another's company.
When it came time to sleep, rather than retiring to bed we doubled the large eiderdown over so it acted as a top cover and bottom sheet, then fetched our pillows from the bed and went to sleep in front of the fireplace.
To be continued...
© Catherine Winchester 2011. All rights reserved.