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The Twelve Days of (Spoiled) Christmastide

Robert Saint-Leger

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On the First Day of Christmas


The hazel-eyed little Lord Beverley was not much more than a wee hazelnut: thin, active, chipper, and small. Thinner than advisable if one wished to know the truth, but the boy of about six did not like to eat and had to be bribed extensively to eat properly. It had been a long day for the boy-viscount who had (mostly) behaved all through their private Mass that they held at their Kent Estate, Leeds Castle, with some of the local Catholic, gentle families. He had done well with his prayers and responses, his little tongue far from a poetic Latin, but he knew the words although it was rather up for interpretation whether he understood them in the very least. The boy had held on to his mother's hand or skirt nearly the entire time, looking wide-eyed at some of the people he did not know, staying abnormally close to both his parents.


Interesting enough neither seemed to discourage little Beverley's dependence and any who knew the Saint-Legers, knew why: they had buried a number of male babies and little boys. Lady Brooke was most assuredly past the age of birthing any more children, so Beverley was their last and only hope at an heir surviving to inherit his father's titles. He was indulged, especially as he was not the healthiest child either, frequently to bed with upset stomach, wet chills, and vomiting.


It was anyone's guess whether or not the child had learned to use his ailments as an excuse or to escape punishment, but whether or not it was purposeful, it was often effective.


Long after a day of prayer and merriment, Beverley should have been long asleep, his mother having also retired to her bedchamber, but the boy had traversed the distance from his rooms to his Papa's sitting room late into the evening. He had slippers on the wrong feet and his little robe inside out, toting his favorite toy soldier. Beverley had obviously given his attendants the slip when they were asleep, something not likely to please Brooke with his household, knowing what could happen to the little boy if he tried to go anywhere other than to his father.


He slipped right in the cracked open door, and crept up toward his father in his chair by the fire.




The brandy sloshing in the glass was audible as the boy startled his father, not used to unannounced interruptions.


"Beverley," the man said, turning to look down at the boy and immediately discerning that he did not appear feverish or extensively ill and peakish. "Do we walk into places with our betters without being invited or asking leave to do so?"


A pout formed and the boy hugged his toy soldier closer, "No, My Lord? But I don't feel good. I wish to sit with you..."


"Then go back and do it right, Beverley."


Those wide hazel eyes looked back up at the man and a loud hiccup was all the response he got.


Brooke nearly told the boy that he had walked all the way there, he could walk back to the door at least and speak to his father properly, but another hiccup melted away that desire. With a heavy sigh, he put down his glass, and then plucked the boy from the floor and onto his lap. He is so light and small...




Beverley seemed to burrow against his father, his breathing moving to a threatening of tears, wrapping his wee free hand around his father's soft shirt like he was holding a blanket.


"Why did you not wake your servants and stay in your bed as you know you are to do?" he asked his son with a gentle tone of admonition as he ran a hand over the boy's unruly brown waves.


"I was scared, Papa...I do not want to be sick...I do not want to throw up..."


Hiccup. Soft tears started to follow the little jolts of his hiccups.


"You will work yourself up, Beverley. A man should not be so fearful. You do not trust in God, my son?"


Of course Beverley had little idea what his father was talking about, but he felt safer there and understood that his father was saying he should not be afraid.


His bed was so big and sometimes nobody could hear him when he was sick with those thick curtains, and it was not until he was crying and throwing up that one of his servants woke up. Sometimes he could not yell loud enough, and it was easier just to get up. And if he got up, he would rather get his papa than a servant if he could be sneaky enough.


"I trust you, Papa, and you say you speak for God to me," he parroted. He listened very well even if he did not really understand, and that second bit was something he heard Brooke say all the time. All he knew was that his father made him safe with blessings and that he should do what his father said. Which he did when the man was staring at him and speaking to him; remembering all that when he was by himself was not to happen. He was too little.


"Go to sleep, Beverley," the older man said quietly. "Papa will pray for you and watch over you." If it kept his son from throwing up and being ill, God knew, he would hold him until he was soundly asleep. He would hold him all night long if he was home and the boy was distressed and not feeling well. There was no anxiety like when Beverley was very ill. His heart could rip out of his chest; the little boy was what he had left. There was no other future. Some inconvenience was little penance to pay for a happy and healthy boy, and if that was what God wished, Brooke would be patient. He would cherish his son.


And soon enough, Beverley was asleep, coddled and indulged on his father's lap. Christmas Day was a day, after all, when one should celebrate a son.


(So gagworthy...2nd day to come)

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