…Mrs C ventured, “We just need a quiet corner to rest before going on, and a little bread and milk for the child.”
Mr C said, “We’ll be up with the sun and gone before you know it.”
Father Christmas straightened the crown of holly on his silvery hair, and Mother Madcap linked her arm through Mrs C’s and squeezed it.
“We wouldn’t think of it!” they cried together…
Guests were pouring into Father Christmas’s house both from the narrow way and the entrance that faced the main square of Vanity Fair. Father Christmas whispered a parting warning to Mr and Mrs C, “Remember, we’re all friends here, eh? So please, no solicitation… ‘er, proselytizing…” Then he hurried his wife Mother Madcap away to greet the new arrivals.
With the doors open, the foyer was filled with the scent of cold pines and whirling snow flurries. There was so much good cheer and noise, calls and greetings, that it was hard not to share in the sense of excitement.
Mr C set the child True Need upon her feet but kept hold of her hand. Mrs C smiled at those around her. Bewildered, the couple scanned the area for a place of retreat.
A hearty voice boomed, “Mr and Mrs C – my old friends!”
Major Mirth appeared, putting an arm around each. His laughter soared as if meeting them was a good joke. It was always hard to get a word in edgewise with him, so Mr and Mrs C simply smiled and nodded, while True Need peeked at him from behind Mr C’s leg.
They were moved along with the growing crowd into a large dining hall. At the center of the room stood the most elaborately decorated tree Mrs C had ever seen, its boughs laden with toys and fruit, and trinkets of every kind. The burnished floors were bright with firelight from a fireplace ablaze with a great Yule log, and scattered rugs looked like small islands of color.
The long table was set with sparkling dishes and goblets and cutlery, and delightful aromas perfumed the air – cinnamon, sage, peppermint, baking apples, and succulent roasts of every kind.
Mr C smiled at his wife. “We have to eat, Nellie, so why not join in? Let’s find a seat!”
Mrs C felt uneasy for it was all a bit too inviting. “I suppose we must eat, and the child is famished…”
They sat down and Mrs C lifted True Need onto her lap. Lady Amusement was seated nearby, flanked by admirers, beguiling everyone within earshot with her wit and infectious laughter. Fellow pilgrims were seated on either side of Mr and Mrs C, the dearest of friends – Sweet Remembrance, Blessed Fellowship, and Godly Joy.
True Need watched them as she drank from a cup of milk Mrs C held for her…