Well, it has been quite of month of merry making and preparations in Pageant Wagon Village! Everyone has been abuzz with Christmas cheer – happy to herald the seasons festive celebrations marking the birth our our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – with all the icons of memory making traditions passed from generation to generation. Decorations, Christmas carols, family and friends taking meals together, cookie baking, cheerful giving, silent reflection . . .
All this and more has been the order of the day for our friend, Madge Pumphries.
Mrs. Pumphries, you will remember, we met about a month ago in a bit of a quandry as to finding the very perfect gift for her dear friend, Beryl Beadle.
And, to be sure, Beryl was in just the very same dilemma – and had, unfortunately – mentioned same to the good Lottie Livingston who made it her business to micromanage just about everyone she knew – being of the practical and – ahem – well seasoned – time of life.
Do refresh your memory on this backstory, please, by clicking HERE . . .
Presently, we are less than a week before the big day – and just ONE day away from the festive Wednesday evening mid-week service at church when our Mrs. Pumphries and Mrs. Beadle are due to exchange their gifts – neither much nearer their goal.
For Mrs. Pumphries part, she has been hard at it all morning! Shopping! Strolling through the hustle and bustle of Pageant Wagon Village . . .
She took time to listen to the village carolers filling the main square with the sounds of Christmas cheer, positioned, as they are each year, at the foot of the walking bridge.
She tapped her foot and hummed along with Angels from Realms of Glory, pausing to consider, “Oh! Why this is dear Beryl’s favorite carol!”
“She always loved the line that sings:
She wondered if perhaps the Christmas Shoppe in town might have a music box with this chorus! That would be a lovely gift, she thought. However, upon her arrival at the shoppe . . .
She found advertisements and gift furnishings more in keeping with toys and dolls.
And, though there were music boxes to be had in the fancies and novelties section, none captured her heart as that which would be cherished by her friend.
A stroll past the Vaudeville Show at Tony & Sarah Starr’s Theatrical Emporium gave her the thought that perhaps show tickets might be a different gift this year.
Or, perhaps this year’s theatrical adaptation of A Christmas Carol by the Pageant Wagon Players would be a better choice.
But, no. The play’s the thing on occasion – but, she was looking for something a little more intimate. Something that encapsuled their friendship.
Even the tailor’s shop was a disappointment.
Oh, the proprietors – the Goodfellow sisters, Ida and Madeline – tried their best to show off their wares – and especially the delights to be had on the special sale rack – but . . . no . . . be it shoulder wrap or bonnet, kid gloves or lace collar, naught was to be found that had Beryl’s name on it.
Dr. Eucalyptus Jones, the traveling medicine man, was in town with his many cures for any and all ailments. He had almost convinced Madge – through his persuasive speeches and impressive vocabulary – that Snake Oil would be the way to go this season.
However, his manner was somewhat reminiscent of dear Lottie Livingston – and therefore – easily dismissed by Madge, who continued on her way.
Passing the village clock tower, Captain Gwendolyn Lovejoy and the Salvation Army Band added to the town center merriment with a bells, trumpet, and drum rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
Madge wished them all well and generously donated to the tripod pot in the familiar Christmas red. What a grand ministry the Salvation Army is in their village – and most especially – in the capable words of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol:
To be sure, Mrs. Pumphries was NOT a Scrooge. Whispering a silent prayer for those in need, she blessed Mrs. Lovejoy for her efforts and strolled on wondering still as to how she might find the fill for her own need just now – a gift for Beryl Beadle.
Beryl was ever thoughtful in her own gifting. Why, most recently, she had made Madge a present of a brand new Brown Betty teapot – the hand made tradition in English tea brewing made in England at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
What a delightful brew came from this red-ware rounded pot with the Rockingham glaze whose origins date to the late 17th century.
As the boiling water is poured into the pot, the leaves are swirled about in a circular motion drawing out the most enhanced of flavors as it steeps. A much loved tea gift for a much loved friend, this had been, from Beryl to Madge. However, as Beryl already owned her own Brown Betty – Madge could not return the gift in kind.
With tea on the brain, it was no wonder that Madge was feeling a little thirst and chill being in the seasonal out of doors. A cuppa would do her just fine. Around the corner was that little cafe and bookshop . . .
Certainly not the elegance of the Mistletoe Tea Shop, the favorite tea-stop for all the village ladies – but, they did brew any number of leaf teas in addition to coffee, in a cozy bookshop atmosphere. Tea and perhaps biscotti might be just the thing to rejuvenate and inspire her for the task.
But, what’s this? Madge runs right into – you guessed it – Beryl Beadle!
“My dear! I was just thinking of you!” exclaimed Madge.
“To be sure,” trilled Beryl, “I was just thinking of you, too!”
Laughter all around as the two friends chose to take tea together seeing it as the most sensible course of action in light of their Providential meeting.
Once inside the shop, a warm fire thawed their fingers and they glanced about the stores of coffee, tea, mugs, cups, and accessories for sale on a series of shelves near the tea hutch opposite the bookcases filled with the latest holiday editions of the aforementioned Dickens, George MacDonald, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and, of course, dear Jane of Austen fame.
“Oh! How lovely!” The words chorused from them both at the same instant, as their eyes lighted upon two distinct teacups for sale on the shelf . . .
Beryl had exclaimed over this lovely Aynsley in burgundy red, boasting a surprise bouquet of roses at the bottom of the cup . . .
While Madge was enraptured by a Rosina cup in the mintiest of green backgrounds bedecked with golden yellow and holly-berry red roses!
It took a minute for each to realize what they were individually remarking about – but, when the light dawned on them respectively, they stopped immediately and smiled warmly at each other.
“Yes, it is a lovely little shop, don’t you think, dear?” said Madge, attempting to divert Beryl’s attention.
“In no uncertain terms,” Beryl agreed, happy for the distraction, “it is the sweetest bit of a place. Do, let’s order!”
“We’ll sit all the way over there!” Madge suggested. It seemed most expedient to Madge to situate themselves as far from the teacup prey, in an effort to keep her sudden inspiration secret. You see, Madge was now determined to purchase that Aynsley burgandy rose cup as the perfect gift for Beryl before their teatime was out.
Of, course, Beryl was just as determined to do the same with the Rosina mint green cup – the perfect of presents for Madge. And, each confident in its enthusiastic reception!
Settling at a small tea table in the far corner, a festive herbal raspberry tea was ordered with a side of anise biscotti and chocolate-raspberry mints for the sweet.
The eager anticipation for a warm cup of tea in their hands was usurped by the greater anticipation of their teacup purchase.
“If you’ll excuse me, my dear . . . there was a book over there that I wanted to check the title of. It might be just the thing for Uncle Chester.” Madge, proud of her clever ruse, casually strolled to a bookshelf and removed – without looking – Lady Godey’s Women’s Annual from the shelf, waved nonchalantly at Beryl – who smiled back – and continued towards the counter as though making a serious inquiry concerning the book.
A book for Uncle Chester, indeed! In fact, Madge was giving orders to have the Aynsley gift wrapped and delivered that very day to her home where she would finally have conquered her quest for Beryl’s gift.
Meanwhile, Beryl, under no suspicion at all as to her friend’s clandestine activity, was hatching a plot of her own. Upon Madge’s return, she suddenly stood in supposed alarm. “Dear me! I must be sure to purchase some lump sugar! I have barely a day’s ration left, and should company drop by tomorrow with no lump sugar in the house, I could not bear the horror of it!”
Swiftly, Beryl strode to the counter and conducted her lump sugar business – with a little side instruction to the clerk as to the proper wrapping and delivery of the Rosina teacup. Satisfied that she had met her challenge sufficiently, she returned to Madge and the two passed a happy, chatty teatime together.
Oh! What a glorious thing – sipping tea with a friend amid warm ambiance and the joy of knowing you shall bless your friend’s heart in such a special way . . . with a special gift.
How very like the heart of God, sending His only Son on Christmas day.
God, in the Flesh – He Who would save us from our sin and restore us to right relationship with our Creator God. How joyful – like a child – might the heart of God been at the anticipation of how such a Gift might be received in the hands of a sinful recipient. Though not all have so joyfully received God’s great Gift – to those who have, giving at Christmas is ever the greater joy than receiving.
Madge and Beryl know this only too well . . .
Hope you do, too . . .
Merry Christmas and Happy Teatime this Christmas week!
Sharing this On the Town with Tea with:
Bernideen’s Tea Time
Trish’s LACE Wednesday at Lily-Rose Cottage