Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – The Snowman – The Finale by Gordon Le Pard


Welcome to the fifth and final part of this Christmas story – The Snowman by Gordon Le Pard

In the last chapter.. the two families worship together before serving lunch to some of the less fortunate in the village.. the engaged couple are enraptured with each other, but their fathers are concerned and make a decision to explore the matter of the missing snowman, Mr Scott and the village pond further.

The Snowman: A Christmas Story – The Finale by Gordon Le Pard.

Monday December 26th 1814

The morning was crisp and bright, the Squire and the Rector were watching as the tree was removed from the pond. The estate woodsmen had cut the stump clear and now three teams of horses had been chained to the tree and were in the process of dragging it clear of the water. Ice cracked as the horses strained, slowly it began to move.

The gentlemen were distracted as a post chaise stopped on the road behind them. A tall gentleman in a long brown coat stepped out, he walked over to see them.

“Excuse me gentlemen, can you direct me to two ladies of the name of Beddoes.”

Sir Thomas looked the brown man up and down and asked.

“Is this to do with Mr David Beddoes?”

The man looked surprised,

“What do you know of Mr Beddoes?”

“Only what I have read in the newspapers, and that he is Miss Beddoes cousin.” He paused, then continued. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Sir Thomas Scott and this is the Reverend Edward Grainger, we are the local magistrates and well acquainted with the Miss Beddoes.”

“Excellent, I am John Shallard, an officer from Bow Street, and I have come to enquire if the Miss Beddoes have any knowledge of their cousin, we believe he came here at the end of November.”

“I believe he did too.” Replied the Rector, “But do not stand out here in the cold, come into the Rectory and we will tell you all we know, then we can visit the Miss Beddoes in their cottage.”

They had just turned away from the pond when there was a shout, they turned to see a man running towards them.

“Rector,” he panted, “in the pond, I fear ‘tis a body.”

“I feared as much,” he replied, then turning to the Runner, “Come with us sir, I am afraid what we find may be of use to you in your enquiries.”

Down by the pond there was a mass of clothing bobbing in the water.

“Go and get the thatch hook from the church, that should reach. I don’t want any of you going in this water.” ordered the Rector. Shortly afterwards two men came running back carrying the long wooden pole with a hook at one end, used for pulling burning thatch from a building. It took three tries before the hook caught on the bundle and it was dragged to shore.

“It’s not one body, it’s two!” shouted one of the men.

The Rector murmured a quiet prayer as Mr Shallard bent and looked at the bodies. They seemed to be wrapped together, he stood up.

“Gentlemen, this is the strangest thing I have ever seen. These bodies are tightly wrapped together, as though one was holding onto the other. However that cannot be as one body has been dead for some time, the other but a little while.”

The Rector and Sir Thomas looked down, at the same time they said, “Michael Scott!”

“Michael Scott,” said the Bow Street Runner, “I know him as Mr Frank Gifford, he had rooms in the same building as Beddoes and Smyth. Do you know who the other man is?”

The face was horribly distorted, both the gentlemen shook their heads, then Dr Gardiner said.

“The buttons on his coat, they are missing.”

“Does that mean something?” Asked the Runner, he eased the coat open and pulled out a watch. Sir Thomas held his hand out, and looked at it closely. He showed it to the Rector, then said.

“This watch bears the monogram of David Beddoes. I suspect the body is his.”

“But why should the body of David Beddoes, who has been dead for at least a month, be grasping the body of Frank Gifford or Michael Scott, who is only recently dead?”

Summer 1815

Sir Thomas and Dr Grainger sat on a bench in his garden, looking across the village green. A flock of geese and three goats grazed peacefully.

“Where has Lady Scott taken my wife?” Asked the Rector , “She seemed so agitated, as though there was no time to lose.”

“She and Charlotte have taken your wife to Stanton House, apparently there is some problem with the colour of the cloth for the curtains in the great parlour. They are meeting the linen draper there.”

“Poor man, I pity him.” Dr Grainger paused, “The house will be ready well before the wedding.”

“I never thought it would be James that wanted to postpone the wedding, though I admire him for it. Wanting to be ordained and the Rector of Stanton before they marry.”

They looked across towards the pond again, it was covered with little white flowers.

“As though it was covered in snow,” said Sir Thomas, he paused, “do you ever wonder what happened that night?”

The Rector was silent for a moment, then he leant forward and spoke quietly, “When the door opened, I was the only one who could see clearly. For a moment I saw Michael Scott, I will never forget the terror in his eyes, then he was pulled backwards, and the door slammed.”

“Pulled, who by?” said his friend quietly.

“All I could see were arms round his body – they seemed to be made of snow.”

It suddenly seemed very cold.

©Gordon Le Pard…

There you go…. a wonderful end to this spooky and engaging Christmas story.. So if you are passing a snowman…. I strongly suggest you smile and say good morning politely.. you never know……..thanks Gordon and this would make a great TV drama..

About Gordon Le Pard.

I am a retired archaeologist, who used to work for Dorset County County, where I mapped the wrecks off the coast. A maritime archaeologist who cannot swim is unusual, but there.

I have written a great deal, on many diverse topics, from the works of an arts and crafts artist, to a fossilised beaver, from early aerial photographs to medieval sundials (the last my father considered the most boring think I had ever written).

I read a great deal, and remember a heck of a lot, this actually has a downside, if you have difficulty in forgetting! For example I will often check the end of a story to make sure it ends happily, who wants a miserable story running about in your head for the next decade or so.

My wife and I are reenactors, Regency or Victorian, and I will try most of the odd things I reconstruct. I have limits, but not many.

You can connect to Gordon

Website/Blog: https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordon.lepard

We would love your feedback… thanks Sally

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Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – The Snowman by Gordon Le Pard Part Four


Welcome to the fourth part of this Christmas story – The Snowman by Gordon Le Pard

The mystery set in 1814 deepens with the discovery that the person that they know as Mr. Scott may not be who he seems.. and there is now concern for the welfare of the cousin of the Misses Beddoes… and the snowman seems intent on pointing the participants in the right direction…

The Snowman Part Four by Gordon Le Pard

Sunday December 25th 1814

The Rev Edward Grainger scraped the ice off the parlour window to see that snowflakes were already falling from a leaden sky, the snowman was back where it had been. As on all communion Sundays he walked over to the church well before the rest of his family, though this time he was accompanied by James. As they placed the vessels on the end of the communion table James said.

“It does seem a pity not to use them more often.”

“True, but the rubric says that communion should be offered four times a year.”

“But could it not be offered more often?”

“That I do not know, perhaps at Oxford they could tell you, but now pass me the wine.”

They completed the preparations, as the villagers began to gather outside the church. Seeing them waiting for the squire the Rector walked to the door.

“Come in, Come in. Sir Thomas will not want you to freeze outside.”

The villagers looked uncertain, then the carriage from the manor arrived, as Sir Thomas got out he shook his head.

“For goodness sake, why didn’t you wait in the church, it is much too cold out here.” He took his wife’s arm as she stepped down from the carriage. As Charlotte stepped down, James stepped forward and offered his arm. The villagers cheered, Caleb led Sir Thomas and his family to their pew, as he took his place in the lower desk of the pulpit he said.

“It is good to have a service on Christmas day, it is a long time since it last happened.”

“I hope you see many more.” Replied the Rector sitting down at the middle desk. Then he opened his prayer book and the service commenced.

As serving communion to the village, and this time it seemed that everybody was there, took a long time, his sermon was very short, little more than half an hour. Despite this it was well after noon that they left the church. The wind had risen and it was blowing a blizzard, Caleb was organising the men to make sure everybody, especially the women and children, got home safely. Sir Thomas’s coachman came up.

“I am sorry sir, but a branch has come down at the entrance to the park, it will be some time before we can get it clear.”

“Then come across to the Rectory, you can shelter there.”

They struggled across the green, as they passed the snowman Frances stopped for a moment.

“I think he is watching, like a cat.”

“I don’t like him, come away.” Said Mary, pulling on her sister’s arm.

“Oh, he’s not dangerous, at least not to us.” She replied, following her sister into the warmth of the Rectory.

The entire party were settled in the parlour, drinking mulled wine, when the housekeeper came in.

“Pardon sir, but it is time to carve the beef.”

“Oh, I had forgotten, the dinner for the poor men and women, they will be waiting for me in the kitchen.” He made to rise, when his wife stopped him.

“Why not let James do it this year.” She said with a smile, her husband nodded. James rose and followed the housekeeper. As the door shut Lady Scott looked to her daughter.

“Why don’t you go and help him.” Smiling Charlotte sprang to her feet and ran after James, as she reached the door Lady Scott called after her, “Parson’s wife in training.” Everybody laughed, Charlotte turned and curtsied to her mother, her face full of humour.

In the kitchen the twelve old people ate heartily, as Charlotte served one old gentlemen with plum pudding he asked.

“Pardon me miss, but is it true that you are betrothed to Master James?”

Charlotte blushed and nodded, the man raised his tankard and said.

“Good luck to you both, when I was a boy I saw your grandfather marry, when I was a man I danced at your father’s wedding, and now, if I am spared, I will see your wedding.”

“I pray that I can serve you with bride cake on our wedding day.” Said Charlotte with a gentle smile.

Back in the parlour, Sir Thomas watched his daughter leave and turned to Dr Grainger.

“Have you realised that over the past few days we seemed to have been following two stories?”

His friend nodded, “the love affair between our children,” He looked out of the window, though it was just after two it was already quiet dark. “And the other matter.”

“Yes.” Replied the squire, “I can see where one will end, a wedding and a new family in Stanton Lacy. But the other one, of David Beddoes and Michael Scott, I cannot see where that will end.”

“Not happily I think, and there is also the matter of the snowman.” Finally he told Sir Thomas of what he had seen, his friend was silent. The reverie was ended by a distant, muffled bell, Dr Grainger rose.

“Caleb is ringing for evening prayers, you need not come, on a night like this I cannot expect it of anyone.”

Surprisingly it was Frances who said.

“I will come, I think it would be best if we all went, I am not sure what will be about tonight and I think I would prefer to be in the church.”

Lady Scott rose, “Then we shall all go.” Charlotte and James came up from the kitchen, and shortly after the entire party were struggling across the green. Halfway across Charlotte suddenly gasped.

“Where is the snowman?”

They looked around, it had gone. Remembering what the Rector had said, Sir Thomas refused to stop, but hurried his party towards the church. They had almost got there when there was a screaming neigh and a horse galloped out of the driving snow, almost knocking James and Charlotte to the ground. Frances screamed and fell, she was picked up by her father and hurried into the church.

“Who was that?” gasped Lady Scott and Mrs Grainger together, “I think it was Mr Scott,” replied Charlotte.”

Lady Scott took Frances from her husband and stroked the girl’s hair, her bonnet had fallen off in the rush.

“It’s all right, he can’t hurt you here.” She said soothingly. Frances looked at her with wide, dark eyes.

“Oh, it wasn’t him, it was what was after him.”

“What was it?” her mother asked concerned, but Frances wouldn’t answer.

The church was full, in spite of the terrible weather most of the village seemed to have felt as Frances had, that it was best, or perhaps safest, to be in church. The service began, following its traditional course. The Rector had climbed into the high pulpit, the clearer to be heard over the storm outside. Below him old Caleb led the responses with a shout, the congregation did their best to follow him as they cowered in the high pews, lit by the guttering candles on their iron frames.

“Lord, have mercy upon us.” intoned the Rector.

“Christ, have mercy upon us.” Said the clerk, and waited for the congregation to follow him.

At that moment the west door burst open and for a second a figure could be seen standing there.

“Christ, have mercy upon ME!” it screamed, then most of the candles were blown out and the door slammed shut.

“Lord, have mercy upon him.” Said the Rector quietly.

There were screams and shouts in the church, and it was several minutes until there was calm. The churchwardens walked down the aisle lighting the candles. No one touched the door, no one wanted to go outside to see what had happened to the man who had screamed. With the church lit again the service resumed, the storm continued to beat on at the windows, the congregation sat in nervous silence until Caleb announced

“The Third Collect, for Aid against all Perils.”

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord” said the Rector , and paused as, outside, the clouds parted and bright moonlight poured into the church. Shaken he continued, “by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.” And the wind dropped outside and there was silence.

The service came to its conclusion, the congregation rose politely as the Rector and his family, and Sir Thomas and his, walked down the aisle. There were smiling nods and winks as Charlotte held tight to James’s arm. Outside Sir Thomas stopped and gasped, the tree beside the pond had fallen, the top branches had smashed thorough the ice into the water. Beside it there was no trace of the snowman. As they walked back to the Rectory, the squires younger daughters laughed almost skipped as they slid on the frozen ground, the tension that had gripped the village for the past few day, seemed to have faded. The coachman was waiting for them.

“The drive is open now sir,” he said.

“Then we will go,” Turning back to the Rector he said, “I will return tomorrow, I feel there might be something to see at the pond. And tomorrow afternoon I would like you all to come and dine with us, we have something to celebrate.”

He looked to his daughter, then looked away with a smile, as she was being gently kissed by James.

©Gordon Le Pard 2014

My thanks to Gordon for sharing this Christmas Story with us… back tomorrow at 9.00 am.

About Gordon Le Pard.

I am a retired archaeologist, who used to work for Dorset County County, where I mapped the wrecks off the coast. A maritime archaeologist who cannot swim is unusual, but there.

I have written a great deal, on many diverse topics, from the works of an arts and crafts artist, to a fossilised beaver, from early aerial photographs to medieval sundials (the last my father considered the most boring think I had ever written).

I read a great deal, and remember a heck of a lot, this actually has a downside, if you have difficulty in forgetting! For example I will often check the end of a story to make sure it ends happily, who wants a miserable story running about in your head for the next decade or so.

My wife and I are reenactors, Regency or Victorian, and I will try most of the odd things I reconstruct. I have limits, but not many.

You can connect to Gordon

Website/Blog: https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordon.lepard

I hope you will join us tomorrow morning for the fourth part of this story by Gordon and of course we would love to have your feedback.

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – The Snowman Part Two by Gordon Le Pard


Welcome to part two of this Christmas story… the story began in 1814 with a heavy fall of snow, a snowman and a festive party with the gentry……and some thing mysterious in the park…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/smorgasbord-christmas-posts-from-your-archives-the-snowman-a-story-for-christmas-part-one-by-gordon-le-pard/

The Snowman – Part Two – by Gordon Le Pard.

Friday December 23rd 1814

The Rev Edward Grainger was eating a boiled egg and sipping tea, the Squire’s copy of the Morning Chronicle was open on the table.

“How curious,” he said, lifting his head he realised that all his family had finished breakfast and left the table. He rapidly finished his tea, discovering that it was now ice cold. He knew his wife, would probably be involved in planning the dinner for Sunday, he followed the old traditions of the village and gave dinner to six poor men and six poor women at Christmas.

He guessed his children had already left the house so he put on his coat and walked towards the green, as he left his gate he saw that there were several people standing around the snowman. As he approached Charles, his younger son ran across to him.

“Come and look father, the snowman, it must be magic.”

He walked up, the snowman stood there as it had done yesterday. He saw his elder son with the girls from the manor, all sensibly wrapped up in thick cloaks with fur muffs, accompanied by Miss Grey their governess.

“James, what is this about a magic snowman then?”

“It’s not magic, it is just very strange. Yesterday the head was facing towards the Rectory, now it is looking across the green towards the park.”

“Perhaps the men knocked it when they moved the tree branches,” The Rector looked around at the disturbed snow, showing traces of where the branches had been moved and cut up the day before.

“But the branches had all been removed by the time we had finished.”

“And what about the buttons?” added Charles. The Rector looked closer at the snowman, down the front were a row of large brass buttons. “They were pebbles yesterday.”

“And they won’t come out.” Added Frances, the youngest of the three girls, “I think it is our cousin, perhaps he really is a wizard.”

The Rector touched the buttons, they were covered with a layer of ice. Only the bottom one could be prised loose, he looked at it, it was very muddy and discoloured but he thought he could make out a monogram.

“I am afraid there is no magic here my dear.” He smiled at Miss Grey. “They are covered in ice and frozen onto the snowman. Also look how dirty they are, I think they must have been on an old coat or something similar that had been lost in the pond. They were probably dragged out yesterday by the branches, someone found them last night and thought they would look good on the snowman.

“They have got initials on them, I will take this and get it cleaned, my wife may well recognise it.” He paused and looked at Frances. “But what was that about Mr Scott.”

The girl blushed bright red and buried her face in her muff, her elder sister replied for her.

“Fanny thinks Mr Scott is a wizard because there is a wizard called Michael Scot in one of Sir Walter Scott’s stories.”

“I don’t think so my dear.” Said the Rector kindly, “there may have been wizards in Scotland hundreds of years ago, but not in Berkshire today.”

“But he is still a horrid man.” Said Frances defiantly. Eager to change the subject the Rector turned to Charlotte.

“You young ladies must be feeling very cold, why don’t you go to the Rectory and get warm.”

“But isn’t mama getting ready for the dinner on Sunday, the one for the poor people?” Said Charles.

“Then we can help.” Said Charlotte, turning towards the Rectory.

“Parson’s wife in training.” Said Mary to Frances, as they followed their sister. Dr Grainger could see that both Charlotte and James were blushing. As the young men turned to follow the girls he said.

“James, will you come with me to the church, I want you to help me see that everything is ready for Sunday.”

Slightly reluctantly he followed his father across the frozen green. The church door was open and inside Caleb Smith was standing by a ladder, holding up a branch of holly to his son, who was putting the greenery along the ledge that ran along the bottom of the gallery.

“Still putting up the greenery then.” Said the Rector with a smile.

“T’is the old way sir. I know you don’t care for it but I hope you won’t be stopping it.”

“Oh no, Caleb, I have no wish to stop it. You can keep putting up the decorations as long as you are sexton.” Then, as he turned to walk up towards the communion table, he said quietly to his son, “Though, when he is gone, I doubt there will be anybody who will wish to continue with the tradition. In a few years there will be no more Christmas decorations in the parish.”

“I don’t know.” Replied his son, “I rather like it, and I know Charlotte – Miss Scott likes it as well.”

“Then when you have your own parish, you can decorate your own church.” Said his father with a smile.

“But that will be many years in the future, I know how hard it is to get a living, to get to the point where I can support myself.” He followed his father into the small vestry, where they took the communion plate from a strongbox.

“This will need polishing before tomorrow, we will take it back to the Rectory.” James said, stepping back towards the door. His father stopped him.

“You will be ordained next year, and as soon as you feel that you are capable of taking over a parish then the living of Stanton Lacy is yours.”

“But isn’t that one of your livings, father.”

“No, I am nominally the Rector, but have been holding it for you for the past seven years. The living is in the gift of Sir Thomas and this has been done with his full consent. Both he and I want you to be the Rector of Stanton Lacy.”

“But,” James sat on the tiny wooden chair, his father smiled down at him. He looked stunned, before he could recover himself his father launched another broadside.

“And of course there is Miss Scott.”

“Charlotte, what do you mean?”

“Well, you will shock the entire parish if you tell me you don’t love and want to marry her.”

“The entire parish thinks I want to marry her, everybody, her parents?”

“Of course, especially her parents.”

James was now so pale his father thought he might faint.

“Well, do you love her, do you want to marry her?”

“Of course I do, but I never thought I could, she is a baronet’s daughter. What will her father say if I asked for her?”

“He will probably say yes, but ask you not to get married for a few years, not until you are settled.”

“Oh,” James paused, “What should I do then?”

“Go and talk to Miss Scott now, tell her all I have told you, then I suggest you return to the Manor House with her and talk to her father. I am sure you will find it easier than you think.”

They left the church by the side door and had reached the churchyard gate when they heard a scream. Across the green they saw a several people around the snowman, their bright red cloaks showing that some of the girls from the Manor were there, as was a man on horseback. James ran fast across the frozen ground, his father following as fast as he could.

As he approached James could see that the man on horseback was Michael Scott, he was threatening Mary and Frances with his crop, there was no sign of Charlotte. Charles was standing in front of the girls, trying to protect them.

“I will ask again, where did you get the damn hat?” he pointed at the snowman, the Rector saw that it now boasted a battered tricorn hat, the colour had probably once been blue, with light coloured lace along the top edges.

“I just found it by the pond,” sobbed Frances, “And Charles put it on the snowman.”

“Don’t lie, you knew what you are doing, he gave it to you, didn’t he? Tell the truth?” Scott lashed down at the two girls.

“Stop that.” Shouted James, and swung at him with the bag he was carrying. The heavy communion plate hit his arm and he swung sideways, dropping his riding crop. His horse stepped a few paces to one side, Charles bent down and picked up his fallen crop and struck the side of his horse. It neighed and cantered a few paces away from the group. As Mr Scott regained control he turned the horse back to see Dr Grainger and James standing in front of the children.

“Leave here and never return.” The Rector shouted, then he turned his back on the rider and looked at the two girls.

“Are either of you hurt?”

“No sir.” Replied Mary, who was still holding her sister. “He struck at us and missed, then Fanny screamed and James came running.” She smiled at him. He was looking at the bag, aghast.

“Father, I think I have dented the cup. I am afraid I have damaged the communion plate.”

“Don’t worry, everyone even the archbishop would praise you for what you did. But now, let’s get into the Rectory. The girls mustn’t stand outside any longer.”

As they walked up the path the door opened and Mrs Grainger and Charlotte ran out, Miss Grey a few paces behind them. Charlotte wrapped her arms round her sisters and Mrs Grainger wrapped hers round her sons. From the look Charlotte gave James, it was clear that she would have much preferred wrapping her arms round him.

A few minutes later, sitting in the warm parlour, the girls sipping hot drinks Dr Grainger looked at his sons and said.

“The girls cannot walk back across the park now, it is not only getting dark but they are too shocked to do so. James, will you ride to the manor and let Sir Thomas know what has happened and ask him to send the carriage.”

The boys went to harness the horse and, a few minutes later James was riding as fast as he dare on the frozen ground. It wasn’t long before he strode through the front door of the Manor House, only to be greeted by a frightened Lady Scott.

“What has happened? My girls, are they all right?”

“Everybody is all right, they are all at the Rectory.”

At that point Sir Thomas entered, asking exactly the same questions. Now James was able to tell his story, only to be interrupted twice, first by Sir Thomas shouting an order to his servants to bar the house to Michael Scott, then to order the carriage. After James had finished his story he was embraced by Lady Scott whilst Sir Thomas shook him firmly by the hand.

There was no possibility of the carriage going to collect the girls without Lady Scott so Sir Thomas and James waited in the hall whilst she got her cloak and bonnet. Sir Thomas smiled at James.

“I must thank you again for protecting my daughters.”

“I was happy I was able to do so.” He paused, took a deep breath and added. “I would like to continue to protect them, particularly Charlotte.”

Sir Thomas tried to look stern, and failed.

“I suppose I should ask you what your prospects are, but I suppose I know that better than you.”

“You mean Stanton Lacy?”

“Yes, when did you learn about it? I know your father hadn’t told you yesterday.”

“He told me this afternoon, just before he told me that everybody knew that Charlotte and I were in love, and suggested that I should talk to you”

“What did you say to that?”

“Nothing, because that was when we heard Fanny scream so I left my father and ran to protect them.”

“Now how can I refuse my consent to the man who left his own father in those circumstances to help my daughters.” He smiled, “I would prefer if you had a long engagement, as Charlotte is very young, but with three women involved I don’t think you and I will have any choice in the matter.”

James looked dazed, he hadn’t expected it to be so easy.

“Three women?”

“Your mother and my wife, they have been planning Charlotte’s and your wedding for years, and I am sure that Charlotte will want to have her say as well. All you should do is sit back and say, ‘Yes Dear’, I have found that is always the best idea.”

“What’s a good idea?” Asked his wife who had just returned to the hall. Sir Thomas handed his wife into the carriage before replying.

“Oh, James had just asked permission to marry Charlotte.”

James, sitting opposite, was amazed at her reaction, she sprang to her feet, just as the carriage bumped on a frozen rut, and fell half across her husband. He burst out laughing.

“There’s no need to react so violently. It’s all right, I refused of course.”

“Refused, how could you,” she burst out, “when that is what Elizabeth and I have been planning for years.” Then she saw her husband’s laughing face and sat back, smiling at James.

As soon as they arrived Lady Scott ran into the Rectory and went straight into the parlour. Mary, Frances and Charles were seated at a table by the fire, playing spillikins. Miss Grey was quietly reading.

“Where is Charlotte?” she demanded.

“She is with Mrs Grainger, they are looking at the clothing that will be going to the Alms House for Christmas.”

“Parson’s wife in training.” Said Mary, her mother smiled and said, “Quite right.”

Mary looked stunned as Charlotte entered to be embraced by her mother, then everybody entered and there were explanations, congratulations, mulled wine and happiness, in the midst of all this everybody seemed to have forgotten the reason that the carriage had been sent to pick up the girls.

Sir Thomas remembered as all his womenfolk were climbing into the carriage. He bent down to the Rector and said.

“I want to talk about this, I will come tomorrow, will that be all right?”

“Of course,” his friend replied.

As the carriage drove away he looked across the green. He was certain now, the snowman had moved, it was half way across the green. He felt very cold, and it was not from the hard frost.

©Gordon Le Pard 2014

About Gordon Le Pard.

I am a retired archaeologist, who used to work for Dorset County County, where I mapped the wrecks off the coast. A maritime archaeologist who cannot swim is unusual, but there.

I have written a great deal, on many diverse topics, from the works of an arts and crafts artist, to a fossilised beaver, from early aerial photographs to medieval sundials (the last my father considered the most boring think I had ever written).

I read a great deal, and remember a heck of a lot, this actually has a downside, if you have difficulty in forgetting! For example I will often check the end of a story to make sure it ends happily, who wants a miserable story running about in your head for the next decade or so.

My wife and I are reenactors, Regency or Victorian, and I will try most of the odd things I reconstruct. I have limits, but not many.

You can connect to Gordon

Website/Blog: https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordon.lepard

I hope you will join us tomorrow morning for the third part of this story by Gordon and of course we would love to have your feedback.

 

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – The Snowman: a Story for Christmas Part One by Gordon Le Pard


Delighted to share a five part story each morning this week from Gordon Le Pard who blogs at The Curious Archaeologist who wrote this story for the Christmas of 2014…. two hundred years earlier……..

The Snowman: a Story for Christmas Part One by Gordon Le Pard

Thursday December 22nd 1814

That morning the Rev Edward Grainger scraped the ice off his study window and looked across his garden towards the village. His garden, in which he spent a great deal of time in more clement weather, dipped down towards the road, on the other side of which was the wide village green, and beyond that the church. This morning however something was different, he looked closer and realised that the tree beside the pond, which had been frozen since late November, had split in two, one half still stood, the other had fallen into the pond and smashed the ice.

Pulling on his coat, he walked down the path and across the green to where several men were standing around the fallen tree.

“Morning Sir.” Caleb Smith, the sexton, touched his hat. “T’would be the cold did it, I suppose.”

“I am sure you are right.” The Rector replied, “The squire told me the other day that several trees in the new plantation had lost branches in the past few weeks.”

“It would be easy enough to get the wood out of the pond, two pair of horses could do it. But what would become of the timber.”

“Well, it would be no good for anything other than firewood. The tree belongs to the parish, so I suggest that the wood goes to the alms house.” He smiled at the old sexton. “I am sure that you can find the men to cut the wood, the parish will pay.” Adding, “As it will be cold work, send the men to the Rectory kitchen afterwards, there will be hot ale for all.”

Smiling the sexton began rounding up the men. As the Rector turned back towards his house his two sons, just returned from school and university for the holidays, came running out towards him. They looked at the smashed ice on the pond.

“Sorry lads,” the sexton said, “There is no way you can skate today, t’will be a day or two before the ice is thick enough to skate on again.”

“That’s all right.” said James, the eldest, “We were going to build a snowman anyway.”

An hour later he saw that his sons had organised the rest of the village boys, to build a large snowman beside the path that crossed the green, as the dusk came on it looked very realistic, just like a large man in a greatcoat looking towards the Rectory.

That evening the Rector, accompanied by his wife and elder son, drove across the park to the Manor House. Sir Thomas had sent his carriage to bring the Rectory family, together with the Misses Beddoes, the daughters of the previous Rector, who lived in a cottage beside the church. The Rev. Grainger often joked that their home was more convenient for the church than the Rectory, which always made them giggle.

Lights from the manor house shone across the frozen snow of the park as they approached, the cold was bitter, the hot bricks that they had been given as they began their short journey were now ice cold. Their welcome was warm enough to disperse the cold, Lady Scott loved entertaining and was always looking for a reason to hold a party, and Christmas gave her the perfect excuse for bringing together all the neighbouring families. Most of the people gathered in the great hall they knew, but there was one gentleman there they had never seen before, he was introduced as Michael Scott, a distant cousin of Sir Thomas.

“In fact I know nothing about him,” the baronet said to the Rector later in the evening, “I was introduced to him at my club in London, as a distant relative, and Jane insisted on inviting him down. I thought he might be interested in one of my daughter’s but he makes no efforts there.” He looked across to where James was dancing with Charlotte, the oldest of his three girls. Lady Scott broke in.

“Yes, they make a lovely couple. It would be delightful if they did marry.”

“But not for some time, they are much too young.” The Squire replied, but his tone expressed approbation of the idea.

This pleasant conversation was suddenly interrupted by a commotion on the other side of the large room.

“You are mistaken, I doubt you have the wit to recognise your own cat if it stuck its claws into your skinny legs in the dark.”

Mr Scott stormed out of the room, leaving the two misses Beddoes sobbing, Lady Scott and Mrs Grainger ran across to calm them. A few moments later Sir Thomas and the Rector joined the ladies in the small room where they had taken the shocked spinsters, curious to know what had caused the commotion. The women were all sipping tea, and were talking quietly over what had happened.

“It is so strange,” Mrs Grainger began, “It was about nothing. Miss Beddoes mentioned that she thought she had seen Mr Scott in the village before and he got very cross about it.”

“Yes” interrupted Miss Henrietta, the younger of the two sisters. “It was nothing, It was about a month ago, the night was very cold but the moon was bright and I had seen a ring round it.”

“So she called me to the window.” Interrupted Miss Beddoes. “And on the green we saw two men, one looked just like our cousin David, he was wearing that old hat he always did, the one trimmed with white lace.”

“And the other looked like Mr Scott.” Continued her sister, and then they walked into the shadow of the tree by the pond.”

“But it couldn’t have been Mr. Scott. Because Mr Scott said it wasn’t him.”

“And it couldn’t have been David as he would have called to see us, however late it was.” Henrietta finished triumphantly.

Curious, but concerned for his neighbours, the Rector said.

“But you are still shocked, I will send for the carriage and we will take you home straight away.”

“Oh No.” said the Miss Beddoes simultaneously, “We don’t want to spoil anything, and the young people are having so much fun.” She looked across to where James and another young man were serving slices of cake to several young ladies, including the squire’s daughters.

The Rectory party were amongst the last to leave. As they were putting on their coats and cloaks, the Rector was reminded of the events of the morning. Charlotte bent towards his son and said softly.

“If I can I will come and see your snowman tomorrow.”

“Well take your sisters and Miss Grey, and wrap up warm, my dear.” said her mother, who had overheard the conversation.

“Take this Reverend.” Said her husband, handing the Rector a newspaper, ‘I have finished with it.” Sir Thomas took the Morning Chronicle whilst the Rector took The Times, the papers were very expensive and were published weekly, so the two gentlemen took one each and exchanged them regularly.

As they walked up the path to their front door the Rector looked back across the village green. On the far side lights showed where the Misses Beddoes were getting out of Sir Thomas’s carriage. He stopped, puzzled until his wife called him inside. He was certain the snowman had been to the left of the path, but it was now clearly on the right.

©Gordon Le Pard 2014

About Gordon Le Pard.

I am a retired archaeologist, who used to work for Dorset County County, where I mapped the wrecks off the coast. A maritime archaeologist who cannot swim is unusual, but there.

I have written a great deal, on many diverse topics, from the works of an arts and crafts artist, to a fossilised beaver, from early aerial photographs to medieval sundials (the last my father considered the most boring think I had ever written).

I read a great deal, and remember a heck of a lot, this actually has a downside, if you have difficulty in forgetting! For example I will often check the end of a story to make sure it ends happily, who wants a miserable story running about in your head for the next decade or so.

My wife and I are reenactors, Regency or Victorian, and I will try most of the odd things I reconstruct. I have limits, but not many.

You can connect to Gordon

Website/Blog: https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordon.lepard

I hope you will join us tomorrow morning for the second part of this story by Gordon and of course we would love to have your feedback.

 

Smorgasbord 2016 in review -The Sunday Living History Interview – Percy Francis, Royal Flying Corps -Grandfather of Geoff and Gordon Le Pard


Living History

This interview was the highest viewed Living History interview and it began the series in great style.

My first guests today are author Geoff Le Pard and his brother Gordon and the story about their grandfather Percy Francis.

artefact-joan-of-arc

In a display cabinet, a few feet from where I am sitting is a small porcelain statue of Joan of Arc. Whilst it is over one hundred years old, it is of no particular value, especially as the head has, at some time, been knocked off and crudely stuck back on. But it has been treasured in our family for many years – and this is her story.

percy-francis-officer-perhaps-before-graduationPercy Francis was fascinated by flying. Today it would not be unusual, but this was 1911. Powered flight was only a few years old and the primitive machines that clawed their way into the sky were incredibly dangerous. But Percy loved it. By 1911 he was by his own account ‘involved in aeronautical research’, and in 1912 he was an official of the London Aero Club helping to run the first London Air Show.

Forward two years and when war was declared he naturally wanted to join the embryonic Royal Flying Corps. However hardly anybody had any idea of what aircraft could do in war and he was told to wait. But all his friends were joining up so he decided to join the army anyway. When one friend bet him he would never wear a kilt, he joined the Seaforth Highlanders – one of the ‘Ladies from hell’ as the Germans were to call them.

percy-francis-seaforth-highlander-1By November 1914 he was in France and, during the cold winter of 1914-15 he turned his ingenuity to making underwear – as the uniform didn’t include any to wear under the kilt. This was perhaps his only failure. More successful was the film projector he found, and for many month he ran the ‘Only Cinema at the Front’, as it was called on the posters. French films could easily be played as, in the days of silent film, all you needed was someone to translate the titles when they appeared.

cinema-posterIn the spring of 1915 the Seaforth’s were one of the regiments involved in the battle of Neuve Chapelle, one of the first big trench battles of the war. The regiment played a particularly gallant part, so they commissioned a war artist, Joseph Gray, to depict the scene when the Seaforth’s advanced. Percy was chosen to be the model for all the soldiers depicted, walking, shooting, shouting encouragement. We still possess a sketch of Percy, the highland soldier, that Joseph Gray gave him, and he is recognisable at least four times in the finished paintings!

(c) The Highlanders' Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Highlanders’ Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

joseph-grayTowards the end of that year he took part in intelligence gathering, creeping out after dark into no man’s land to map German positions, the compass he used lives in my study.

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For one particularly hazardous expedition he was offered the choice between a military medal or immediate commission, he chose the latter and became Lieutenant Percy Francis. He didn’t remain long as an officer in the trenches but rapidly managed to get transferred to where he had long wanted to be – the Royal Flying Corps.

artefact-flying-helmet-1It was while he was back in England, doing his pilot training (he didn’t need to learn to fly, but rather become acquainted with the military aircraft of the day), that he was arrested as a spy. Officers didn’t need to wear uniform when not on duty and he was sitting in a London park reading a magazine. He had fair hair, close cropped to fit under his flying helmet, and someone thought he looked German. A crowd gathered and a policeman had to take him into protective custody.

leave-fishing-party-brendon

Back in France he joined his squadron, whose job was mapping enemy positions. Flying low and slow over the trenches, whilst the observer took photographs. The average life span of a pilot in those days was thirteen weeks; he did it for over eighteen months. He was never shot down – he seemed to have regarded the enemy as a minor irritation and the aircraft he was flying were much more dangerous.

He was right, in early 1918 he was going home on leave and was offered the choice between taking the troop ship home or flying a plane back to England. He naturally chose the latter and set off across the Channel. Then the fog came down.

For three days there was no news, it was assumed that his aircraft had been lost at sea, then a gamekeeper walking on the cliffs near Dover found the crashed aircraft. Though he was badly injured, Percy made a full recovery.

convalescing-larking-around
Much to his irritation the Army wouldn’t pass him fit for flying, but gave him another promotion and a desk job, and so he survived the war. He went on to race at Brooklands,

percy-in-3-wheelerand fly with his friend Geoffrey De Havilland and design a Flying Bicycle!

Percy received one or two speeding tickets including this one for exceeding ten miles per hour.

speeding-ticket-percy-francis-a

But what, you will be asking yourself if you remember the beginning of this tale, has Joan of Arc got to do with it all. Shortly after arriving in France, Percy found the statue of St. Joan in a shelled church. He repaired it and took it with him wherever he went as a good luck charm. As you may have realised his career in the war, from ordinary soldier at the front – to officer at the front – to officer in the Royal Flying Corps, took him into more and more dangerous situations.

In protecting our grandfather, Percy Francis, St. Joan worked overtime.

artefact-raf-badgeMy thanks to Geoff and to Gordon for kicking off this new series in such style.. Percy sounds like a wonderful character and I would have loved to have met and heard his story first hand.
About Geoff Le Pard

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Geoff Le Pard (not Geoffrey, except to his mother) was born in 1956 and is a lawyer who saw the light. He started writing (creatively) in 2006 following a summer school course. Being a course junkie he had spells at Birkbeck College, twice at Arvon and most recently at Sheffield Hallam where he achieved an MA in Creative Writing.

And what did he learn?

That they are great fun, you meet wonderful people but the best lessons come from the unexpected places. He has a line of books waiting to be published but it has taken until now to find the courage to go live.

He blogs at http://geofflepard.com/ on anything and everything. His aim is for each novel to be in a different style and genre. Most people have been nice about his writing (though when his brother’s dog peed on the manuscript he was editing, he did wonder) but he knows the skill is in seeking and accepting criticism. His career in the law has helped prepare him.

Geoff’s latest book Salisbury Square.

41hfyznkozl-_uy250_Jerzy Komaza is adept at turning a blind eye. He has allowed his father’s beatings of his sister, Maria, to continue for years. Yet one hot summer day he finally snaps, and it is Maria who sends him away from their home in Białystok in rural Poland, fearing the consequences if he stays. Desperate and unsure, Jerzy heads for London where his old friend Jan has promised him work.

At first he is completely disorientated. Worse, there’s no sign of Jan. Feeling lost and adrift in the strange city, Jerzy overhears a young woman’s cries. Memories of his sister stir him into action and he intervenes.

The woman is Suzie Thomas, a drug addict dependent on local thug Paul Rogers for her supplies and for whom she turns tricks. Rogers also runs gangs of workmen around the city, and Jan works for him. Gradually Jerzy is dragged into Suzie’s world, a violent dog-eat-dog existence of the underclass living next to but separate from London’s affluent citizens.

Jan has his own problems with Rogers, and when his cousin Ola Nowak is slashed with a knife while trying to sort out Jan’s debt, he is bent on revenge. Jerzy is torn between stopping his friend and, because of his own growing hatred of Rogers’ casual violence towards Suzie, helping him.

Suzie’s family are hunting for her. Her grandparents hear she has moved to London and seek her out. In doing so they too find themselves pulled into Rogers’ orbit. As the heat builds and the rain pours down, various forces begin to drag these desperate individuals together into a violent confrontation. And into this mix comes Lech Komoza, Jerzy’s half-brother intent on his own violent retribution.

This story contains elements of revenge, love, the clash of classes and cultures, the isolation of large cities and the single-minded determination to survive. Set against a backdrop of one of the most affluent cities in the Western world, it is a modern parable about the lure of redemption and how hope can be corrupted by despair.

Also by Geoff Le Pard

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Buy all Geoff’s books

https://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0

Connect with Geoff

Blog: http://geofflepard.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/geofflepard
Google+ : https://plus.google.com/+GeoffLepard01/posts

About Gordon Le Pard

I am a retired archaeologist, who used to work for Dorset County County, where I mapped the wrecks off the coast. A maritime archaeologist who cannot swim is unusual, but there.

I have written a great deal, on many diverse topics, from the works of an arts and crafts artist, to a fossilised beaver, from early aerial photographs to medieval sundials (the last my father considered the most boring think I had ever written).

I read a great deal, and remember a heck of a lot, this actually has a downside, if you have difficulty in forgetting! For example I will often check the end of a story to make sure it ends happily, who wants a miserable story running about in your head for the next decade or so.

My wife and I are reenactors, Regency or Victorian, and I will try most of the odd things I reconstruct. I have limits, but not many!

If you head over to Gordon’s blog you will find some fascinating articles and one in particular took my fancy. https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/going-for-a-dip-dressed-or-undressed/

With our weather in the UK and Ireland I am very tempted to resort to the bathing attire of the bathers of the previous centuries… but were some of them actually naked in our frozen coastal waters?

Connect to Gordon

Blog: https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com

If you have a story to tell about your family history or events that you feel have impacted your life, you will find details in this post. Along with other ways you can promote your blog and other creative work.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/free-blog-and-book-promotions/

Thanks for joining us today and your feedback would be very much appreciated and also if you could hit a few share buttons on your way out that would be amazing.  Thanks from all of us.. Percy, Geoff and Gordon..

Sally