The Erebus Accounts: His Last Christmas – Chapter II

The Erebus Accounts: His Last Christmas – Chapter II

For all that Albert had done to invigorate the spirit of Christmas throughout every strata of British society, little of the aesthetic he had lent to the Dickensian “Christian cheer” had outlasted the man himself – at least within his own household. A number of small, ornamented fir trees lurked furtively in the corners of most rooms, and the occasional angel watched from atop a mantlepiece or bannister, but their presence did nothing to alleviate the sepulchral air about Osborne House. Present only by obligation, they seemed little more than embarrassed intruders, shyly performing their seasonal duty; the advent of their return to some dusty attic the only Advent of importance to them.

Had Grey and Phipps not been accompanying me, the path through these sombre halls to Her Majesty would nonetheless have been readily deducible from the succession of bemused guards, servants, and assorted householders strewn along the way; each all but physically swept aside as Lord Morscroft had stormed through. I led at a brisk pace; the Secretaries rushing to keep up, while hurriedly reassuring the routed staff as they passed. We rounded a corner to find my father rounding upon a wide-eyed young man, who had found himself bearer of the unenviable honour of being the final obstacle betwixt Lord Morscroft and his Queen.

“Then do so,” was the resolute answer to, presumably, an offer to announce the new arrivals before Her Majesty. The youth faltered for a moment, stammering hopelessly before a presence more frightening to most than any lingering spirit. He was rescued by the timely intervention of Colonel Grey, who rushed past me with surprising alacrity, gesturing emphatically for the pitifully outmatched youth to step aside at once.

“Allow me, Matthew! Allow me,” he darted around the young man, taking his place between my father and the door. While Grey leaned momentarily against the doorframe to catch his breath, Lord Morscroft’s outward temperament remained as implacable as ever, but the subtle flexing of his fingers behind his back betrayed a mounting impatience as he spoke.

“Charles. If you would be so kind.”

The menace in his voice was at once whisper soft and subtle as thunder. Grey, still panting slightly, rose to his full height – still half a head shorter than my father – and most ceremonial posture. Phipps stepped forward to offer assistance, but was politely waved away and stepped back to my own side. Now, both as composed as the situation permitted, Grey and Morscroft nodded to one-another, before the former rapped thrice upon the door, turned the handle, and led the party inside.

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