Thanks for joining us for day 8 of our short stories advent calendar, we hope that you’ve all been enjoying the offerings from our authors thus far! With day 8 arriving, we’re taking another step back in time to the 1800s, the rule of Queen Victoria and transporting you to the wonderful county of Cheshire for the 3rd Day of Christmas in Stickleback Hollow.
3rd Day of Christmas
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three French hens
There was a lot of work to do in the manor of Grangeback. The maids were all busy cleaning the dining room after the village had all been to Christmas dinner. It took a week of cleaning to set the house to rights after Christmas Day. This was mostly because of the mess that several hundred people all getting together in one place created, but also down to the hours that the maids worked during the 12 days of Christmas.
The 2nd day of Christmas was also Boxing Day and a day when all the servants in the house were given the day to spend with their families and visiting friends, not working. The brigadier was left to his own devices on Boxing Day, which often led to more mess being created in a single day than the village could create in a week visiting the house. Not all the household staff would spend Boxing Day away from the manor, but no one would do any work.
Then on the 3rd day there was the cleaning and tidying to begin. Mrs. Bosworth would oversee the cleaning, whilst Bosworth attended to the brigadier, mostly so he couldn’t create any more chaos than he already had. The maids, the footmen, the housemen and the hall boys were all called away from their normal duties in order to set the house to rights; all except for Cooky.
Cooky never had to help with the cleaning on the 3rd day of Christmas as she was busy ensuring that the pantry was restocked from the village, cooking enough food to keep the household staff from going hungry as they worked and planning the meals for visitors the house was expecting during the other nine days of Christmas.
The kitchens were the one room in the house that didn’t need cleaning on the 3rd day of Christmas. The people of Stickleback Hollow were very good at helping to tidy away the kitchen and the brigadier spent the 2nd day of Christmas eating what was left over from the grand Christmas dinner. For Cooky, the 3rd day of Christmas was almost relaxing. She spent the morning talking to the people of Stickleback Hollow as she ordered food for the house and had it loaded into one of the carts for the manor. After she had prepared lunch for the house, she walked out into the herb garden that was housed in a glass hot house, stopping the cold winter snow from killing off the more exotic plants that had been brought to the house over the years.
Once she had gathered the herbs she needed, she went to check on the hens. There were thirteen of them in total, four of them were Sussex hens, three of them were Dorking hens, two were Malay hens and four were Cornish hens. Cooky had chosen all the birds herself, and was always looking to add more to her own little hen house. The eggs she gathered from these hens were used for special dishes, rather than the eggs that she bought from the village that were used in most of her cooking.
Cooky waddled up to the chicken coop and found that there was something different about her hens. Instead of thirteen of them, there were sixteen. There were three interlopers. One was white, one was black and the other was grey. Cooky stood there in shock for a moment as she tried to work out what breed the hens were.
“They’re Gauloise.” Mr. Hunter said from outside of the chicken coop. Cooky jumped in surprise and caused the hens closest to her to flutter away in a fuss.
“Mr. Hunter! Oh, my. What a fright you gave me. How do you know they are Gauloise?” Cooky asked as she patted her chest over her heart.
“Because I was there when Lady Sarah bought them.” Alex smiled.
“Lady Sarah bought them?” Cooky asked as she eyed the birds.
“Yes, she wanted to do something to say thank you to you for all the hard work you put into her first Christmas dinner her.” Mr. Hunter replied.
“How did she know to get me hens?” Cooky frowned as she started to move around the birds to collect the eggs from the nests.
“She asked Mrs. Bosworth what you wanted, and then asked me to take her to find something suitable.” Alex said as he watched Cooky bustling about.
“Well, they are wonderful; I will have to tell her how nice they are when I see her,” Cooky instructed herself, “wait, if they are a thank you for the Christmas dinner, that was two days ago, when did you go get them?”
“At dawn this morning.”
“Of all the soft things to do.” Cooky sighed.
“Well, I’m glad you like them Cooky. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some pheasants to shoot and some hares to snare.” Alex said and waved to Cooky as he went to stalk through the long grass of the estate.
Cooky clucked around her hen house for a few hours, she was enjoying spending time with her new hens, so much so that she lost track of time.
“Cooky! What are you doing out here?” Mrs. Bosworth cried as she came striding out to the chicken coop.
“I’m getting to know my new birds, what’s wrong, Mrs. Bosworth?” Cooky asked.
“The brigadier is moaning about his afternoon tea being late, and there are no scones to send out with it!” Mrs. Bosworth huffed.
“Oh! I forgot all about the scones, and it’s going to be dark soon. Oh dear, how behind I am!” Cooky clucked as she made her way out of the hen house and back to the manor. Mrs. Bosworth stood in the snow and shook her head as she watched Cooky go.
“That woman and her hens.” Mrs. Bosworth sighed and shuffled back to the house to check on the progress of the maids.