As promised, here is the second short story from Stickleback Hollow, the 8th Day of Christmas.
8th Day of Christmas
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids a milking
Christmas was always a busy time to be an innkeeper. Lots of people came to Stickleback Hollow to visit relatives in the nearby city of Chester and also in the village itself. Some people chose to stay in the inn that Wilson ran because his wife’s cooking was known far and wide as the best in the area. Some people didn’t like staying in the city as it was too busy and full of bustle.
Whatever the reasons that people came to the inn, Wilson and Emma were both every busy. Unlike the staff at the house and many others in the village, they didn’t close, not even on Christmas Day. They went to the house for Christmas dinner after going to church, but they were always the first to leave as they had to get back to the inn. They made sure that all their guests knew that the doors of the inn would be locked from when they went to church until after Christmas dinner had finished, but this never seemed to be a problem as all their guests had prior plans for Christmas Day.
But on Boxing Day things were back to normal. In fact, the inn was often busier on Boxing Day than any other day of the year as people like the blacksmith and Miss Baker were not at work, and so came to the inn to talk and swap seasonal greetings – though they had all seen each other the day before.
Wilson liked running the inn, especially around Christmas. He didn’t really need time off to put his feet up. There was nothing to do when he stopped working, and often found the days when the inn had to be closed to be rather boring. Emma preferred to be busy and even when the kitchen wasn’t open, she could be seen bustling around the inn, making sure that everything was running smoothly.
One of the problems that faced the inn during the busy time of Christmas was the risk of running out of milk. Every day during Christmas, Wilson woke up early to walk out to one of the local dairy farms to get the farmer to buy more milk. When he walked down the path to the dairy farmer’s house, he could hear the milkmaids singing in the small field that lay next to the house. The milkmaids were the daughters of farmers in the local area, but not all of them were the daughters of the dairy farmer. There were eight of them in all and all of them enjoyed singing, though not one of them could carry a tune.
Wilson waved to them as he passed and went about his business with the farmer.
“It’s a sad thing, but today is the last day you’ll see those milkmaids.” the farmer said as the two men walked outside to fetch the pails of milk for the inn.
“Why is that?” Wilson asked.
“They’re all to be married, can’t stay milkmaids forever. There are a bunch of young farmers coming later on today to meet them, then the dates for the weddings will be set and the girls will be gone.” the farmer sighed.
“Who is going to milk you cows?” Wilson asked.
“Oh, there are more girls coming to do that, the cows won’t mind at all, but you might want to say your goodbyes. My two are going to be going down to Kent, only God knows where the others will end up.” the farmer shrugged.
“Will they be well provided for?” Wilson asked.
“They will. I know all the boys that are coming to meet the girls, some haven’t bought holdings yet, others will be going back to their father’s farms. I’ll miss them, but it’s better than them winding up as old maids.” the farmer shrugged.
A Thief in Stickleback Hollow
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can read more about the characters in Stickleback Hollow in the first book the series of The Mysteries of Stickleback Hollow. Digital copies from £1.80 and paperback copies from £6.99.