The worthy Baronet, attended by Edith and Arthur, visited his work people during the dinner in the great barn, addressing words of welcome and kindness to all, nor did he absent himself from the merry-makings in the servants’ hall.
“Attention, form a line there!” shouted old Bridoon, the lodge keeper, who was the Sir Oracle of the hour, and had seated himself in a large arm chair beside the enormous fireplace, wherein the Yule logs burnt brightly, darting out forked flames of blue, yellow, and crimson, and sending forth great showers of sparks up the huge old-fashioned chimney like fire-works on a gala night.
“Make way there for the Brigadier and his handsome aides-de-camp.” The sharp eye of the old campaigner had caught sight of the party from the drawing room, which had halted in the door way and was looking on highly amused at the merry groups that were footing it bravely, and with untiring energy through the mazes of Irish jigs, Scotch reels and English country dances. On entering, the mirth ceased for a moment out of respect to Sir Jasper. “Go on, my good friends, we came to witness, not to put a stop to your amusement,” said the Baronet, as he took a seat in the chimney corner, supported by Edith and Arthur. The dancing was again resumed in about half an hour, and the party rose to retire. Here Reynolds, the old butler, presented his master with a magnum of his favorite port, which the old gentleman tossed off, wishing them all a merry Christmas. This was the moment for which Bridoon had been waiting; he rose and proposed the health of Sir Jasper, Miss Edith, and Master Arthur, and said, “When lying wounded on the bloody field of Salamanca little did I think that I should live to enjoy so many years of peace and comfort in such snug quarters as is now provided for me by my old commander and benefactor, God bless him,” Then addressing Arthur he said, “Master Arthur, it does my old heart good to know that you have entered her Majesty’s service. You are a good swordsman, a bold rider (’and the best shot in the country,’ put in the head game-keeper), no mean qualifications,” continued he, “for a Light Dragoon; and I feel certain you will turn out as fine a soldier as the Colonel, your father,—I drink to his memory and your success.” Whereupon the veteran raised a massive tankard of sparkling cider to his lips and took a mighty draught, which laudable example was immediately followed by all the men present. The Baronet and his proteges then left the hall.
There was open house to all comers until after the New Year, and in this way Christmas had been kept up in that part of Devonshire from time immemorial.
But the great event of the season to the upper tandem of Vellenaux, and its vicinity was the approaching twelfth-night Ball. Sir Jasper had given carte blanche to his niece to do as she pleased on the occasion and she did so accordingly.