Christmas Day in Grey Gables
by Rosie T
The Fantasy Archers topic of The Archers message board provides us with a seasonal parody of that famous tragic monologue In The Workhouse - Christmas Day by George R Sims.
It is Christmas Day in Grey Gables, and the tapestried walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly, and the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces in a long and hungry line
The Archers sit at the table, for this is the hour they dine.
And Ian and his sou-chefs, although the wind is east,
Have come in their aprons and wrappers to watch the punters feast;
To smile and be condescending, putting food on Aldridge plates.
To be hosts at the Bellamy banquet, they've paid for with rants and rates.
0h, the offspring are meek and lowly with their 'Thank'ee kindly, Mum!"
So long as they fill their stomachs what matter it whence it come?
But Jack, the old man mutters and pushes his plate aside,
"Great God!" he cries, "but it chokes me; for this is boiled, not fried!"
The waiters gazed in horror, the former owner's face went white;
Did a Woolley refuse their pudding? Could that their ears believe right?
Then the ladies clutched their husbands, thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something, by the outraged One on high.
But Jack sat up for a moment, then rose 'mid silence grim,
The others had ceased to chatter and trembled in every limb:
He looked at the Archer ladies, then, eyeing Tony, he said;
"I eat not carrots so wonky, I'd lief Helen's cheese and bread.
"Whose victims cry for vengeance from their dark, unhallowed graves."
"He's drunk," said the maitre d'hôtel, "or else he's mad and raves."
"Not drunk or mad," cried Peggy, "but only a poor, sick man,
Who, shot by William Grundy, declines Tom Archer bacon and ham."
"I care not a curse for your family, and I won't be dragged away;
Just let me have the turkey, it's only on Christmas Day.
That the mince pie comes to haunt me and prey on my burning brain;
I'll tell you the rest in a whisper, I swear I won't shout again.
"Keep your hands off me, Jenny! Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how Ambridgonians, the season of Christmas spend;
You come here to watch us feeding, as they watched the captured beast;
Here's why a self-made business man, spits on your paltry feast."
"Do you think I will take your bounty and let you smile and think
You're doing a noble action with the hotel's meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors, my poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above me, my Peggy was killed by you."
"I came to the parish, widowed, wanting again a wife
Then I found a woman who loved me, my remaining years of life;
And what do you think they told me, mocking my awful grief,
That The Bull was closéd to us, they wouldn't give us relief."
"I slunk down the village green, 'twas a cold, raw Christmas Eve
And the village shop was open, tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together, holding my head up high,
So I came to her empty-handed and mournfully told her why."
"All through that eve I watched her, holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord and weeping till my lips were salt as brine;
I asked her once if she hungered, and she answered 'No.'
The moon shone on her white hair, set in a wreath of snow."
"And the cockney, long forgotten, came back to her tongue once more.
For she talked like the Poplar lassie I wooed by the kitchen door;
Then she rose to her feet and trembled, and fell on the rags and moaned,
And, 'Gimmee a banger, I'm starvin ... for the love of John Archer,' she groaned.
"I rushed from the green like a madman and flew to St. Stephen's grate,
Crying, 'Bacon for a dying woman!' and the answer came, 'Too late!'
They drove me away with curses; then I fought with Fly in the street
And tore from the mongrel's clutches a crust he was trying to eat."
"Back through the rich Grange Spinney... back through the trampled slush!
Up to the still, cold hillock, wrapped in an awful hush;
My heart sank down at the village pond, and I turned towards Lakey Hill.
To spy, in the silv'ry moonlight, my Peg lay cold and still."
"Yes, there in a village of plenty, lay a loving woman dead.
Cruelly starved, and lacking a Tom Archer sausage in bread;
At yonder gate, last Christmas, I craved for a human life,
You, who would feed us Woolleys, what of my murdered wife?"
"There, get you gone to your diners, don't mind me in the least,
Think of the happy Archers eating a Christmas feast
And when you recount their blessings in your parochial way,
Say what you did for me too... only last Christmas Day."
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