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Christmas Eve at the Old Pear Tree

It was Christmas Eve at the Old Pear Tree Inn,

which was the best night of the year.

Mister Leaping was serving his famous hot flip,

made of rum, egg, molasses, and beer.

We were already merry, but seasonably so,

when young Mistress Caper burst in.

‘There’s a stranger outside of a curious size,

who would ask for a bucket of gin.’

‘Miss Caper,’ said Leaping, who thought her in jest,

‘Will they take a gin sling or a toddy?’

‘Didn’t say,’ she replied, ‘For it don’t speak, as such,

but spells out the words on its body.’

Madame Poule by the window, she cried sacred blue,

and slid from the bench in a swoon.

Out there in the lane was a huge silhouette,

with a trunk reaching up towards the moon.

Captain Snare’s monocle popped from his eye,

‘That’s an elephant without mahout!

How came it to Goldringham from Hindustan,

and why is it tapping its foot?’

‘In need of refreshment!’ Leaping surmised,

‘Would it partake of famous hot flip?’

The elephant’s big ears flapped for delight,

and into a curtsy it dipped.

We dashed to give greeting, Snare, Robin and I,

while Leaping poured beer in a bucket.

Between its big ears perched a bonnet awry,

and from its neck hung a great locket.

It wore not a gown but a cloak wrapped around,

with the alphabet broidered upon it.

‘A good evening, Ma’am,’ said Robin, who bowed,

‘May I compliment you on your bonnet?’

She curtsied again as we each gave our name,

and with her trunk tapped out these words:

‘How do you do? My name’s Missus Bamboo,

and I'm searching for mythical birds.

Have you heard tell of doves which are turtles as well,

or of swans that can swim in formation?

Have you heard of the geese that lay eggs when they please,

or are they mere symbolisation?’

‘An excellent question, Missus Bamboo,’

said Leaping, arrived with her pail.

‘I’ve often wondered if magpies can count,

and do crows fly straight in a gale?’

‘Are larks truly happy?’ Captain Snare asked,

‘Do ducks only like rainy days?’

Missus Bamboo scooped up flip to her lips,

adopting a faraway gaze.

‘My quest must continue,’ she spelled on her cloak,

having finished her ale in a trice.

‘It’s a solitary road, but I’ve chosen my load.

For adventure, there must be a price.’

Little Josephine Fairly, who worked in the dairy,

said, ‘Spend Christmas Eve here with us.

There’ll be stories and ditties, and jigs and such like.

Madame Poule has stopped making a fuss.’

‘Christmas already?’ the elephant asked.

‘How short days do pass without count.’

‘Should you wish, I would tell you of Caspar the king,

and my ancestor who was his mount.’

‘Should you wish, I would trumpet a song with my trunk,

and your destinies I will recount.

‘Should you wish, I’ll inhale a whole barrel of beer,

and turn my trunk into a fount.’

‘Ah we wish,’ said the milkmaid, the Captain, and Leaping.

‘We wish,’ said Miss Caper and me.

‘Yes, we wish,’ said Robin and Madam Poule,

Indeed, everyone in the Pear Tree.

And that Christmas Eve with Missus Bamboo was the merriest night ever spent.

Ever since, every year on the twenty-fourth, we remember that dear elephant.


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