This story was written for the 2017 Advent Calendar – Day 19
Summary: Pressures of the season and falling behind lead to unexpected results.
Rating: G (1,75 words)
Aunt Agnes Series:
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Aunt Agnes’s Dilemma
Advice – Part 2
Aunt Agnes was nothing if not responsible (and, of course, she was so much more than that). When a body agreed to take on a job, that body was obligated to follow through, regardless of how much a body would rather be doing something (anything) else. A person’s word was their sacred bond.
It had taken a considerable amount of steely resolve to instigate the widow’s withdrawal from the family hearth and board to climb the stairs, costume for the ritual, withdraw the necessary writing paraphernalia, and finally remove the basket of unanswered correspondence from its shelf. Only four letters remained. Surely, with the proper concentration, the job would be completed forthwith, and Aunt Agnes could throw off the burden of obligation and rejoin the Christmas festivities in the rooms below.
Aunt Agnes contemplated the troublesome letters. A weary hand scratched the stubble along the strong jaw. (It seemed a sharper razer was in order.)
Just begin, for goodness’ sake.
Still procrastinating, Agnes fiddled with the pen and fidgeted in the chair. Every shift caused the crimson brocade robe, cinched modestly around the trim waist, to scrape against the chair’s seat. The susurrus combined with the ticking of the mantel clock and the tapping of the pen against the desk top, punctuated occasionally with a loud sigh, played a forlorn tune that clearly proclaimed the author’s current distress. Aunt Agnes had lost her muse.
The situation was infuriating. Aunt Agnes was the recognized moral authority of Virginia City—published three days a week in The Territorial Enterprise. The columnist had never been caught without a creditable response for any of the questions sent for perusal. Indeed, Aunt Agnes was known throughout the territory for the unerring ability to solve all manner of problems. These particular letters had been read and read again to the point of memorization. Given all that, on this day Aunt Agnes couldn’t have offered an ounce of counsel for an ounce of gold.
Aunt Agnes was nothing if not determined (less couth voices were known to say “pig-headed.”) These letters represented people troubled in mind and spirit during the very season when they should feel peace and joy. They must not be disappointed.
Finally, a letter was plucked from the stack. Removing the letter from its envelope, Agnes was surprised to find a second sheet of paper tucked inside. Setting the interloper aside for the moment, Agnes scanned the now familiar words.
Dear Aunt Agnes,
I hope you can help me for I am at my wits’ end.I am newly married, and my husband’s mother is joining us for our Christmas party. She has never approved of me, and I overheard her describe me as “silly and shiftless.” Although my husband merely laughs and tells me not to fret when I explain my worries, I do so want to make her smile in approval this Christmas. Is there anything I can do?
Frightened yet hopeful
Aunt Agnes pinched the bridge of the aristocratic nose in frustration. Never having had a mother-in-law, knowing what to do to please such a person was a mystery. Unfolding the unexpected additional letter found in the envelope, Agnes read with pleasure the words carefully printed there.
Dear Hopeful Young Miss,
I give you my special recipe for your Christmas party. It is no trouble to make and not cost much. All people at party will say is very tasty and make many compliments. Bring much honor to husband for choosing such talented bride. Try this and you will see honorable husband’s mother smile.
Your friend and servant,
A recipe was included at the bottom of the page. Aunt Agnes dithered. This was the perfect answer to the young woman’s question. But, it had not come from “Aunt Agnes.” Would it be cheating to use the answer a kind Providence had supplied?
Agnes drew the second letter from the basket. Again, the letter was now accompanied in its envelope by a companion letter. The original missive read . . .
Dear Aunt Agnes,
This ain’t a happy Christmas for me. My best friend who’s been like a brother to me has gambled away our grub stake. We worked hard for that money and was counting on it. He says he’s real sorry, but I’m so mad I can’t hardly bear to look at him. Do I have to forgive him?
Madder than fire
Aunt Agnes reached eagerly for the paper clumsily folded and stuffed alongside the letter.
Dear Madder than fire,
I can see why you’re upset. Any feller would be put out by what happened. You don’t have to forgive him if you don’t want to. That’s up to you, and a man has to do what’s right for him. But it seems to me you got a choice. Staying madder than fire is a powerful heap of work. It might take so much work you won’t ever have the energy to build up your grub stake again. If you did decide you could find it in yourself to forgive, you could lay that burden of anger down. Your problem reminds me of something I heard read from the Bible. When one of the apostles asked our Lord how much a person should forgive, our Lord told him to forgive seventy times seven times. I know that seems like a lot of forgiving to ask of person, but since I figure our Lord has to forgive me about a hundred times more than that it only seems right. I hope you have a merry Christmas no matter what.
Aunt Agnes had to give this mystery correspondent credit. It was the perfect answer. No pontificating, no lofty reasoning—merely simple compassion and gentle guidance. Agnes was certain the answer could never be improved upon.
Two letters remained in the basket. Agnes retrieved the envelope scented delicately with rose cologne.
Dear Aunt Agnes,
I don’t know why I’m bothering you, but maybe you can help me feel better. I fell in love with a boy who was passing through town on the way to California. Auntie, I can’t find the words to describe how handsome he is. We would sit and talk for hours about just everything! He told me every last one of his dreams and secrets, and I told him mine. When he held my hand, my heart just about flew out of my chest. We always knew he would be leaving so I can’t say he lied about anything. But, I am so lonesome and lost since he left. When I try to talk to my friends about how I feel, they tell me I should never have gotten involved since we knew it wasn’t permanent. I just don’t know anymore. Was I wrong to give him my heart?
Aunt Agnes turned to the answer scrawled in backhanded script.
I’m very sorry your young man had to leave. It really does hurt to say good-bye. You weren’t wrong to love him. I think finding the person you are going to spend forever with is real important, just like your friends say. But I also think that whenever a person falls in love, it’s special. While it may not last, it still means a lot. Not everything that is beautiful and real lasts for a long time. Because you know you have a heart that can love, maybe you are getting closer to finding your forever. Merry Christmas.
Humph. That was a view on affairs of the heart Aunt Agnes had never considered. Something about the answer seemed a little flighty, but after a few minutes of thought, Aunt Agnes was unable to disagree.
One letter remained. Agnes remembered it well and was comforted at the sight of yet another gifted response.
Dear Aunt Agnes,
My heart is very troubled. I was raised by good, devout parents to attend church faithfully, to listen to the preacher, and follow his direction. I brought up all of my children in the same way, and they are content to respect my teaching—except for my youngest son. He doesn’t find contentment in God’s house. In fact, he does his best to avoid going to church. I’m shamed by his rebellion and frightened to the core of my being that he won’t find Heaven when he passes from this earth. I tell you, Aunt Agnes, he is a good man otherwise. My son is kind, loving and generous to all. He tells me that he believes and prays, but going to church is not for him. What can I do?
Without reading the response provided, Agnes was certain it was an appropriate answer.
Dear Frightened Father,
We all want what is best for our children. What better gift could we imagine than the gift of everlasting life? Naturally, when choosing a path to direct our loved ones, we decide on the one most familiar to us. It’s hard to even imagine there are other ways. Since I don’t have these answers, I turned to the Good Book for guidance.
Saint Paul tells us that we must “rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Does this describe your son? Perhaps he has learned more from you than you realize? The Bible tells us also, “do not be anxious about anything.” I admit I struggle with this advice myself. But it is still good advice.
Aunt Agnes leaned back in the chair, considering the gifts offered by the mysterious helpers. Unsurprised to hear a soft knock at the door, the visitors were invited to enter.
“You aren’t angry, are you?”
“No, I’m not angry. Why did you do it?”
“Well,” his father said, “I could tell you were tired and worried. Hop Sing said he’d seen you pulling these letters out, reading them over and over. I thought if I could help you with even one letter . . . We didn’t realize until this evening that we all had the same impulse. It wasn’t our intention to meddle.”
There they stood, the four wisest people Adam had ever known. Each of them had seen the stress he was under and without hesitating had taken the time to give him, as well as perfect strangers, the best of themselves. If Adam had to wipe moisture from his eyes before he felt able to speak, he could always blame the smoky lamp.
“Thank you all. If Aunt Agnes knows anything about life, she learned it from all of you.”
“So does this mean you want us to help you out all the time?” The boy nimbly dodged a swat to the back of his head. Apparently Joe just couldn’t resist interrupting profoundly sentimental moments for which Adam was deeply grateful.
“Son, if you’re finished here, let us now go downstairs. Hop Sing’s made punch, and there’s a tree that still needs decorating.”
With the crimson brocade robe folded over the desk chair and letters bundled up ready to take to town, Adam snuffed out the lamp and gladly followed his father and brothers. Touched by his family’s regard, he looked forward to the night’s Christmas festivities with an almost childlike excitement. He had Aunt Agnes to thank for the timely reminder of an essential truth.
Adam Cartwright was nothing without family.
******************* MERRY CHRISTMAS**************
Matthew 18:21-23 (King James Version)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (King James Version)
Link to the 2017 Advent Calendar – Day 20 – A Cartwright Advent by Sibylle
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Hop Sing, Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright
Other Stories by this Author
- Advice (by Belle)
- Small Print (by Belle)
- All Through the Night (by Belle)
- Morning Star aka Stealing Christmas (by Belle)
- The Christmas Hostage (by Belle)