This is a continuaton of A Sailing Ship Story titled:

Rescued! The Zephyr Splendour

It is a current works in progress and is at "First Draft Stage," so that you know there will be possibly some small revisions a bit later on.

....How will Christmas Eve and Christmas Day find The Captain Brave and True, The Maiden Fair, The Lad and Trusty Crew???

Connie

Going down for third the last time, screaming out screams of terror and grabbing into the nothingness of thin air with screams totally engulfing the Maiden Fair that her body was uncontrollability shaking and quickly into a shock sending her. As much as the bellowing of the blood curdling screams poured forth from her lungs then so too the suffocating feeling of the screams that were so muffled that not a sound could be heard while sweating profusely and into a chaotic nightmare with heart about to stop…when she heard it, the words to a song and yet only a few words of the lyrics of old were continuing echoing with the words twisted and not like the song itself and yet the melody so haunting again and again, over and again in her mind would play out…. "Rock of ages, comfort me in this my final hour." Grief! She somehow hated those words now twisted and giving trouble unto her spirit, ever echoing they would play… "comfort me in this my final hour…in this my final hour, in this my final….."

Bang! Bang! Rap a Bang! Came the pounding at The Maiden Fair's cabin door when all of a sudden the Captain Brave and True came rushing in, grabbing her roughly by the shoulders and shaking her awake. "Wake Up! Maiden Fair, Wake Up! It is happening again, these nightmares of yours, Wake Up!"

"What?" "What?" "What is happening The Maiden mumbled while reaching for her ears, covering them and attempting to drown out that music and desiring so much for the song to end but it kept playing…. "Rock of ages comfort me in this my final hour…" " Make it quit and Oh my goodness! I am drowning, I feel it now, I am sinking…" said of The Maiden.

"No! Maiden," cried the Captain. "Here, here now, all is well. You are on board my ship, The Zephyr Splendour, remember? Come on now, wake up…"

"But I am drowning, Help me please… in this my final hour." "No, Maiden, you are not drowning, really. Here. Come, come now, awaken. It is almost morn with a new Day about to dawn." Made encouraging words of the Captain and with that once again The Maiden began to feel a comfort yet the trembling and shaking continued on in her body giving her to ache with the pain of spasms making her muscles so tight and taunt.

The Captain Brave and True called to the Lad who now in the doorway to The Maiden Fair's room stood with a look deeply concerned etched on his face so young and tender, requesting a couple of cooling damp cloths that he go and make readied where upon The Captain as words soothing poured forth from his lips he gave her to know that she need only to lay back, thinking thots lovely while he placed one cloth on her forehead and with the other giving massage to her neck and chest as well as her wrists and hands. The cloths cooling gave immediate refreshment as well as the awareness that Yes, she was safe aboard ship the Zephyr Splendour and not in some deep ocean of life sinking to never rise again. After only but a moments few in passing until The Maiden's heart rate returned to normal and the heaving breaths subsided. The Captain continuing to massage her tensed muscles and relaxation once again gave relief to the few lingering spasms. Then reaching to the cloth on her forehead and turning it over so as to take full advantage of the yet bit of coolness that the cloth held.

"I'm o.k. Really Captain, you needn't stay here as much as your company I do so enjoy," made comment of The Maiden to the Captain. And, "Lad truly I am fine, please give to me your smile that brightens even the darkest of nights….please I ask of Thee dear one." With that The Lad relaxed his brow so wrinkled up in deepest concern with The Captain giving reply to The Maiden that he would meet her in the dining room come morning meal.

How she felt like a fool, The Maiden Fair, when seated in the dinning area about an hour or so later with the Captain, the Lad and the trusty Crew. Cook came over to where she was sitting saying, "Here Missy, have some of this chilled papaya juice that I have kept hidden away in the freezer and some toast and note how I made it especially the way I know you enjoy it, with a bit extra of the cinnamon and only half the sugar."

"Thank You so much Cook," made mention of The Maiden. "I am dreadfully sorry for it seems that once again I have awoken all to an early day's start. I feel just terrible." "Ah Missy, not to concern yourself. That near drowning this summer had quite the impact on your life and seems only of late that this is playing out as you sleep." With that the Cook gave her a gentle hug and was off to the kitchen. The Maiden smiled ever so slight. Goodness only knows how in these months since Rescue she had came to so appreciate the Cook, a man whom at first seemed so distant and gruff and yet how she had grown so fond of him… maybe she thot it is because of his distance and independent manner… how he wouldn't take any bull from the others. He was one to ever to speak forth his personally held thots. Ever one that could be heard saying, "No one owns me I tell ya, No one! I speak out and so you think you gonna think low of me for being a cook, eh? not if you want for your stomachs to be filled! I don't take nothing of anyone, hear me! Now I a tell ya, Don't no one own me! Hear me? Come a couple of years more and 70 years I will be and didn't come to be this age by laying down like a doormat to have others trample on me!"

"Ah!" thot The Maiden, "who would ever know except for a very few of how Cook had a heart of gold with a spirit so kind and gentle except that for the main it was kept hidden away, giving only a tough and roughened by many weathered Storms of Life on oceans many that had been endured to be the exterior view of him

Mid morning found The Zephyr Splendour sailing steadily along. It was late in the shipping season and by now they should have all reached their destination and yet what with the last couple of stops it had been one thing after another. The ship's engine had been giving some trouble and that gave a weeks delay in one ocean side town. Then at the last Port of call the merchants were refusing to take shipment for it seems their own workers were on strike, demanding more pay and safer working conditions and give the pay for the items on board that were theirs to be had was a struggle and a half. What an absolute mess the Captain had had on his hands. He needed desperately to unload the ship's cargo and take in the funds to cover the costs of items he wanted to take in trade to unload at the next Port where there he would call it a season till Springtime's thaw for soon and very soon the waters would be freezing. Could it be that Winter was so close at hand? Taking note of the air so brisk, pulling his overcoat a little snugger and heading off to talk with his crew the Captain strode on ahead, making that loud thumping noise on the wooden deck by wooden heels of his worn black leather boots. A sound that somehow gave them all to know that The Captain was in control.

The Maiden Fair had gotten into the daily habit of helping Cook, more so since the days had turned so much more the cooler in whatever manner, from peeling of the potatoes to helping to maintain a scrubbed and spotless kitchen. This was the very least she felt she could do … just to be busy and helping, given especially since the Captain never charged her for anything. Not even when in the last couple of Port towns she was enabled to take in a bit of funding from the sale of some of the cloth works she had worked on since those first sewing purchases during the height of summer during that first week or so when she and the Captain Brave and True first had gotten more so acquainted in that Pier Port Town. It was The Lad that had inspired her to do this when in an Arts Town there was a fair and he had made some dollars by the selling of some wooden carved works of art he made while on the ship sailing. To The Lad this was idle time as it were that when on the ship his duties attended to and finding otherwise not a whole a lot to do he had taken up the knife to carve the rich and intricate designs. His carefree hours being put creatively to good use and later on finding that others thot well of his work, well, certainly well enough to earn him some money, whereas for The Maiden it was her works of cloth art that kept her busied and in her cabin much of the time when except for what at the time seemed the endless hours she had spent on deck during the oh so warm days of summer that had now looking back passed in a moment fleeting.

So after the morning kitchen duties were attended to and the luncheon meal well on the way to been made readied, with the homemade clam chowder now simmering on the stove, The Maiden Fair walking over to the lounge as it were, just off the dinning area where Crew, Captain and all aboard The Zephyr Splendour could spend some time, oft times in pleasant talk one with the other and too there had been a bit of a library that had been set up in the lounge with newspaper clipping saved mostly of various other ships happenings but also some books as well that could be read. So with book in hand The Maiden set herself to read till the lunch bell would be rung by Cook signaling the meal was readied to be served when looking on the wall as so many times before she gazed an read from what seemed the umpteenth time these words of an old newspaper article dated, November 10, 1975, now yellowed and frayed with age and into a frame secured as well as the words to the song, "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald,":

THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the winds turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

by Gordon Lightfoot

Cook came striding over to where The Maiden was seated and noted the article that held her gaze saying, "It seems just like yesterday when word came of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, why you Missy must have barely been born for that was 30 years ago this month… goodness how times scurries away from us."

Then replied The Maiden to Cook, "I remember hearing of this particular shipwreck…." The Cook took a few moments to be silent to remember………….

Cook then heading back to the kitchen mentioned to The Maiden that lunch soon would be readied, "Just waiting now on fresh crusted loaves of bread to be taken from the over."

The Maiden seemed to set there in the lounge spellbound and in her mind the words of her nightmare began playing over and again making as though some far distant echo, "Rock of ages, comfort me in this my final hour. In this my final hour…in this my final…." Her thots now interrupted by the ringing of the luncheon bell.

For more information regarding, "The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald":

It was only a matter of moments before all was seated in the dinning room. The Captain coming over towards The Maiden and taking a seat by her making comment, "Sure can agree to having this clam chowder that we are about to be served. Smells delicious beyond belief Cook and Man alive I can certainly use some steaming hot chowder what with those winds blowing in so fiercely. Been up on deck all morning and going by the feel of things we are in for rough weather."

"Oh, you don't say?" questioned The Maiden and Cook looking up from the table as the fresh homemade bread into thick sliced had been carved had he just set down and gave a bit of a clearing to his throat.

"Cook you coming down with a cold or something?" asked the Captain. "Ah, No Sir Captain, just ah, well, Missy here today was glancing at those old shipping articles you have and…"

"Oh, O.K. I understand," replied The Captain. "I take it you don't want me to go on with this talk and give worry concern to The Maiden here do you Cook?"

"You got that one right Captain, what with all her nightmares and all."

"Say Lad?"

" Captain Sir, what is it?"

"You do know where all the life jackets and preservers are on board this ship now don't cha?"

"Yes Sir Captain I do and also have learned with the help of your Crew how to let down the Life Boat as well."

"Good, good." Replied the Captain

"Ah Sir?"

"Yes Lad?"

"You don't mind my asking you why do you? I mean about knowing about all the whereabouts of the life jackets and all."

"Well one never can be too safe you know and here on open waters it is always wise to learn as much as safety as one can."

"Yes Sir Captain how right you are," made reply of The Lad.

Then turning to The Maiden The Captain asked, "I guess I don't need to mention to you about the Life Preservers and all now do I?"

With a bit of a wry smile The Maiden made reply of, "I hardly think so."

"That's what I figured and you know if I ever get my hands on that..that… despicable captain that threw you overboard…I'll have his head and that's not all."

"Well I should say not!" made reply of Cook. "Why hanging is too good for that one!"

"Ah fellows, maybe we could find something else to talk of? ….please fellows? ….please, for me? …please?" asked of The Maiden Fair. "Cole slaw?"

"Yes, some slaw would taste right fine, Thank You Maiden," replied The Captain Brave and True. Strange but somehow and with that it seemed so too the end of the talk of the how the Maiden Fair had arrived on board The Zephyr Splendour.

It was after the completion of the noon meal when as The Maiden was about to help get the dishes washed that Cook mentioned to her, "How about you go on ahead up on deck? There's an extra jacket in the hallway closet at the foot of the steps leading up to the deck. It really is getting too cold now for just your sweater and you've kept yourself cooped down here all morning. Go on Missy and get some fresh air."

"Well, if you don't mind?"

"Mind? Why this is my job you know."

"I realize Cook," replied The Maiden. "It is just I enjoy the time I spend with you. You give me remembrance at times of home folks of long ago."

"Well, tell you what Missy, you go on now and I will get my favorite recipes out and what say on the morrow we go through them and figure out with what supplies, such as they are here on ship, that we figure and plan what treats to make up for the Lad, Captain and Crew what with the upcoming Holidays?"

"Oh Cook! Do you mean it?"

"Why Yes Missy. I take it with that note of excitement in your voice that it is agreed then?"

"Oh!" and with that The Maiden rushed to Cook and gave him a hug before taking off for the ship's deck.

"Now remember Missy, this is our secrete. No telling the others of our plans for this may be the only specialness of the holidays."

"Oh, I will keep quiet but I don't know about this being the ONLY special happening….."

"Oh?" replied Cook.

"Well, you didn't hear anything from me," said The Maiden.

"Not a word." Cook answered and then thinking to himself, "Hmmm wonder what's up?"

The Maiden was just heading up the steps when The Lad was racing down the steps and they made a small collision into each other. "Why Lad where are you headed in such a rush?" "I'm going to the work room. This seems to be my first chance what with The Captain keeping me busy and you know of that surprise we've been working on making together to give him for Christmas?"

"Ah Yes, well I shall make it a point to keep him occupied."

"Thanks Lady Fair! I just knew I could count on you."

With that the Lad was off and literally running to the work room and oopos! Ran smack into Cook!

"Lad!"

"Sorry Cook. Here I will help you pick up the trays I made you drop. I am REALLY sorry. It is just I got some things I gotta attend to."

"Kids, no respect I tell ya! No respect at all. When I was your age…"

"Cook, Really I AM sorry… it's just that it is the upcoming Holidays and well, Lady is going to keep The Captain Brave and True busy for awhile and… and…"

"Oh! The Holidays, well that's enough explanation. Now off you go!"

Maiden Fair was still pulling on the jacket when she reached the ship's deck and spotting the Captain she went to his side as he stood by the railing and reaching out for him and pulling him close she gave him about the tightest hug he had ever encountered.! "Maiden! What in the world is going on?" and with that she pulled him closer saying, "Captain, after that early morning massage…and then drawing his wind chilled face into her hands so warm she pulled him just a little bit closer saying, "Captain, If I knew you could give massages like that I would have, well, no I wouldn't on purpose have gone through what I went through in the night but…."

"Oh, so that's it?" with that the Captain seemed to be grinning all over. "So why did I get the feeling you were rushing me out?"

"Well, what with The Lad's presence."

"O.K. Maiden I hear ya. Now here let me help you get that jacket on. Don't want you getting ill on me especially with you desiring to be so close to me and all."

"Why Captain, If I didn't know better I would think you wanted me to pull you close?"

"You didn't find me objecting did you Maiden?"

"Hmmm come to think about it, No I didn't. In that case" …and with that The Maiden pulling him closer yet.

"What about The Lad?" asked The Captain.

"The Lad?

"Yes, The Lad."

"Ahh, he's busy."

"In that case."

"Yes?"

"Maiden, anyone ever tall you that you talk too much?"

"Who? Me?"

"Hmmm, well who else would I be talking to out here?"

"Well, you do have a point."

"A point! That's one way of putting it."

"Oh for goodness sakes Captain!"

"Hay! What the big idea of giving me a nudge in the ribs like that! You trying to break 'em or what? Why you little…."

"Yes?" and The Maiden begins to take off running on deck.

"Think you can out run me do ya Maiden? I think NOT! Here I come." And The Captain takes off after The Maiden. He needs go no further than just a couple of steps and brushes against her." "Gotch ya!" and he draws her close as the splendour of wild winds howl with a gusty fierceness, giving the waves to splash mightily against the ship's hull.

"Yes, I should say you do," she replies.

"There you go talking again."

"Who me?"

"Shhhhhh be quiet Maiden," and with that their lips gently touch as overhead can be heard the loudest laughter ever of who else but the……..laughing seagull! "Oh Brother!"

Pleasantly awaiting the new dawn when with Cook The Maiden would help in the deciding of the spicy holiday treats that would be flowing forth from the kitchen gave to her to be all tingly inside and so much so she could hardly contain herself, such a bundle of energy she was as night fast closed in with a wind chill that quickly was dropping to degrees bitingly cold to say the least. Under the quilts so thickly amassed she huddled with shivers soon releasing their hold on her mortal body as comforting warmth overtook and ah, sweet dreams are made of this…

It seemed like no time at all had passed and morning beckoned. She could hear on the other side of her room The Lad awakening as he jumped from his bed and leaped into his cloths and soon could be heard racing out of his room when the "thump" sound of his cabin's door closing behind him gave her to know that he was well on his way to accomplishing his morning chores before having his own breakfast. The Maiden knew his first stop would be to check in on the little lambs, now sheep with a summer's growth of heavy wool on them. All goodness how The Lad cared for these "woolies," as he called them. The Maiden smiled how when remembering when the lambie ewe and ramie lambie had been brought aboard, how Cook first looked upon them as something that would grow fit for serving…but that "myth" quickly disposed of when it became known among all that, "these lambs were The Captain's, we don't eat them, rather we feed them" as the Lad had put it, though right from first start he somehow drew them to his heart, loving them and in all fairness the lambs were his. His devotion had made the claim on them. These lambs had proved their weight in gold for it was noted how The Lad would reach outside of himself in the giving of care to these creatures, first so wobbly and in need of great care. The Lad took notice how right from the start that all little tuffs of their as he would call it, "fur" was to be saved. A neat little stash of this fur accumblah-baa-lating in the basket kept in The Maiden's room. She had made mention that these bits of the fleece she would use to make some thread and then later after a visit at a local County Fair at one of the Port Town stops it was decided that The Lad would care for theses lambs in such a way that hopefully come the following summer he could enter them at a local County Fair close by one of the Port Towns that The Zephyr Splendour would make stop at. Who knows maybe, just maybe he could care for them in a manner that prize champion sheep they would be considered of by the local 4-H'ers. He already knew they were prized woolies! Baaaa Baaaa!!

Once the dishes of the morning meal cleared and washed Cook went and brought to the table his recipe files. His favorites were all placed on 3x5 cards and placed into the plastic sleeves of the pages of a photo album. Intermixed were a few old photos. Though the photos were few and far between yet they seemed to capture the essence of one in particular. A young lady from early on years in her life through young adulthood. When The Maiden made mention to the Cook of "how lovely a person," tears welled up and with a quick brush of his hand as a tear drop slid down his weather roughened face he wiped away. "Ah, that's my precious lovelie, my dearest daughter," he replied and then added, "You know you remind me a lot of her."

"A daughter you have?" asked of The Maiden. "Do oft you get opportunity to visit with her?"

"Ah, Missy I wish it were so but what with traveling Life's Oceans but then again why it is I so much seek ever to travel as part of the crew of The Zephyr."

"Oh, and why might this be… if you don't mind my asking?"

"No, I don't mind and it gives this old heart a time to recall the golden days of yester-decades in passing."

Just as Cook was about to continue on in his thots what a ruckus outside the dinning hall could be heard!

All of a sudden the Lad felt a jerk and tug at his arm with Gregoras holding him back. "Let me Go!" cried the Lad to the one of the Trusty Crew of The Captain's that was holding him back.

"No! Lad, you are putting yourself where you don't belong. Now I am gonna let go of you but only so you can race up on deck and go get The Captain. You hear me? I said, Do you hear me?" and with the chiseled fingers of Gregorus sinking into his tender flesh the Lad let out a yelp that he would and off he was running in search of The Captain Brave and True.

Gregoras was a man whose very fibers were seemingly that of steel. His lean and hard body filled with tattoos of the most haunting in nature to behold. His left ear pierced and eyebrows too. Hardly a word ever escaped his lips, faithful to the work that The Captain bidded him to do. Gregoras was a loner on board and had now traveled more than a few shipping seasons with him. He considering The Zephyr to be his home given that he was raised on City Streets for the main in a ghetto where poverty was the norm and killings, damn those hideous killings of the various gangs was the rule … so any that would disturb The Zephyr's peacefulness he felt as a private insult and so now when it was when two of the other of the Crew got into a worthless battle, he doing what he could to separate these nunbskulled idiots.

It was at the base of the steps leading up to the main deck where the fighting all began. Seems that these two crew members that had been taken on board when way back in early Springtime The Zephyr had started her regular trading and shipping route for the season were brothers, twins in fact they were. Not too altogether in the mind as far as smarts you understand but in some ways it was supposed that it came from the various blows on their heads from the tag team wrestling fights that had been apart of their lives for many a year. Strong were these men and bulky in size. Each one could easily do the lifting and work of five men of average size. A part of the reason The Captain had hired them on. The thing that got them in trouble it seemed was though that at every turn was their slowness of thot. They weren't really mean, just unthinking, but still a fight was nothing that was desired to be had on board. Besides it would only take the one of them shoving the other and soon walls would be smashed right through. Gregoras shaking his head in disbelief and grabbing onto the one twin while The Captain now coming down the steps from on deck grabbed the other twin from behind with The Lad jumping in-between both of the heavy weight twins whose arms were flinging wildly. Cook came from the dinning room with the sharpest of cleavers threatening that heads would roll if this bit of nonsense wasn't stopped and stopped right now! The twins didn't seem to hear a word for somewhere locked into a world of their own till after a few moments of struggling with The Captain and Gregoras though not considered professionals in the world of wrestling yet still with their smarts and fast moves…Man those two were a marvel to witness for although lacking in size of the hefty twins, The Captain and Gregoras could easily whip any number of men. It was then The Maiden came through with of all things a pitcher of coldest water and flinging it she made her aim. Hit the burliest of the twins head on with the water of "wake up," as it were, with the other twin sharing equally in the drenching. Of course wouldn't you know it The Lad being in the middle somehow got wetter than all put together.

As the twins stood there shaking their heads with hair shoulder length, appearing more so to be dogs fresh out of a back yard tub washing than anything else the Captain bellowed, "Alright fellows, break it up!" he then went on saying, "I told you guys when I hired you on that I expected non of this kind of nonsense out of you. Now I want to know what goes?" With that the Captain ushered the twin he was holding and motioned to Gregoras to bring the other and over to the lounge area they went, sitting down, with The Captain asking Cook to, "please make up some fresh hot coffee and maybe we can get to the bottom of all of this, eh?"

"A towel might be nice," said of the younger twin.

"Why don't you just shut your mouth you lamebrain.. Towel? What about some whisky?"

"Me? Why you're the one who started all this."

"Me?"

"Yeah you! …and whisky, yeah that sounds the ticket!"

"How you figure? You're the one who ran into me and you know I was just out for my morning jog around the ship. Told you in advance I was going to get my jogging in and next thing I know you crash right into me. Come to think of it never mind the whisky, been dry all these months. Be a shame to go off the wagon now."

"What the… You know you are at fault."

"Me? Why if you weren't my twin I'd…"

"You'd what? Feels like you already broke my nose," and touching his swollen tender nose he could be heard moaning.

"Well, well, well what a baby you have just proved yourself to be!"

When all of a sudden could be heard of The Captain "Alright you two, shut it! Now! You hear me or you can forget getting your last check because you know any damages the ship sustains due to this violent streak of you boys and you'll be held responsible. Got that?"

With that the fellows suddenly got silent for the wages they were in desperate need of. They had their dreams of returning actively to pro-wrestling but what with the hardships of the year before this one when they decided to take on this employment. Being a shipping crew member meant lots of hard heavy work. Just what they needed to regain strength and being out on Life's Oceans meant being far away from the bars, saloons, pubs, and taverns, all of which that had been a factor in causing all their difficulties in the first place. It also meant lots of days outdoors taking in fresh air and clearing their minds. They were in need of total refreshment from body to mind to spirit.

It had been told how for the longest time the fellows had a winning streak in their wrestling and then they got too sure of themselves, laid off the training and got to partying. At first they didn't notice any change in their fighting and kept on winning when at last the late night parties of celebration brought them to their knees when for the one twin the drinking proved to be too much. Thot he could handle it and one thing lead to another and hospitalized for the longest while ensued. This season of working on board The Zephyr Splendour would be a time to renew their energies. They knew the captain kept also a small gym on board so daily they could work out as long as their duties were maintained. So what after all these months had gone wrong and they took to fighting among themselves was a total mystery.

Soon Cook was pouring the fresh hot coffee into mugs with the Lad drying himself off with a towel while handing one each to the twins.

"Thanks Lad. And Cook, much appreciated. This really hits the spot. Man what all a guy doesn't have to do to get a cup of joe on this ship!"

"Yeah, Thanks Lad and you too Captain. Don't know what got into my brother."

"Say What? You know YOU were the one at fault!"

"Me? Now I outta slug the living daylights out of ya!"

"Ggrrr! You two shut up! I've like about had it with the both of you. Don't you realize? Well come to think of it you fellows wouldn't for only seasoned crew would be aware of the perils we are in. Lad, go now to The Maiden, keeping her busy for the last couple of days there's been that spark of life in her and I don't want her to get to worrying with anything that I am about to share here with the fellows ….and you Lad are old enough to know that Storm Clouds so fierce are on the horizon, seems a different feel in the air, almost savage and unlike anything I've felt in many a sailing year. Cook is already aware of it. I am counting on you Lad to be of help to me."

With one look of shock at the words he was hearing and then, "Yes Sir Captain you can count on me." With that he went back to the dinning area where Cook and Lady Fair were huddled over the recipes that had been abandoned in the midst of the scuffle earlier on.

"Here Lad," said of Lady handing him a mug filled with hot chocolate.

"Mmmmmm Lady, I didn't know such treats were to be had here on board ship!"

Hmm thot Maiden how a mug of hot water with some dry powdered milk and a bit of a chocolate bar crumbled in and stirred till smooth could make for a Lad to be so joy filled and with that she tousled his black wavy hair.

Then Lady Fair went on talking with Cook saying, "So you say these photos are of your daughter? So where lives she now and you were just in the middle of sharing with me when…"

Excuse me Lady and Cook, Sir… but I really ought to get back to the work room. Got those er a….

Cook interrupting, "Yes, Lad, by all means get a hussle on it." And then Cook gave him a knowing wink.

Meanwhile in the lounge the words spoken of the Captain to the Lad had an unexpected sobering effect on the twins, even more so than the threat that their pay might be in jeopardy if they didn't straighten around when they went suddenly silent with the one twin reaching a hand to his brother and the other pushing the extended hand aside and rather grabbing hold of his brother as though for dear life. Then in a strange unison they both speaking forth to the Captain at the same time, "We're sorry. It won't happen again and like the Lad said, 'Yes Sir Captain you can count on me.'" Then they just got up and went silently to the room housing a bit of a gym and in no time at all could be heard pressing weights with a grunt and a moan from time to time.

"Well I'll be jiggered, if that don't beat all hollow," said of the Captain to Gregoras and going on to say, " I want to Thank You for intervening and stepping in and for sending the Lad to get me."

"Hay Man you know I'd do just about anything for you. I mean here I am knowing nothing of the shipping business and you take me on and within the first season give to me what I had lacked for so long, not only a job but a place to call home. Now what's with all this Storm talk?"

"Come on Gregoras I need to go make a check back up on the main deck. Seems I have such an uneasy feeling"

"And Captain, this being so unlike you. I mean like I've seen the absolute meanest hoodlums back down from your tough and cool way of handling of matters. You earned my respect way back when we first met."

The Captain grinned remembering when they first had met, "My, she was quite the Lady wasn't she and then come to find out she rejected both of us."

"And to think she choose the leader of that hoodlum pack!"

"So Gregoras, you ever come to understand women?"

"Who me Captain?" asked Gregoras shaking his head from side to side and replying with, "But you know I don't have to understand them to have my way with 'em."

Within a moments few the fellows had arrived up on deck and felt they couldn't pull their overcoats on tight enough, wind about to blow them apart with a feeling of ice biting in the very air though not seen yet felt like thin shards of glass pelting at them.

"This weather," the Captain was saying," never quite experienced anything like this while out on the Water's Great. Then again by this time of year I am usually well on my way into safe the harbour. Not like this close of year shipping season."

The Captain going on to say as Gregoras lit up his pipe, "I plan the shipping season so as that Cook can Winter over at his daughter's place. She has a home, a cabin I believe I heard him say, up there in those mountains that loom far in the distant. Don't know quite what all happened for it seems as tough as Cook is he seems to shed a tear anytime the thots return to his beloved daughter."

"Well you know Captain, it takes a really strong and toughened man to shed a tear, to really feel, if you know my meaning."

"Gregoras I am really taken by surprise to her you talk like this. Why, seems most of the time you hardly ever say a word."

"Shattering the conceptual image you have of me so it seems eh Captain?"

"So it seems. Then again I don't suppose this has anything to do with Maiden Fair being on board?"

"Well it could… Man can you believe it I mean like you…"

"With the Captain interrupting him, "I know, she is as fish I fished up out of Life's Ocean. Listen I don't normally meddle in the affairs of my crew, it is just that Maiden has been through a lot and unless you really care and desire her…"

"I know, don't mess with what the Captain already has his hands on."

"No, that's not it."

"But Captain, you do care about her don't you?"

"Yes, but as my sister."

"From that kiss I couldn't help but notice the other day between you two…"

"What kiss you talking about?

"Why the one that The Laughing Seagull alerted me to. Why, was there one I missed or should I say one that her pet missed?"

"Think I just might toss you overboard myself Gregoras."

"Well that is one way to get rid of the competition."

"Grief!"

"Yeah, I know Captain, just let as the Lad calls her, Lady, well just let Lady be and get herself gathered together."

"Well so it is we're agreed good buddy." And say, "Let's get a hussle on back down backstairs, this wind is about to blow us both overboard!"

Cook motioned to Missy to be quiet as the sound of footsteps could be heard coming down the steps and about to enter into the dinning area to where they were still poured over the recipes and having made almost final decisions, " want for some holiday surprises now don't we Missy?" It was the familiar loud thumping of the Captains as well as the softer tap tap tapping of Gregoras' boots that made such the welcoming sound as the two blew into the dinning room.

"So fellows, must be mighty cold up there on deck for if I'm not mistaken that's bits of frosty snow on your lapels," made question of the Cook.

"Cook, cold, ah if only but that feel of biting ice and that sound in the wind….something, don't know quite what but distant clouds seem to be holding back the worst of it and maybe…maybe… it will all blow over." made reply of The Captain. "Now if you don't mind I've work to attend to. Need to go and check on some maps of mine. If I'm not mistaken there's a small Isle part way between here and enroute to the harbour where we are headed."

Captain, 'til true about that Isle, The Isle of Whispering Oaks. It's a place mainly were the local towns kids row out in boats to take in a bit of fishing for the main and spend warm summer days swimming or so my daughter would speak of to me, can't say you'll find it on any map what with it being such a small way out of the way place."

"Hmm, well I'm going to make a check on it anyway. Something in those clouds… and want to make as many preparations as possible."

With that Captain headed for the lounge where in a file cabinet the maps were stored with Gregoras heading to the small gym. The twins could still be heard working out and he thot perhaps he could find out what on earth it was that had happened to have gotten them in such the upstir earlier on. With a Storm blowing in now was no time to have storms on board.

"Missy," said Cook, " what say we make this evening kinda special?"

"Special? How so?"

"Well for starters I got some dough rising that would make into some of my mighty fine pizzas and if you want I think we can talk the others into joining us after dinner for a night of movies with some popcorn. How does that sound?"

"Splendid! But where did you get the movies. I know there is no television set on board and…"

"Missy, you go over," made interruption of Cook, "To that cabinet on the far side of where I keep my main cooking and baking supplies. That's right only a little more more so over. Keep walking. Yeah, there. Stop. Open it up and.."

"Cook, I can't believe this!" Missy exclaimed. For indeed was a movie projector and canisters filled with movies.

"Oh Cook do you think the others will join in?"

"Well, can't imagine why any would refuse. Especially The Captain. Oh sure he has had to put up with my movies during various times over the years but well, he likes the popcorn more than anything that I serve up during movie time. So he will show up. Then of course the Lad, I know this will cheer him up. The twins I would think could do with a rest from all their work outs and that leaves Gregoras. He's usually stand-offish but seems he and the Captain are talking more as of late so I think that gives us a full house."

"Well, in that case Cook. You remember my making purchase at our last stop just before the Season of Thanksgiving when cider I purchased at that Country Market then brought it here on board and stored in those extra freezer containers of yours?"

"Yes Missy, I remember, why do you ask?"

"Well, seems like this might be the time to get a portion of it unfrozen and place it on the stove to thaw and you don't mind if I take some of your spices. The cinnamon and cloves and mix with it. Hot spiced cider is the best especially with popcorn and…and…."

"And what Missy. You seem troubled? "Well, I can't help but to know there is some Storm brewing that has Captain uneasy and well, ….. It just seems that if you are getting your movies out well, it would make a fine treat don't you think?"

"Yes, Missy tonight seems would be perfect to bring out that treat of yours. No one except me and not even The Lad is aware of it. I think he knows just about everything that goes on around here. Certainly more than those twins! Goodness, what you suppose got into them today?"

Cook went on to say, "Tell you what Missy I'll get a move on getting these pizzas made and what say you go and get the popcorn made. I'll call for the Lad to get the movie projector set up."

All of a sudden The Maiden could be heard just about rolling on the floor with laughter as she was getting the stove top popcorn popper out of the cupboard when on a bulletin board this newspaper clipping caught her attention. It read,

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"You want to hear the funny thing about this," asked Cook of Missy. " That fellow actually got replies for that article. Seems it got published under a Health and Wellness section of the newspaper when it should have been published under The Jokes section."

"Do you think?" questioned Missy surprised!

"Do you know that one dumb broad, well must have been a broad for no fellow could have done such the absolute stupidity deed. But anyone this one made reply though there were several replies made, anyhow this one reply read, "For the most lovely of the side affects cough! I should like to place an order for one of these most marvelously advertised thingy's, this Elasticast(TM) Popcorn Ball 2006! It is not for me you understand but for one who craves the most unique of gifts this ought to teach 'em not to be a problem to me ever again, now where was I? Ah Yes, please rush me one of these thingy's and I get the FREE meatbally thingy-ma-gigger too! Well, what more could a person ever in a lifetime, no make that 10 lifetimes, what more could one ask for??? Well, let me think…. You don't happen top have a spare Castiron Teflon Elasticast(TM) Popcorn Ball 2006 on hand do you??? I have been told that they are absolutely lethal and the side affects are only mildly so deadly. Nothing that a funeral can't handle." Goes simply by "CG" well, CG not only sends in this reply but actually sent in a check for the amount requested. Man, sure don't want to be on CG's "dislike list," anyhow the newspaper sent back her check and told her no further shipment would be until Summer of 2007."

"And want to hear something funnier…?" The Cook went on to say.

"It gets funnier?"

"Yeah! None other than our Captain Brave and True submitted that article."

"No joke???"

"And take note of that 1,000 pound bag of kernels of popcorn over there in the corner that stands a bit on the limp side. Like I mentioned The Captain really takes to his popcorn. Well, anyhow he won it! Seems the newspaper was having a contest of who could write up the best joke regarding popcorn and…."

"Well, certainly can't imagine any better joke than that one being turned in," the Maiden made comment in between trying to stifle bursts of laughter.

The first kernels of corn could be heard going Pop pop Poppy Pop pop Poppiety pop Pop as Cook was checking the pizzas loaded with savory meats and multi layers of cheese interlayered with veggies so scrumpus as well as hot peppers tantalizing and giving scents that brought The Lad running from the work room and grinning all over. "Listen Lad, I need you to set up the movies projector for me while these pizzas finish baking and choose out a couple of the movies why don't ya?" asked Cook of him.

"Movies? Ahh! I didn't know we had movies," exclaimed the Lad jubilantly just as Gregoras came from the small gym shaking his head in disbelief and muttering, "Those Twins!" He then realized The Lad try as hard as he might somehow wasn't getting on to the how to's of getting the projector set up and said to him, "Here, you need to make sure the fan is on so as the motor doesn't overheat."

"Cook where should we set up for the movies?"

"Over there in the lounge area. Also there is a movie screen rolled up in that hallway closet leaning in the back corner." So as Lad and Gregoras moved a couple of the books on the coffee table in front of a worn sofa with its fabric mellowed as age of years had taken its toll and set up, Captain said, "So Cook has an evening planned to give us all a night out as it were." As he smiled and "Mmmm mm mmmmmm if I don't smell that popcorn."

With the Lad replying, "Well certainly we can hear it! And Pizza! Oh I am so excited!"

In no time at all it seemed the dinner bell was clanging and they had their gooey delicious pizza in the dinning room while saving the popcorn for Movie Time at The Splendour.

"So Lad what movies did you select?" asked The Lady.

"Oh, do I have to tell, cannot it just be a surprise?"

"Well certainly, if you like it that a way." As she again reached out and tousled his wavy black hair. So as they soon devoured the pizza they one by one went into the lounge with the twins each taking one of the recliners, Gregoras finding an antiqued winged back to his liking, saving the comfy overstuffed chair for Cook to plump himself down into as soon as the few dishes were washed. There was a bean bag for The Lad by the projector to sit on while The Captain went to the sofa to relax. Soon Cook with Lady came into the lounge with good sized bowls of the light fluffy popcorn and drizzled with a bit of carmel as well as tossed with some small bits of chopped up apple. For a moment the Lad paused before starting the projector as Lady went over to the remaining seat on the sofa and asking, "Captain, you don't mind if I sit here beside you?"

"Not at all, he replied for seems only the floor is left unless you would like to sit on my lap," he said grinning. Just then the Lambies could be heard Baaaing and Lad asked, "Oh can't please Woolies join us…..please?"

"Sure why not?" making reply of The Captain.

"You mean it!"

"Sure, why not….there're apart of this shipping family are they not. Go on Lad and get them."

"Alrighty!" could be heard of the Lad exclaiming as he ran to get his beloved pets. When the Lambies entered into the lounge the heftier of the two promptly went over to the sofa and jumping upon along side Captain and nuzzling him." Captain teasingly saying to The Maiden, "Note how the Lambie….." with Gregoras interrupting and saying, "Hmmm seems like now all we need to have here are The Seagulls." "Yeah right!" saying the Captain with The Lady earnestly saying, "Why Gregoras, I didn't realize that you too were taken with seagulls!" This of course causing the Captain to chuckle to just about no end.

With Cook urging the Lad to get the show on the road he set the projector to going while the other Woolie came and nestled his head on his knee. The evening seemed to have the each of them enthralled in a delight that words could not convey the splendour of it all, such was the feel about it. While cold breezes were blowing out on the main deck with The Laughing Seagull, his mate and family of three winglets birthed over the summer snuggled up in their rafters of protection under the eves on deck sharing a bit of space where the Lambies had their home the Lad, Crew, Captain, and Lady were bonding in a way that they had not experienced before. In those moments it mattered not that a Storm seemed to be ever hovering and always just a few miles away yet somehow not gaining on them.

So without further delay the Movies had begun and into a world that captured them and taking them far away into warming tropicals as Elvis swayed with the grinding of the music as gals on every side beckoned him on…

"Ah! So it is that Cook is an Elvis fan," exclaimed one of the twins as the other leaped to his less than dainty feet and began to dance the night away. As the first movie was concluding The Maiden went to the Kitchen to pour the well mulled hot spiced cider into deep earthen mugs, filling them full and placing a cinnamon stick in each to use as a stir. She bringing them in just as the second movie was about to begin.

"What? What's this for I thot Cook you said these were all movie to choose from and seems more so different here…" questioned The Lad.

"Oh that's right; I placed some other tapes other than movies as well in that storage cupboard. So what have we? Hmmm, ah yes, the groups Chicago and the Moody Blues on stage during their many tours. Leave it be Lad, this is really enjoyable to listen to." As night drew on deep into the midnight hours the jazzy blue tunes played on in an upbeat fashion that sent at last Lad into a land of slumber as in the bean bag toppled over his Woolie, using him as a pillow he fell fast asleep. The other Woolie eventually bounding down and draped himself over The Lad becoming as it were a blanket of wool breathingly alive to life. The Captain still slow slipping his mulled beverage, holding the mug in one hand and pulling The Maiden a bit closer with the other. She sitting down her mug now empty on the table beside the sofa and laying her head gently on The Captain's chest listening as his heart beat in a rhythm in tune with the melodies that were playing till she too as the Lad had drifted off.

For a moment the Maiden was startled. Everything was so different and the scents surrounding her she recognized and yet so much the stronger and such the rough texture she felt on her face as she reaching with her fingers touching the fabric and such a tight weave to it and then more asleep than awake she slowly started to gather herself together. The scent was that of Gregoras's woody smoked apple tobacco he used in his pipe, with the fabric she was huddled underneath penetrated with the fruity smoked scent and it took her awhile to realize till at last she figured it out. Ah yes, she thot, I remember drifting off to the sound of music and hmmm guess the others thot to allow me to sleep…. It was not too long a time till a bit of a noise she heard coming from the kitchen and in moments few the powerful mmmm she thot robust smell of coffee is on and brewing. Cook came to the lounge and saying, "Missy, notice you are awake. So how you like your sleep on the sofa? That's Gregoras's coat you are tucked under. Captain was going to go up on deck to your room and get your blanket but Gregoras offered given how his room is here on the lower deck, it was more convenient for him to simply get his coat to cover you up with. You were sleeping so soundly that we just thot to allow you and the Lad here to stay as you were." With that Missy sat up and noticing the Woolies as Lad called them still keeping watch over him as it were and she could not help except to smile. "Yeah, peaceful here isn't it Missy?" said of Cook. With Missy simply nodding a reply… there was no need for words in all of the pleasantness.

Stretching and giving a yawn Missy was soon up and on her feet and tiptoeing around the Lad when ever so slight a Baaa coming forth of the Woolie that was as Lad's pillow could be heard. "BaaaBaaaBaaa," and "Shh Woolie, keep still, Lad is resting," spoke Missy. Who went on to think, who would have thot last year a this time she would be talking to lambies she mused in her thots and with that she was off to the dinning room where Cook was just then pouring the rich deeply brewed goodness into the mugs. As the two sat there welcoming dawn anew as day was being ushered in who should come meekly in but Lad's blanket and so utterly literally wooly it was! Cook exclaiming, "Goodness I agreed to no lambs being served hmmmm but now to just come walking in, in my kitchen-dinning area aren't we the brave one! Now scoot with you, scoot I tell ya" with "BAAA BAAA BAAA BAAA!!!!!" sounding all alarms as if a smoke alarm had just gone off." Lad by now awoke and came a running in. "Woolie! Excuse me Cook, Woolie!! Come here now or worried look, Cook don't want for you to be here in the dinning room, well, not this way and I don't want you here the way Cook would like for you to be here. COME ON WOOLIE!" so Lad grabs hold and drags Woolie back to the lounge and then gathering the other Woolie he gets them to follow him up the steps and back into the stable area where Laughing Seagull was soaring up over the deck in his morning flight.

Ah Seagull…. whispers so silently The Maiden Fair when at last on deck she ventured. Air was brisk and those foreboding clouds ever lingering, just their presence made so much for the longing to be sailing into safe the harbour in the distance that was protected by the Mountains ever greater yet in the distance. The Maiden Fair to this particular sea port town had never made journey to. There was the excitement in the air of Cook for certainly his thots were returning to home for the holidays though this harbour town was not his original home, it is just that this is where on one sailing trip he had found her after so many years their parting and after that rejoining of their spirits, well, this to him was Home Port Home. It was hard to come into understanding the situation between her, the Cook's beloved daughter and him. The memories always causing him to choke up, with his emotions about to unravel…all that was known was that for Cook this was going home for the holidays and for the rest, well it was for the Captain Brave and True his final shipping delivery of the season. His Crew would be paid their wages and usually he would set sail for the town around the bend as it were, wintering over till springtime's thaw. That was the town where he and Gregoras first happened to meet up.

Ah but for now the plans were many and unfolding. Though Storm clouds lingered and at times building up and spilling biting cold the icy cold particles held within, yet for these moments in passing it was just plain cold. With jacket pulled a bit closer Maiden staying on deck just awhile longer. She so disliked the feeling of being cooped up and yet it was that a hot shower seemed to be calling out to her.

Once back in her cabin she felt such an ease come over her. Hardly no time at all yesterday had been spent here or for a few days for that matter, what with all the various hoilday preparations going on board and all. Mmm she thot, delighted as her shower water started to rain down as it were from the faucet and the room soon lost in a fog of warmth. The jets of water splashing on her neck where a bit of a stiffness lingered from her sleeping without her own pillow on the sofa the night before. Then it was she started to giggle to just about no end remembering that newspaper clipping Cook had attached to his bulletin board…. Laughingly she thot… if only they knew……if only they knew that it was CG that she was for hmmm maybe if all accounts were known then it would be understood that the amount in well excess of the $62.000.00 was not really that high of a price to pay…after all, what is the value in one other person, one other life.? Why to the Captain Depraved this "gift" would have gone…. Well that was the thot when the check first mailed in to the newspaper to be forwarded to the author of that Health and Wellness article regarding that Elasticast(™)Popcorn Ball 2006.

It was late mid afternoon when there was a bit of a lull in the day. Snow was descending in the lightest of flurries and hope there still was that they would be sailing into the harbour within a couple of weeks. That would be just two short days before Christmas Eve. The Captain had wired in word when delay was known to be to Cook's daughter for already they really should have been there with him well on the way to his destination and yet here they were tossing about on cold a winter's ocean.

The Maiden Fair giving a bit of a start to Cook when upon entering the kitchen.

"Ah, Missy, didn't hear you come down the steps but so good it that you are here. What say we get that Gingerbread Boy recipe started for the dough is such that it will need to be refrigerated overnight before we can get them completed on the morrow. You know I was thinking that besides making the gingerbread boys I should like to make a gingerbread tree as well. You know, for The Lad for it seems that shall be his only Christmas Tree for this season what with us being way out here on the Water's Great and no Tree for the Holidays are to be had."

"Oh, 'tis right," said of The Maiden. "I hadn't thot of that till now. Good it is that we are making up cookies that shall keep well …unless the others get into them…"

"They will keep alright for these are all ones we can place in the freezer and all knows the rules that one is allowed to get into the freezer without my say so…"

"Just then going by was Gregoras, "Mmmm the scent of that ginger sure is making my mouth to water," with that said he was gone only to reappear in a couple of minutes and saying to Cook, "I realize this isn't much but it is what I have to offer. Maybe you can use it up in one of your recipes?" With that said he handed to Cook one peppermint candy cane. Cook bidding Gregoras to sit at a chair that was pulled to the kitchen counter and giving to him a spoon and the mixing bowl… For a moment Gregoras didn't know quite how to respond. Cook going on to say, "I suppose The Lad will be bounding in and out often to have the treat of one of the mixing bowl's and spoon's but, well, you are here and I don't suppose that fellows really outgrow…."

"You're absolutely correct Cook!" Gregoras interrupting Cook and exclaiming at the same time. Eagerly he took of the spoon, scrapping the bowl of the few remaining snatches of spicy gingerbread dough. "Gosh Cook it's been easily a couple of decades since…" and his voice trailing off. Then it was when looking up he noticed Lady peering at his arms. Usually he wore long sleeves or like as of late his coat but now in the warm kitchen he was stripped down to his black T-shirt and wearing a pair of jeans. "What Lady, you seem all of a sudden silent..??" with her reply, "Can't help but to note your arms and all those tattoos. Please, I don't mean to stare but I guess you must have them in order that others take note of them…"

"So do they bother you? The tattoos that is, do they trouble you?"

"Hmm, not really, it is just that they are so different. So kinda haunting, dark and.."

"Yeah, I realize. It is not everyday I suppose that one has on his arm a scene of a cemetery is it?"

"Just what I was thinking. I don't suppose you would mind telling of the story that goes with that tattoo would you Gregoras?"

Gregoras thot long and hard. "Say Cook , maybe you've a cup of coffee?"

"Certainly, right here you are. Make yourself comfortable."

It seemed like an eternity had passed till at long last Gregoras fingering the wrapped candy cane that he had brought Cook that lay now on the counter. Then it was with some distant far away lost look he began these words, "Born in the ghetto I was. Knew the streets like the back of my hand even before the age of the Lad here on board. Dad worked in the factory, always too tired for me though when going by the park I would sometimes see him with his buddies from work playing a game of hoops. Took a lot of years of living before I came to understand that it wasn't just a game to Dad rather he needed some way to blow of the pent up anger and stress of too many bills and too few dollars. Our home was in the projects funded by the government. To all of us living there it seemed there was no way out ….unless you were shot dead away whether by bullet or the shooting up of drugs." It was then he showed his other arm with old scars of needle tracks. Gregoras going on to say, "I was one of the lucky ones I suppose for I got out but only after Dad had a vicious heart attack and Mom, oh how I loved my Mom, well she was coming home late one night from work. Worked at a neighborhood café and taking a detour that was the shortcut way home she walked through the park and…" With that Gregoras getting up from his chair and with coffee cup still in hand walking over to the bag filled with kernels of corn and giving it a punch with his fist exclaiming, "Damn those gang members, damn them all. There was three of 'em we found out later. They grabbed my Mom and one of them for no reason at all pulled out a gun and shot her! Shot her, shot me Mom," and with that Gregoras slumped down burying his face in the heaped up bag of kernels, with the last of the coffee spilling from the cup as it fell to the floor.

Lady started to go to him but Cook motioned for her to stop… In a few moments Gregoras had composed himself and went on to say…"apparently someone heard the shot and called the police… there they found her dying in her blood poured forth." Cops checked her purse with only her I.D. remaining in it. They came to the door of our project apartment home breaking the awful news of Mom's demise…" Then it was as he started to get up from his slumped down position that he realized he had dropped his coffee cup and going towards the mop with Cook interrupting, "Leave that be, I need to mop the entire kitchen floor a bit later on this afternoon… I think you need to go on with the story… you know sometimes talking it out helps," offered Cook encouragingly.

"Well, I knew it was the streets for me. Had no other family and no job to pay the bills that would be coming in. Took off and in some respects been running ever since. Well since I met the Captain. Man, I love that Man! Hay and not in any way gay if you catch me drift?"

"Yeah, I know… but why the cemetery scene if you don't mind my asking?" asked Cook.

"Well, one day going through the cemetery a few years later after I had a job I went to Mom's grave. Note I have a tombstone marker here on my arm just like the one in the cemetery that, well, you know, where Mom is and like this gate here, well, I decided to make and put into place a picket fence around Mom's gravesite. This other tombstone here is like the one that marks Dad's grave. Anyhow, I remember how Mama always wanted a picket fence with lots of flowers."

"So that explains the vines and flowers around that gate that's in the foreground of the tombstones on your arm?"

"Yeah, you got it. I mean like it may seem like really morbid to anyone else but it is a way I keep Mom close….and Dad for that too for that matter. When ever I can I go by her tombstone and give the fence a fresh coat of paint, pulling any weeds and taking a sniff of the floral…and before leaving quietly breathing a, Mom I love you."

Then with Gregoras coming back to the counter and noticing the candy cane he seemed to brighten a bit. You know there's a story to go with that candy cane as well.

"Please share," made comment of The Maiden.

"You sure you want to listen to me after that last story Lady?"

"If I didn't I wouldn't ask and reaching out she gave his hand nearest hers a bit of an understanding squeeze. "O.K. but before I begin first I just gotta mop this spilled up coffee up. You know Cook Mom taught me better than to spill something and not wipe it up." Cook nodded and soon Gregoras was back at the counter. Picking up the candy cane he said, "I've a bit of a candy cane ritual. Back when in elementary years at school they had this guy all dressed up for the Holidays, think it was the school janitor, anyhow, he came to each class giving out a candy cane to each one of us kids. Well, for me oft times that was about all the gift I would get at Christmas time. I got into the habit of saving that candy cane I would receive each year. I had this little tin I would keep it in and every so often I would take it out and think how someone gave me a gift and it gave to me and this is so hard to explain but well it gave to me a hope to go on. It would not be till the following Christmas that I would unwrap it and taking the smallest nibble on it and making that candy cane last through New Year's Day with the newest candy cane placed in the tin to savor at the holiday the following year. Know what, I still got that same tin in my cabin. That's where that candy cane came from. Only thing is as I got older and no longer in school there was no janitor dressed up to give me one of these treasured candy canes so I got where each holiday season I would buy me one after the holidays when they go on sale so in that way I kept up the remembrances of a time long ago."

"Well, in that case Gregoras, you can make sure that me and Missy here will come up with one very special treat. Matter of fact, come to think of it, this is perfect. Missy remember my sharing how there was that one recipe I wanted to make but it needed peppermint flavoring for it and there was none to be found? Now it seems we can make that recipe after all. Well, we'll make it work won't we Missy?"

"Yes Cook," made reply of Missy, "I know the very recipe you speak of and yes, this will work perfectly. Thank You indeed Gregoras!"

"Well, seems like I have talked my share and then some today but hay, Thanks for letting me share even though some of it was dreadfully painful…still having someone to listen… well….," Then suddenly getting really quiet he went on to say, "I need to get back up on deck." And with that his ever so silent manner seemed to return and he was headed off to the biting cold and howling winds.

It was next morning after the morning meal dishes had been washed and put away that Cook came quietly to The Maiden Fair asking, "Missy, what say we go and besides getting the gingerbread men made that we make this an all out marathon baking day?"

"Well sure if you want but any particular reason why for we do have a few days to go as far as getting the baking items prepared?"

"I don't know, it is probably nothing really but I feel it deep down inside of me some where that we need to get a hussle on it if we are to have any kind of a Holiday celebration at all. Maybe it has to do with the sound in the wind change I heard in the middle of the night."

"Oh so I wasn't imagining anything out of the ordinary," replied The Maiden in a questioning tone.

"No, and from the looks of things it seems The Captain is rather taken back by it all. Never have I seen him in this sullen mood of his that he came to morning meal with. Can't say as I blame him what with his shouldering the bulk of the Ship's concerns. I can tell he is worried."

Then it was that Cook shook his head briefly for The Lad was starting to walk over to where they where talking and Missy understood at once that Cook wanted this to be a joyful a time as could be had for them all but especially for the one so young on board The Zephyr Splendour and given that nothing they could say could change anything for the better regarding the weather yet still they could work at it and to do their best to make for as pleasant an emotional climate on board as possibly could be had.

"Excuse me Lady but can we talk for a few minutes?" asked the Lad.

"Certainly." and as they started in their own quiet talk Cook said, "Don't mind me but I need to attend to some things and off to the kitchen he headed.

"Well, I wanted you to know I got those items all made up real nice like you asked me and I just wanted to know where I should place them for I really ought not to leave them in the work room. I have been keeping them hid under an old piece of canvas while working on them and doesn't seem anyone is any the wiser about them but now with their completion I thot you might want them somewhere else."

"Ah, good of you, Lad, to come to me. How about placing them upstairs in my room in my special basket?"

"You mean the one with the woolies' bits of fur?"

The Maiden Fair smiling and replying, "Yes Lad that's the basket I am speaking of. Now how about running along and getting that done and then noting Gregoras going by speaking loudly enough for him to hear and saying, "I think I heard Gregoras was in need of your help ALLl day today, isn't that correct?"

Gregoras a bit puzzled by this remark and then realizing that Lady needed to have The Lad kept busy what with all the Holiday plans that were in the making went right along and said, "Yes Lad I need you help this day and besides I have an old worn and frayed blanket that what say we cut it up and I do believe we could make a jacket for each of your Woolies from it."

"Are you serious Gregoras?" the Lad asking and hardly believing.

"You've never know me to tell you a lie have you?"

"Well no, that is true enough but you really want to take that kind of time with me…and the Woolies?"

"Well sure, why not?"

With that it was just too much for the Lad and next thing you know he was shedding a tear or two.'

"Wait Lad I didn't intend to hurt your feelings!"

"Hurt my feelings? Are you kidding? Why this is the nicest offer anyone's ever in my whole life given to me. My own family don't want me and here you are a grown man willing to help out a kid whose best friends are Woolies to not feel the bitter cold that is blowing like anything up on board ship where the lambies make their home in that shelter that really isn't very warm at all."

Oh gosh if now even Lady wasn't about to start shedding some tears. "Excuse me fellows but I know Cook is in need of my help," and off she hurried to the kitchen….

By close of day snow flurries were flying like anything…. Cook had these individual freezer bags and with one each prepared for each of the seven of them and filled to a heaping fullness with not only a ginger bread man but in to the Lad's bag a gingered Christmas tree as well. Now these were not just any sort of gingerbread treats for the sizes were incredible. More the size of if Paul Bunyon was to be the expected guest along with his friends. "Now I understand why the triple batch you had me stir up Cook, I was thinking how one batch would easily have made the treats for us here but given the size well, I must admit I've never came across any this magnatamous!" made comment of The Maiden.

With Cook going on to say, "Ah so you think the Lad then won't miss having a Christmas tree then?" with The Maiden replying, "Excuse me Cook but given the size, hmmm now that wouldn't be pine I would be a smelling now would it?" with ever so slight the small smile forming.

"Missy, just what I like about you, always a bit of joke comes forth. You really give me cheer and to think how that peppermint candy cane saved the day, er a rather at least made it possible to make up them peppermint cookies. Oh sure we could have gone and made up those cookies and then more so a sugar cookie it would have been. Still wish we had some red food coloring for the cookies would have given more the appearance of the real thing but Gregoras really came through with that surprised candy cane of his didn't he now Missy?"

"Yeah we changed the recipe a bit to fit the needs here on board but really I think it is we have stumbled on something for don't you think these cookies are better than had we had all that we needed according to the recipe? I mean like o.k. so no red food coloring so but then we didn't need to divide the batter in half keeping half as the how the dough formed and then adding the red to the other half of the batch to then go on and roll long sections of each halves to then take sections of each color of dough and interweaving the halves so as to make the stripy affect of a candy cane before placing them into the oven to bake. True we are without the peppermint flavoring to place into the dough batter itself but I really, really like the way this turned out," said The Maiden

"Well, Missy so it has been said many a time that, 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention,'"

"But you do like the way these turned out don't you Cook what with we still kept the cookies in the shape of the candy cane but then after their baking and allowing them to cool we placed all that neat icing on them and then, surprise of surprise, what one hammer and a candy cane won't accomplish!" "Missy," with Cook replying, "And so it has gone this year that with one candy cane hammered into tiny bits it has made for truly a delightful way to still have peppermint flavored candy cane cookies. Those little bumps of minted candy sprinkled on the frosting before it hardened will surly be a hit with all. Won't Gregoras be surprised too in just knowing that the only candy cane on board and had he kept it to himself well, that's just it, it would only have been just one with that special holiday treat but by his giving we have a few dozen small candy cane cookies….and flavored peppermint after all!!" Meanwhile as the day of the marathon baking day that was going on in the kitchen on the lower deck, what all wasn't being accomplished on the upper main deck. With sheers used for cutting perhaps rope or burlap, anything except fine fabrics where scissors would have been the required, well, Lad and Gregoras had quite the time not to forget to mention the Woolies. With a Baa Baa here and a Baa Baa there, here a Baa, there a Baa, everywhere a Baa Baa Baa and in such the close quarters for what with a snow that was more of an ice blowing in off the water, the fellows took to cutting up the old blanket inside of the shelter that was the stable for the lambies. Gosh all mighty, talk of cold but as they worked feverously on cutting the blanket and draping it over the Woolies only to remove it and make cutting adjustments and then fussing some more well, by day's end each Woolie had a nice warm homemade jacket. BAAA!!! Downstairs as the last of the baking was being removed from the oven Cook was ladling up the chili that mid way through the baking of that day he had taken to stir up. "Mmmm if this isn't as fine a meal as anything," and "Missy, go ring the bell calling the others to evening meal. I should think The Captain and the Crew will be 'bout half starved what with no bell at noon we rung but then we were mighty busy." The Maiden was still ringing the bell when flying down the steps came The Captain Brave and True, Gregoras and the Lad. From the other side of the lower deck came the Twins and what a marvel they were. Those two jogging so fast with arms outstretched to pounce through the doors of the dinning room and so it seemed a race was on to know who could get to the table the fastest." "Hmmm you fellows might be a tad bit on the hungry side I reckon?" asked Cook and with that the chili served along with a loaf of homemade bread right straight from the oven.

"Cook, it seems you've outdone yourself with this batch of chili," made comment of The Captain. Got some flavors here I must admit not quite as before but mmmm tasty I will admit."

"Guess I did get carried a way…" started the Cook with the Maiden going on to say, "One way to use up the herbs and seasonings given how Cook started a list for Springtime's shipping season don't you think?"

After anther spoonful The Captain seemed a bit brighter than before. "You know Cook I must admit, I am taken with this chili, what's in it?"

"It might be easier to answer what's not in it," replied The Maiden.

"Well Captain," started Cook, "There's all kinds of herbs like marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil." Then to continue on The Maiden saying, "and bacon, don't forget the bacon. There was just a few slices left in the freezer. Only enough for just a couple but by cooking it up till crunchy and mixing it in with the herbs it has added a delightful taste don't you agree?"

"Yeah!" Saying The Lad. "May I please have some more?" so seconds where dished out to all as could be noted The Captain with an uneasy look listened ever intently to the sound of the winds up on deck giving their howls so fierce.

Though the kitchen was warm enough yet still those winds so fierce were finding their way down to where they were just finishing up with Cook placing the left over chili in freezer containers and stashed away in the freezer for a day later on. The Maiden shivering and reaching for her jacket knowing the upstairs must be faced sooner or later and now seemed about as good a time as any. She knew it would only be coldest while from the top of the steps and then the ever so quick scamper across the deck to in a moments few she would reach the comfort of the hallway that was undercover to where her cabin would soon give to her welcome. Cook had given her some brown wrapping paper that was left over from some previous packages. It was all that there was to be had for gift wrapping of the items she and Lad had planned and worked on together with The Lad doing much of the actual work on these small presents himself. She knew he had them already hidden away in her basket and this evening she would spend in wrapping the gifts. Enroute to her room she noted The Captain over by the stable where the Woolies were and she stopped a moment exclaiming, "Certainly didn't expect to find you here my dearest brother," and pulling him close she gave him a warm embrace. "Dearest sister so fond I am of you," he gave reply, "Here, you need to get out of this cold night air before you take a chill. Come on I will walk you to your room." Just before entering her cabin The Captain reached to The Maiden Fair and gave her the cuddling sweet embrace of brotherly affection. "Mmmm dearest Brother, sweet, sweet peace be unto thee I pray…sleep well." With The Captain smiling and giving reply, "Ah Yes, sister keep warm and may peace keep thee," with that he turning to his room just across the hallway as The Maiden entered her room. "Ahhh Cabin Sweet Cabin," The Maiden breathed. So good indeed the comfort of her cabin. She taking the brown wrapping paper from the protection of her jacket. It may not be all that she would hope for but it was the best to be had and eagerly she went about wrapping the little items as though they were the most costliest and most treasured items on all of the earth. Then with the lingering feel of the encouragement of her brother that ever beckoned her forward she crawled in under the quilts so heavenly comforting and to the sound of wild winds blowing she drifted off in peacefulness.

Bbbrrrrr! Am I ever ccccoooooolllld thot The Maiden Fair a few hours later come in the earliest hours before a new day had yet even dawned. The Maiden slipping quietly out of her bed so cozy and reaching for the quilt of heirloom quality that was draped yet over the rocking chair just as on the first day she was to come to have this room and heaping it upon the quilts and comforter already in place and then crawling in underneath once again, shivering so that her teeth, Bbrrr, gave a bit of a rattle. It wasn't long though till that extra quilt proved to be just the what was needed for soon the chills gave way with warmth returning and soon back into restful slumber.

Scrape, drag, scrape, bounce, shuffle, drag….What in the world was that sound suddenly awakening The Maiden from deep a restful sleep! Then as those dreadful sounds continuing on she thot, naw, this is only some bad nightmare and back to sleep, only now so fitful and tossing she began. Those dreadful sounds stopping only to resume again. In a moments few the noises incorporated into a dream taking her back to distant years of childhood when on cold the mornings of Winter her Dad coming in from a midnight's toil in factories of Pontiac Motors Divison he would take shovel in hand and scrape the sidewalks to their little home… then it was she heard a pounding at her door of her cabin with the Captain saying, "You decent Maiden Fair, can I come in?"

"What?" and "Ah yes Captain come on it I am still under the covers."

"Whew! Can't believe this Storm that we have sailed into." He said as covered in snow he entered her cabin and stamping the excess snow off his feet on the bit of extra cloth rug at the door.

"What Storm Captain?"

"Well, all goodness Maiden can't hardly take it in. You still a lay a bed and at this time in the morning? Seems you are usually one of the first ones awake….or ahhhh hmmm now….awakening the others," he said with a bit of a small grin, then continuing on, "Here Maiden, a bit of breakfast Cook sends to you."

"What, breakfast in bed," the Maiden said wonderingly and with that sitting up in her warm and cozy bed.

"Yeah, Cook and I figured you might be hungry and with all that snow on deck it's been taking a while to clear the main deck. Been using the shovel the Lad had had in that made up stable of his that he uses to keep their area clean and tidy. Anyhow both he and I keep trading off with each other and shoveling like anything only to in less than no time at all we start the process over again. Man alive is it ever cold out!"

As Maiden sat up the Captain handing her a packet with some of Cook's homemade bread fashioned into a sandwich spread with a bit of butter and some cheese. "Oh and in here, this plastic freezer contained some of that papaya juice you've taken such the liking to. Must be nice to rate with Cook the way you do for even I don't get any of that juice," he said only not in any tone of anger rather with a hint of a smile in his voice. "Oh and guess what else I come to find Cook has kept back in hiding….." with that question he takes from his pocket none other than an orange colored as brilliantly as the sun is golden.

"An orange!" exclaims The Maiden. "Why I haven't had an orange since … well since I can hardly remember and oh I so do enjoy them. Come Captain, pull up that rocking chair and thaw out a bit, and cheering me with a bit of a talk. Over there on top of that mini refrigerator on that lovely tray are a couple of coffee cups though they shall work beautifully for serving this papaya juice."

"Oh come now Maiden Fair I was only teasing. I am fine."

"I know but this is a quart container and way too much for one. Come on, I insist and besides you have been good haven't you?"

"Good? Hmmm….. why do you ask," replied The Captain as he taking the rocker and moving it closer by The Maiden as well as reaching for the cups before seating himself into the rocking chair.

"Well, much as I adore oranges somehow they are sweeter yet when shared. So how about dividing this orange out while I nibble on this delicious sandwich. I feel famished."

"Famished! No way, not with all that chili you had last evening… but alright here," and handing her the cup of papaya juice he sectioned the orange with The Maiden teasing him as he gave her the sections that were hers to have, "Seems you gave yourself the larger share of the sections of the orange!"

"Well I have been out shoveling snow while you…"

With The Maiden interrupting, "Have been tossing and turning what with all that racket of a noise that you and The Lad have been up to!"

"Why Maiden I ought to …"

"You otta What?"

"Well, I ought to hmmmm… I ought to get some snow and slip it down those blankets…"

"I don't think I should care for that," replied the Maiden meekly and with a bit of a frown forming.

"Well, it's high time I got back to relieving The Lad as this snow just keeps flying and blowing in. Also Cook said no need to come down to the dinning area till time of the noon meal. He is making up some more of his clam chowder though it will be made more so like potatoes soup as just a few clams in the freezer are left. Seems we are running all out of supplies. Anyhow take your time and just rest."

"Captain?"

"Yes Maiden Fair?"

"Will you do me a favor…" and handing him a portion of her remaining sandwich. "Would you mind breaking this up and placing it where Laughing Seagull may find it so as he and his mate and winglets three may have a treat?"

"Sure thing, now don't you worry. Hear me?" with that he was closing the door to her cabin and eeck! eeck! eeck! That shoveling noise of scrape, drag, scrape, bounce, shuffle, drag continued on.

Before too many moments further passed Maiden Fair was up and moving about. The air was so cold though the heat was on. It was just that the strong winds were blowing the cold right through the ship or so it seemed. The chattering of her teeth came back upon her and she thot about how very bitter the cold must be on the main deck. Grabbing for her shoes and then placing a sweater on over her turtleneck that was tucked into her jeans she proceeded to get her room in order. Taking first of the heir loomed quality quilt and folding it tenderly, remembering how it first gave to her comforting warmth when she first brought aboard soaking to the skin wet. How though she knew not a soul yet fear she had not of the strangers who had welcomed her. Then too, memory took her to the warm sandy shoreline where for a very few days the beach she and The Captain had made home while in that Pier Port Town while he attended to the business of the shipping industry and she started the process of getting herself put back together...those were some restful and days free of care. Days of healing and new discovery. Days of gathering seashells. Days so warm and now here it was a time once again of folding that quilt that now was as a treasure and placing it over the rocking chair, going on and finishing making up of her bed, washing the two coffee cups and placing the container with yet enough papaya juice in it for another serving into the mini refrigerator in her room. Grabbing her jacket she entered the hallway as she closed the door of her cabin. It didn't take long and she was feeling the icy winds cut through her, taking her breath. Almighty, was it ever a sensation not quite like any before she had felt. Sure she knew Winter and snow but never Winter and snow on board a ship. Entering the main deck was ever so eerie with mounds of snow and ever faint a steam near the stable giving her to know the lambies were safely sheltered. She could hear The Lad urging them on as feed he poured for them.

It was as The Maiden Fair was going down the steps leading to the lower deck and just before entering the dinning room that she heard concerned voices talking earnestly. The voices all so familiar but the words sounding so remote. She listened intently and stopped in her tracks. She knew if she was to know of anything that was happening she would have to simply listen in from where she stood for all too well she knew that if those voices of concern knew she were listening in they would go silent for they would not want her to have worry concern. As she listened she stood there realizing how truly risky the ship on open waters was at that time of the year.

"Cook tell me, what is our food supply?" asked The Captain.

"Well, already it is only the most basic of meals that I can provide. The supplies we took in were to have taken us till the last of November when we were due in the Harbour Port Town and even then I did as always and made for a few more days of supplies and that's where we are now and I am making it a point to use up all supplies. Hope you didn't mind that extra herbed chili last night?"

"Mater of fact Cook, I liked that chili. Hmmm I take it so I can know from now on if that's the kind you are serving up then the kitchen is low on supplies eh Cook?"

"Yeah something like that Captain. Seems as though you are maintaining a bit of a sense of humor in all of this."

"I shall need you to keep it up and…"

"I know, what with The Lad and Missy…" with Maiden thinking to herself, well at least I am good for something if no other than they keep a sense of humor if for no more than appearances to keep me worry free. It was then the next news she overheard that gave to her additional concern when the Captain mentioned that for what ever reason, perhaps it was those high gusty winds but whatever, all he knew was that he was unable to radio in and make connection with any other ship or the Harbour Port Town. He had been on regular communication with them since they knew of their delay what with Cook's daughter in particular being heavy in heart over concern of her Dad and all. Now it was that no communication could be gotten through as of that morning.

"So you say Captain you are unable to wire in?" and the sound of Cook's voice so hollow and distant. Then Gregoras came in with the words striking as it were a final blow when he mentioned, "Captain, you know those last engine troubles we had and thot all was remedied…."

"So Gregoras, that sputtering noise was more than simply the wind kicking…"

"Yeah, the engine is about to go on us as well it seems…"

The twins had remained quiet and so much so that when she heard their voices at long last as they started to say something she took a bit of a stumble in the hallway. The Captain immediately calling out, "Lad is that you?"

"Ah No Captain, 'Tis only me. Lad is up on deck tending to his Woolies," made reply of Maiden. She tried to sound carefree in her voice but upon entering the dinning room she knew they knew she must have overheard everything.

The Maiden Fair made opening comment, "So Cook, The Captain here tells me we are in for quite a treat, having some of that clam chowder again. Had some just last week and I can hardly wait for it's the food in this cold weather that seems to chase the clouds away as warmth to the body is received."

"Missy, you are sweet. You realize of course it will be mainly potatoe soup and only clam as a bit of flavor what with…"

"That's o.k. by me, Clams never did taste good when potatoes were on the menu."

"Missy, you are just saying that and I would appreciate it very much if you keep on with that spirit for it sure is gonna take each one of us doing our utmost."

The Twins were talking in earnest, very subdued, so unlike their normal rowdyness in manner when they were on occasion given to talk. After a moments few the one asked, "Pardon me Captain, but me and me brother, well, ahh, we, me and him, we want to know if … and we really hope it would not be to any offense to any here but we ahh …."

Finally after a few minutes of this round and round type of talk the Captain interrupted saying, "Out with it Man, what's on you and your brother's mind."

"Well, we want to know if we could…. If we could…could ahh…."

"Yes, go on," said of the Captain. "You know I don't bite, well not too hard a bite anyhow." Said a Captain now grinning and wondering what was up with these two.

Gregoras spoke up saying, "You realize The Captain here is a reasonable man to deal with so if you just talk plain with him, if you know my thots, well, he will listen and respond accordingly."

With that the twin that had been silent suddenly got courage up and said, "Back when we were kids at home our family always celebrated the holidays with putting up lights and with our never having been crew on this ship before during any holiday we didn't know if it would offend anyone here if we were to light some candles we got. They are in glass containers and scented all spicy and we know we could have them lit in our cabin and no problem to anyone but well, we thot it might be nice to share this tradition of our family with all of you here on board. Thot too that maybe Cook had some holiday music that he could play and maybe we could just make an evening of it like we had with that movie night last week."

"Well fellows I don't know what the problem was all to be had in asking me that question. Here I thot it was going to be a hard task you were going to ask."

"Gregoras burst out laughing saying, "You fellows are too much!"

Captain breaking in and saying, "What about it Cook, you got any holiday music to cheer these twins up?" he said now grinning deeper than before.

"Music? Hmmm let me think. Well I got movies for sure. Like 'Miracle on 34th Street' and a couple other ones."

"Well fellows you think that movie Cook mentioned would go well with them candles you want to have lit up and spicing the room up?"

With that the Twins took a leap up and started to do some sort of a jig, a dance if you will.

"Well," said Captain, "I take it that's means you fellows are overjoyed!"

"In unison they both exclaimed, "Oh Yes Sir Captain Sir!"

Cook breaking in and saying, "Don't forget we have popcorn as well."

The Lady Fair at that point practically chocking from keeping from laughing. "Captain, don't know what it is about popcorn and this young Missy but seems anymore whenever she hears the word 'popcorn' she gets to acting all funny like this. Don't know quite what to make of it and all. You know she read that Health and Wellness article of yours that I have on the bulletin board and ever since then……Ladies sure are hard to understand sometimes." And Cook just shock his head not quite knowing what to make of it all.

At that point The Maiden mentioned she would go and check the clam chowder that was on the stove.

"You do that Missy. You help poor ol'e Cook so well. Captain I think you ought to triple her wages here on board!!!"

Only a few moments and The Maiden returning to where the fellows were still seated in the dinning room. "Cook I have placed the chowder on simmer, seems it is to taste better when it has a time to simply be kept warm on the stove." With Cook replying, "Missy I think you are on to something there. I realize it is almost time for the noon bell to be rung but Captain, what with food supplies running terribly low what do you think if we have this meal later on, say late mid afternoon, then we can do away with the evening meal and what with having 'Miracle on 34th Street' playing tonight at The Splendour and of course the popcorn and I do believe there is enough of that homemade hot chocolate that I make, well enough for a good full mug of it for each, well, that should get us through this day."

"Cook, that's a splendid idea you have there and Yes, two meals a day will stretch the few remaining food supplies." Then turning to the Twins he said, "Seems I was somewhat at fault for that bit of a scramble between you fellows the other day. I was talking with Gregoras and he explained how after talking with you fellows in the gym that well, it was a misunderstanding and just want you two to know I finally came to realize what happened."

"Really Captain? Why we still aren't certain as to how it all happened." Said of one of the twins with Gregoras chuckling in that low tone of his when ever he is thinking, 'You won't believe this!'"

At about that point Captain was beginning to think, "Oh no what have I started now with this talk?" but given he had started, he thot he might as well go on and given there was a couple of hours or so to the now belated noon meal, well, good a time as any to try and get this out in the open and discussed.

"O.K. fellows, remember in the late summer when you were jogging every morning starting at your room and going on the lower deck to the back portion we don't usually access and using those back steps and then up on main deck following through with your jogging and circling all over the main deck only to come down these steps here nearest the dinning room, then making the rounds again before starting your morning duties?"

"Yes Captain, that exactly the way we did it and no problem at all."

"Yes, then it got to be I realized with you fellows and your good size being the heavy weight wrestlers that you are that well, I needed, well rather the ship here needed you fellows to be on opposite sides of the ship jogging at the same time for both together and the ship actually started it to rock uncontrollably."

"Yes Captain we remember you telling us about that so we got where each of us would start from our room and rather than jogging side by side, each of us would take off in an opposite direction."

"Yes, that's right and seems that is where the problem came to be."

"Captain we just don't get it, really, for as much as we are fighters we don't like to fight each other, well, not with our fists. Sure we get to talking but well, that's just the way we are. We still haven't figured this one out. Can you help us to understand?"

Captain turning to Gregoras and said, "Go on tell them what you told me for Gregoras figured out what went wrong that day."

"You know? Really!" said the fellows unbelievably that anyone at all could come to know how this mystery had happened.

"Think about it. One of you takes off in one direction and the other in the other direction." Says Gregoras.

"Yes, you are right so far, go on." Replied the twins.

Gregoras going on, "Now you thinking real hard?"

"Yes, yes! Go on."

"Well, You know as one went up the back steps and the other circling down here before going up the steps, well you do realize that at some point you would meet and cross each other in your paths."

"Yes, Gregoras, that's right but what has that got to do with our fighting each other her on these steps?" the twins questioned, still not realizing what had happened.

Then it was that the Maiden Fair started grinning all over, "Fellows, oh I finally get it!" she exclaimed.

"Lady? You can understand this mystery?" the twins said in total shock now.

"Oh fellows, one of you was trying to get up on deck and the other was trying to get down on to lower deck at the same time and on the steps and …."

"Oh! I get it said of one of the twins and turning to his brother he said, 'Why did you run into me?'"

"WHAT? Me run into you. It was more so You running into me!"

"ME? Why I would never run into you. I love you. Why the nerve of you to say I would run into you. I otta….."

Lad came over to where The Maiden was now sitting in the lounge while The Captain taking one of the Twins and Gregoras taking the other and each walking them, retracing as it was their steps making a point to meet on the steps at the same time. Maybe the Twins would finally "get it!" After all like the movies titled: 'Miracle on 34th Street,' maybe, just maybe the Twins would come to understand that neither one was attempting to in any way harm the other, that simply in their single mindedness to complete their jogging they had had not given consideration to the other one being where they wanted to be at the same time only going in opposite directions. It seemed that for these two lugbrains that only by some miracle would they ever come to understand.

"Lady?"

"Yes Lad, what is on your mind this day?"

"I want to know why is Cook not ringing the noon bell so we can have our lunch. I feel kinda hungry what with all the shoveling and all."

"Oh Lad I am sorry that you were not told but we decided to make tonight special like that evening last week when Cook had the movies only tonight it will be just one movie but also hot chocolate and the Twins are bringing some special Holiday Christmas scented candles like how they used to have at their home when they were young. We thot a late lunch would serve as an early dinner as well." Lady didn't want to share with him that food was low and rationing had begun. "Say Lad, I know Cook has some maple syrup left so what say we heat some of that up just before movie at the splendour time and drizzle it over the popcorn?" as Lady knew the butter was short supply while as the syrup was still in excess. Besides this would really make this night extra special for the Twins. They were loveable and more so like two great big overgrown teddy bears though at times they seemed more to be liken unto being grizzly bears.

"Ah Lady that sounds like it would really make for a joyful evening. Yes, lets! And do you think Captain will let me bring my Woolies again?"

"Well, you shall simply have to ask him but I don't think there would be a reason that he would say no. Why don't you go find him and ask and if you like you may stop by my room and in my mini refrigerator you will find some papaya juice. You may have that to help hold you till meal time."

"Ah Lady, Thanks!' and off he scampered.

After the most tantalizing delicious meal of the chowder made so by the additional herbs that Cook added to help make up for the so very few clams that were left The Maiden Fair asked to be excused to go to her room. She so wanted to enjoy the evenings activities that were being planned and thot it best if she were to go now and get in a bit of a rest. True she had overslept that morning but now with all the news of pending difficulties she knew she needed to keep her strength and rest was now what she needed more than anything.

Once in her cabin she fingered the heirloom quality quilt that was draped over the rocking chair and thot of how earlier that day on arising she had considered the various situations and life happenings that had something to do with that quilt and remembering how at one time she had heard that before one dies oft times scenes of a person's life are flashed before them giving them to recall their past… She wondered if this were indeed the situation now being presented to her? Well, what was to be would be and all that any of them could do now was make for the best possible of the moments that was now theirs to have on board and hopefully they would indeed make it safely into the Harbour Port Town. She knew the ship continued to sail though now at a rate where the mileage was drastically reduced as the engine could handle going only the most slowest. She heard the Captain talking about so many knots per hour but the language of the seamen was still new to her hearing. All she knew that this voyage was turning into an adventure that no one knew if the outcome would be assured of bringing them all into their desired destination unharmed, their haven of rest awaited but in the meanwhile they were in the midst of a Storm of Snow and pelts of ice hitting at them that seemed to have no let up. Mounds of snow were piled up with much of the snow being shoveled overboard. The main hallways as well as the area to reaching the Lad's Woolies required constant care.

Maiden Fair slipped into her warm cotton flannel gown with its softness giving her to feel a bit of relaxation as into the sheets she crawled and pulling the quilts and comforter up to where she was almost totally underneath the mounds of warming comfort. She wished so much that all this was just some bad dream and she would wake up and find that The Zephyr Splendour was sailing in to the desired Port. If only she could sleep until the worst was over. She felt a cold chill go through her body, not from the Storm without rather from the Storm of emotional upheaval that this was giving her to feel. The thots of the food running low, the engine sputtering and the loss of contact with everyone the world over gave her to momentarily toss but then with one turn more she grabbed onto her pillow, and in a moments few went off into a fitful sleep.

Then in her sleep she words repeated again and again, 'Rock of Ages Comfort me in this my final hour,' and deeper yet into a sleep she went till all of a couple of hours must have passed as a knock sounding at her cabin door with Lad's voice calling, "Lady, Come on please and help with the popcorn. I am going to go now and set up the movie projector and … and… and… I am so happy for Woolies get to join us! The Captain Brave and True says that Yes they may come to the lounge again." Strange how it was that that little voice of a child's voice, of The Lad's, gave to her an energy anew, a strength to go on. No one that she knew except ZePauly knew that on board The Zeypher Splendour she was…. And for a few moments as she called out to Lad, "I'm coming, you go on now and I will meet you in the dinning room," she thot of the radio where they could wire in or in this case the lack of being enable to wire in and allow for anyone on shore or that could possibly be out to sea as they were on some other sailing ship though highly unlikely. So it was that no one else was assured that they were still alive. She knew Cook was troubled and Yes, it would take them the each one doing what they could to help sustain one the other. For all Cook's daughter as well as that Harbour Port Town knew they had all reached a deathly cold watery grave of a fate.

Bbrrrr! Thot Maiden as she shivered back into jeans and a turtle neck then making quickly up her bed. This cabin room was the most lovely, so dim the lighting and somber the feel with the textures lavish making for a perfect place to cocoon away into while she always maintaining its beauty that had first greeted her upon arrival. Again she reached out and touched lovingly the quilt of such quality that she kept over the rocking chair. The stitches sewn perfectly and so even, not a flaw. She thot of the patience that went into the making of this type of a pieced quilt that is as a master piece work of art and as she did it took her some time to realize that she had started to hum some seasonal music of the holidays, only changing the words as she keep returning in memory to her summer on the sandy shore. The words to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas only with these words instead there of, "On the twelfth day by the Water's edge came upon twelve sandy seashells, eleven twinkling stars shinning bright in sky of midnight, ten maids a swimming, nine fishermen fishing, eight children laughing, seven ships a sailing, six geese a laying, five precious friends, four quacking ducks, three hours till setting sun, two seagulls soaring and a smooth polished stone."

With that picking up the one smooth polished stone that was on her dresser and giving thot to all the many lapping of the waves to the shore in order that this stone become polished. How waves through decades passing, day upon day and night upon starlit night and for perhaps centuries made for the smoothness and in all kinds of weather. Hmmm to think this stone has known Winter's blowing howling cold storms that cause the shore to freeze to solid ice as well as gentle falling from the heavens misty rain showers of Springtime's newness of life mixing with the waters thawing while onto scorching hot Summers as children romp and play as lover's bask in the glow of midnight's passion awaiting the harvest when weather takes on a brisky feel and leaves turned crispy fall from branches and swirl in the waters great mixing with the sand and giving place for frogs to find a hiding place….

Mmmmm that scent of the candles spiced that the Twins had set aglow that greeted The Maiden Fair as soon as she was at the top of the stairs going down to the lower level, they were that concentrated a scent and drew The Maiden into the lounge where they were set, one each on each of the end tables on ither side of the sofa. It set a holiday spirit of warmth in the midst of the storm that was brewing and blasting out on the main deck. As she listened she knew the Twins were in the gym working on maintaining the strength that they had built up in their arms over the summer when great was the loading and unloading of the cargo shipments at the various port stops. Lad was just getting the projector in place while Cook was searching for the movie and Gregoras was setting up the movie screen. Hmmm seems everything is just about set to go thot the Maiden except for the popcorn. As she walked into the kitchen The Captain was just in the process of heaping handfuls of the kernels into the corn popper that was already heated up. Maiden going to the refrigerator, locating the maple syrup and pouring some into a saucepan to heat up. The corn soon popped with The Maiden pouring the syrup over the fluffy popped corn.

"Ah ha! Found the movie!" Exclaimed Cook and taking it to the Lad. "Here you go Lad, set the movie a going." At that Gregoras walking over to the gym and gave the Twins to know the evening's festivities were about to begin. Just as they were entering the lounge The Captain and Maiden were setting out bowls of the sweet crispy popcorn while Cook came in, setting the mugs of hot chocolate by where each was sitting when all of a sudden could be heard as they were all getting seated, "Baa Baa Baa!!"

"Hay! Just a minute. Can't a Captain even pick up his hot chocolate only to have a Woolie jump up on him trying to take it away from him?"

"Woolie," shrieked The Lad, "You come here but it was already too late for the Woolie had helped himself to Captain's hot chocolate and continued to slurp away!"

Cook could be heard quietly muttering, "The serving of lambies would…." With his words barely heard as he went into the kitchen, soon returning with another mug of the sweet hot beverage. "Here you go Captain. I' ll hand this to you as soon as this Woolie settles down," and Lad drew the Woolie down to him by the bean bag he was sitting on. The other Woolie appearing so sad or so thot the Lad, "Oh, o.k. Woolie I shall save you some of my hot chocolate. You two lambies are kinda like the Twins. What ever one has the other one thinks they need the same thing." The Twins at hearing that, letting out a burst of laughter. The one Twin saying, "Why I never thot of that before but Lad 'tis true, I can't have a thing but what my brother thinks it is his."

"What? You joke for I don't even so much as get a treat and you take it away from me."

"Me? Take from my brother? Never! Why I always give you the bigger portion of everything."

"Yeah like the bigger portion of your fussiness."

"Who Me, fussy? Why I otta….."

"Fellows, fellows, please," cried out the Captain. "The movie is about to begin."

"Shhh brother, be quiet!"

"Me be quiet, why you are louder than even Lady's laughing seagull.," and turning to Lady, "Begging your pardon, I mean so offense."

"None taken I can assure you," she replying.

"Then why did you say that about me and the seagull?"

Thankfully the movie began and put an end to the squabbling….. well at least for awhile…..

As the movie came to a close everyone sat in place so quietly with The Maiden Fair remembering past holidays, of a time years ago in passing how life was so much different when on land she would meet with friends and they would spend an evening much liken as onto this evening with good fellowship, the baking of cookies to share with each of their families and taking in a movie or two. Only thing she couldn't ever recall them having the popcorn. She was wondering how the life of Frieda, her friend from even childhood was doing…the years were passing so very quickly…

Then it was a few musical notes that brought her back into the present when of all things Gregoras having taken from his shirt pocket a harmonica and began to play, "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and as he did the Twins first who beamed with a glow on their faces began to sing along, "You can count on me," and one by one the others joining in till all were singing and concluding with, "if only in my mind." From there the temple picking up with the tune of, "Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells! Jingle all the way," and on to, "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful," followed by. "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," and as the music came to a close, so too that evening with The Lad jokingly saying, "Dreaming of! Why it seems it is already a white Christmas. Oh Merry Christmas everybody!"

"The Maiden Fair arising from where she had been seated, saying to Lad, "Come now and I will help you get them Woolies of yours back into their sheltered stable and "Night, Night everyone." With echoes resounding of the others, "Night, Night, Maiden, Lad."

Once back up on deck The Maiden Fair taking from a bag she had stashed in her jacket that was filled with popcorn and tossing handfuls of it out on the new freshly fallen snow. The Laughing Seagull suddenly swooped from under the eves of protection and soared tipping his wings in the crisp cool evening air that was dark with the hours of midnight fast approaching when the moon so full was suddenly brightly shinning out from beneath the clouds that had parted. That night was so peaceful as The Maiden continued to hum, "if only in my mind…." "Night, Night Lad and remember breakfast will be served a bit later on tomorrow with an early supper such as this evening."

"Lady, you think that we will have popcorn too, like we did tonight on tomorrow's night?"

"Well I should think we will," The Maiden said smiling while thinking, "Good thing The Captain Brave and True wrote up that prize winning popcorn joke for if nothing else we certainly won't starve to death… hmm maybe the editor of that newspaper had something there after all by publishing that article under Health and Wellness."

The days continued much the same pattern. An evening of movies followed by the singing of Carols. Cook even had purchased in the last Port Town they had anchored at the most recent of movies released, The Lord of The Rings as well as The Two Towers, with those movies easily taking up for three evenings festivities. It was a few afternoon's later when up on the main deck Maiden Fair noticing The Captain and sensing how concerned he was.

"Captain, you look like you are in a quandary. Want to share with me what's on your mind?"

"Ah Lady, Good to have you near me. Well, seems inbetwix of quite what to do. For when I slow this ship's traveling speed, well, the engines seem to run smoother while if I crank 'em up those engines start to rattle and gives me to think they are going to sputter completely out on me. I don't like slowing this ship down, weather being such a Wintry Storm that keeps coming upon us, slowing down only for the briefest of times then going on trying it seems to rip this old ship to shreds. But howI long to reach the Harbout Port." About that time Gregoras walked by and The Captain called to him.

"Yes Sir Captain, what can I do for you?" asked Gregoras.

"Think we better slow this old buggy down even a bit more and much as I don't like to make this decision, also make sure the anchors are let down after the evening's festivities."

"Sir, you mean to turn the engines completely off am I to understand?"

"Yes, the engines seem to need a rest and hopefuly by morning they will be more cooperative."

"Sure thing Captain."

So day after day this new pattern emerged with the food supply dwindlin', ever dwindling. Again and again silent prayers were breathed, giving Thanks for the abundance yet remaining and ahh sweet for the maple syrup was still holding out though most of the supplies available for the hot chocolate were near extinct, the Cook now saving the smallest of the hot chocolate supplies for the Lad.

The Maiden Fair one evening handing to Cook her package of Chocolate Raspberry Coffee that was only about half used throughout the summer from when she first had made purchase of it saying, "Here Cook, this tastes really delicious when mixed half and half with your regular coffee otherwise the taste is just too overpowering. It ought to go with the evening treat of the popcorn quite well."

"Missy, I don't feel right taking it from you."

"Come on Cook, this makes for a bit of a specialness."

"Well, right there you are. Will make some up for tonight," and reaching out he gave her a hug.

The Captain later on that evening on entering into the lounge area saying, "I don't know what has the deeper aroma, those candles that the Twins continue to light up evening after evening or that coffee that Cook now has on brewing. Maiden Fair, that's apart of your hidden stash isn't it?"

"That it would be… and Mmmmm the scents mixed with the evenings of joy fill our souls and spirits too to being filled to overflowing so that we really are not lacking…well not too terribly much," she said giving his arm a bit of a squeeze that seemed to say, "Come on now, we'll make it through all of this."

The Lad now entering with his Woolies and getting the movie projector in place asked Lady if "perhaps I could have some of that fancy coffee of yours, it smells so good, please?" with Maiden replying, "How about we fill your mug one half with the fancy as you call it coffee and one half with the hot chocolate?"

"Oh! I can hardly wait. Lady that sounds just about too good to be true."

Upon awakening the next morning and getting the engines started it seemed that once going they were going at a faster clip and without that dreadful noise of the engines sputtering. They seemed to be making headway though the snow continued to fall but then with it's falling it meant temperatures were warm enough to keep the waters from freezing. It was now Wednesday and hopes were still high that come Christmas Eve, three days hence, they would be enabled to pull into the Harbour Port Town. Each morning The Captain tried to send a wire out and nothing, there was no getting word out or any word coming in though Captain knew the Cook's daughter would be making every effort to get word to them. As far as food supplies they were still on the two meals a day though it seemed the food consumed by those two meals a day didn't even make really for even one meal's worth but somehow all seemed a bit brighter come close of day when a movie, a bowl of maple sweetened popcorn and a cup of the hot raspberry chocolate coffee greeted each of them. In the midst of life's storm there yet was a peacefulness and just in knowing they were making headway meant a lot.

Then it happened somewhere in the deepest part of the night when startled awake by a noise unheard of, when all seemed to suddenly go eerily quiet with only a faint baa to be heard now and again, baa. What was that noise in their ears that was so startling? The Maiden Fair sat bolt upright in bed and listened intently… to absolutely nothing or so it seemed and that was what was so startling. The Captain heard it too thot the Maiden when all of a sudden she heard the door to his cabin open and slam shut behind him as he raced down the hallway and onto the main deck. In a moments few the Maiden Fair was jumping into her shoes styled more so as hiking boots and pulled her robe on and threw the quilt that was over the rocking chair around her shoulders and raced out on the main deck only to find the shock of all shocks!

It was the sound of no waves that had startled them so. All was quiet. No waves, no crashing, …..just the most incredible silence loomed, for where waves should have been tossing was an absolute stillness for the Waters Great had frozen in place. It must have been all of close to three in the morning. The deepest part of the night now over and heading on to a new dawning, a new dawning unlike any other that they had ever experienced.

The Captain Brave and True turning to The Maiden Fair saying, "I shall need you to be strong. We will make it into the Harbour Port Town, all of us and alive if I have anything to say…." With his voice trailing off. After a few minutes of them both standing there stunned to complete silence that matched the sound of the waves frozen to a deathly stillness The Maiden finally uttering, "I will go and pull my jeans on."

"Yes Maiden, you do that," replied The Captain with a distant far away tone of sheer disbelief in his voice and giving her arm a bit of a squeeze, she turning to him and then heading to her room.

"Oh my," she thot to herself. "Whatever in the world…….." As she walked past The Lad's room enroute to hers that was on the other side of hers she could hear him stir. She stopping by his cabin and giving a faint knock. "Lad, are you awake?"

"Yes Lady but just barely. Why?"

"Lad, Ummmm I don't know how to tell you but…ummm… Lad, as it is we are safe but…ummm" and with that The Lad coming and opening his door just ajar. "Lady what is wrong?" in a childlike tender voice he asked her.

"Lad, The Captain needs us all to be strong and as helpful as we can be. Don't know how to explain this other than to say the Zephyr Splendour is stuck… stuck in ice. Please hurry and get dressed. I will do the same and meet you in the dinning room. Remember you must be strong and of good courage!"

"Yes Lady," and for a moment before he closed his door he ran to her and hugging her tightly, "Oh Lady, I love you so much," he said low and almost in a whimper.

"Lad, Lad I love you too," and bending over she cupped his jaws into her hands, lifting up his sorrowful face and kissed his forehead. "Now Lad, come on we must hurry. The Captain is in need of us being of help!" That must have been the fastest scrambling into clothes of all time for it seemed in less than five minutes till down in the dinning room they were gathered. The Captain had already awoken the others. The silenced waves had not bothered them as on the lower deck were their cabins and the sound of the lapping of the waves was not so prevalent in being heard before the now silence so deafening that was present.

Taking one glance at Cook The Maiden noticed a face drawn tight with concern, with all color drained. The Twins yawning and unaware that danger lurked ever-present, just being more curious than anything as to why they had been awoken in this late middle of the night hour. Gregoras pulling on an extra sweater with his jaw locked giving him that hardened look he had for such a long time before the movies and times of sharing had begun and in those times of merriment a bit of a softness coming on his face. But that tenderness was now gone. Hard he looked but more than that determined as well was the look that shown forth. Determined to get through this crisis that was upon them.

Cook bringing to them all mugfulls of steaming hot coffee except that The Lad's was a half coffee and half chocolate mixture. There was also homemade bread sandwiches with good sized slices of cheddar cheese. The bread had just been made up the previous evening using the last of the flour bread baking supplies, making up though several loaves. Thankfully there remained yet a good amount of the cheese.

Captain started this emergency impromptu meeting and shared with them all the predicament that they were finding themselves in. When he finished talking one of the Twins said simply enough, "Why don't we just use the life boat?"

"You dimwit," said his Twin. "Didn't you hear the Captain say we are stuck out here in frozen water? What makes you think a life boat can make it through the water? It is FROZEN!"

"Well I guess I oughtinet better explained given as how you seem so slow to get a thing anybody says."

"Hump! Calling me slow and here I came a birthed minutes before you."

"Only time you ever was ahead of me and then I think it was you pushed me so as to come first!"

"Oy!" said Gregoras

"Exactly," replying Captain and then turning to the Twin who had mentioned the use of the life boat. "Tell me more of this idea of yours." "Well, Captain. You know me and my brother here been a working out all summer and well, we could load up the supplies we need in it. I think you had mentioned getting to Harbour Port by this evening and that was sailing in at a mighty slow rate. Well, we walk it in I should think. It must be all ice from here to there and brother and me, well we could have ropes attached and pull the supplies though it would mean everyone walking. Don't think we are quite that strong."

"Brother! I can't believe it, after all this time I wasn't so sure you were of any smarts and now you have proved me wrong. You are of no smarts at all!"

"WHAT??? Well I ought to…"

"No, I meant that in a positive way only I guess it came out all worded wrong. You are not smart at all…."

"WHAT?????"

"No, no, no, you are rather BRILLANT! Oh brother I am so proud of you! Yes, Captain, me and Twin here we will haul in the supplies that we need to keep us for what, a couple of days. Maybe we can get to Harbour Port even yet tonight depending on how fast we can walk."

Gregoras speaking up saying, "Captain you mentioned that Isle before. The Isle of the Whispering Oaks. Should be some type of a shelter there provided by the trees if nothing else. Maybe we could try and make it for there by nightfall. You mentioned it wasn't far from the Harbour. I mean I would like to make it to Harbour Port by tonight but that may be pushing it too hard what with the Woolies and all."

The Maiden Fair saying, "You mean what with having a lady in the traveling pack I suppose but kindness prevented you from saying those words…"

"Well Lady truth of the matter, besides the Woolies of the Lad's there is the Lad as well as yourself to consider. No sense gunning it and us all dropping over. Might be better to go a bit slower with the hopes of reaching our destination. Well Captain, what do you think."

The Captain turning to Cook, "How long do you think it would take before you could have the supplies you consider we need loaded." With Cook replying, "Well, it is three-thirty a.m. now and if we get a move on it should be able to be on our way by what you think, maybe an hour from now?"

"Well, we will need to break down the lambies shelter," replied Captain and adding quickly to Lad, "Now not to worry, o.k.? But we need to take the wood to have some fuel supplies for time and again on this walk we will need to stop and start a fire to get some warmth, especially at meal times. It must be all of 20 degrees below zero. That shelter has the only wood we can spare."

"I understand Captain," replied Lad. "As long as Woolies are with us it is cool with me."

"Lad I promise you right now that next shipping season we will build a really fine shelter for them Woolies of yours and over the Winter you and Woolies will stay with me at my wintering over place that is one Port around the bend from Harbour Port. It has a shed that we can convert to making for a shelter for your Woolies. My little home, more of a cabin in size has two bedrooms but Lad you wouldn't mind sleeping on my sofa would you?" Then turning to Maiden Fair and saying, "The second bedroom is yours unless you've made prior plans that I am not aware of."

The Lad running over to Captain and hugging him saying, "Oh I would be happy even to have a corner on the floor of your home!" with Maiden giving reply, "I would be grateful. The only plans I had was to take a room in a boarding house. I have enough money saved from my fabric sales to get me by a few months if prices aren't too high. I don't want to be a bother to you."

"Maiden I would appreciate it if you took that second room. I will be gone most days working on repairs of the Zephyr Splendour at a place I store it over the Winter, about a mile or so from my place. You could use my dinning table to sew to your hearts content. All I ask is help me care for the Lad and make up the evening meal each day for us."

"Oh Lady, please, please tell the Captain Yes, please…. I need you in my life."

"Well, I would be delighted in that case," and turning to Cook, "Good thing you taught me how not to burn the galley down," she said with a grin. "Yeah, good indeed Missy for as much as I like you and the Lad's company as well as them Woolies of his and Yes of course the Captain, still I shall be at my daughter's and her place isn't big enough for the entire lot of us." Then thinking of his beloved daughter he started to break into tears with Captain interrupting, "Come on let's get a move on it. We have things to do and places to go!"

In the midst of all the talk Gregoras had quietly gotten up, going to his room and now returning with an armful of little packages saying, "No sense in waiting till Christmas for these gifts I made up for the each of us. Seems they are needed now," and with that handing each one a small mews-paper wrapped little bundle, only to the Lad handing him two additional littler yet bundles."

"What's this?" asked The Lad.

"Well open them up, we haven't all day!" exclaimed Gregoras.

"Oh Gregoras, how lovely indeed and the perfect gift of a scarf for each of us," replied Maiden with the Lad adding, "And one each for the Woolies. The scarves are a perfect match to their little jackets. Oh Thank You Gregoras!"

Then talk about getting a move on it. The place seemed to fairly fly with activity. The Twins lowered the life boat, placing in the bottom of it some bales of hay, then going to work and breaking down the stable that had given shelter to the lambies all these many months. Lad took the Woolies temporarily into his room as he then raced to go and help Cook pack up supplies. There were plastic freezer containers filled with goodness knows what…. A box of mugs n- dishes, pots n- pans n- the like. "Lad grab that bag of potatoes will ya and here take this other box when you get the time," made mention of Cook to The Lad. "Oh and here," grabbing a smaller burlap bag than what the popcorn kernels were in and filling it with the precious kernels of corn saying, "We certainly don't want to forget this!" as he reached and handed to Lad the faithful popcorn popper.

Meanwhile The Maiden Fair up in her room was gathering a few extra pairs of socks and the like and stashing them into her basket. Can't forget this she thot for this is the hiding place of Christmas gifts and smiling she wondering where these gifts were to be opened…..??? Reaching for her golden carrot necklace that her dearest Friend, Uncle ZePauly had given her, still in its most beautiful box and slipping it on, placing the box in the basket. Gathering up the blanket off of the rocking chair and then remembering…………… and into the bathroom retrieving her hairbrush. She seemed about ready to head out. But first stopping ever so briefly by that polished stone now a treasured keepsake that was on the dresser. Picking it up ever so briefly and saying a quiet prayer hoping against seeming all odds they would all make it safely into The Harbout Port, then placing the smooth polished stone back down on the dresser, more as an act of faith for her than anything else as she thot, somehow though leaving in a Wintery Storm out on frozen waters I believe, I believe….. that one day I shall be given to retrieve this stone once again. Walking to the door with her supplies and closing tightly the door behind her she walked out to the freezing cold main deck.

The Lad running to her and taking of her personal items, loading them up in the life boat now nearly filled. The Twins grabbing the ropes and with a one, and a two and on a count of three they were off. Oops! "Wait a minute!' exclaimed Lad and quickly he ran to his cabin returning with the Woolies. "Can't forget these!" Baaa Baaa!!!!

Although the middle of the night found them in the most perilous situation, so biting cold and though the situation had not changed, somehow they as left the shelter of The Zephyr Splendour that had been Ship Sweet Shipping Home, the morning was so fair as dawn a new was being ushered in with full breezes blowing except the breezes had the smallest though most welcomed hint of a warmth to them making the journey starting out pleasant enough. So as they started out it was with merriment as they all echoed, "Why No! Can't forget the Woolies, of all things," as the Laughter too of Maiden Fair's pet could be heard as on winged flight the family five of seagulls lead the way, soaring through the air so swiftly.

It was so amazing the flight pattern of the Seagulls, for they would soar on ahead going almost out of the range where even the laughter of her cherished pet could still yet be heard, circle and come round back to where this little group, lost seemingly on a frozen ocean that went on for miles in all directions and then seem as it were to lead this little band forward. It was almost as though the Seagulls knew the way to go… On and on they trudged with spirits high. The new dawn was turning into a morning that seemed fair enough. Though cold they were yet still it was a cold that did not chill them through and through. Must have been at about ten in the morning when the Captain turned to Cook saying, "What say we stop now for a bit of refreshment? The Twins need a rest though I know them well enough to know they won't admit to it."

"Suits me fine indeed Captain. I brought some tea along," and turning to Lad he gave to him the enamel coffee pot that was in one of his boxes asking that he should go and fill it up with snow. The Lad doing as he was requested with Cook placing it on a wire rack over the warming coals that had started to give some warmth. "Captain, it won't be but a couple of minutes and some fresh brewed tea for each of us will there be," he was heard saying as packets of the cheese and bread sandwiches he was taking out and giving to each of them. Gregoras taking of the bales of hay and placing them in a manner that they each had a place to be seated with The Lad hopping into the life boat and bringing in his Woolies. In that way as Woolies ate he sat in the sheltered comfort of the warmth they gave to him. It seemed no time at all had lapsed when The Captain was urging them to get a move on it. Cook had a small basin of water and did a quick washing of the mugs and these along with the coffee pot were soon back packed into the life boat with The Lad and Woolies getting out reluctantly to then continue on the long march across the vast coldness. By noon although the early part of the day had seemed bright enough, now it was that grey clouds started to move in and as they did cooler temperatures came blowing in. On and on they walked with the Seagulls continuing in their pattern of soaring in the heavens, their wings giving a flutter seemed to be the only movement present other than the groups everlasting walking. Time to time a baa being echoed through the vastness of silence. Could there possibly be a place any quieter anywhere thot The Maiden?

…..and still they inched forward, talking one step after another. It seemed that each hour that passed the sky a bit greyer and the feel a little more cooler. It came to be about three in the afternoon. It was difficult to realize that it had just been twelve hours ago when they first came to understand that the Zephyr Splendour was solidly frozen into The Water's Great. Was it just twelve hours ago for it seemed that for days they had walked. This journey seemed as though it might never end. The cold they were beginning to feel as it pounced upon them as a cat does to a little rat. Pouncing and pouncing, ever playful till it wears the little rat out, capturing its prey to hold the creature close… a little too close for comfort. So too this cold wind was feeling a bit too close for comfort as it started to nip as it were at them. Still they continued on for a good half-hour till at long last The Captain bidded them all that they should rest for a little while. As the little group of wandering travelers sat again on bales of hay with Lad and Woolies taking cover that the life boat provided, they munched again on the cheese and bread sandwiches with the hot tea warming them as the camp fire burned brightly giving added warmth and some comfort. Though early on in the late afternoon it was, yet they knew that it was only maybe a couple of hours at most before the sky of night would begin to descend upon them. They searched the horizon only to find nothing. Not a smudge of a tree to be seen anywhere. Only miles upon miles upon miles of freezing landscape with dark grey clouds looming low to earth. There were yet a couple more sandwiches and Cook urged The Twins to partake of them, "Fellows," he said to them, "You are the one taking the brunt of this effort by hauling that life boat. As strong as you are this is no easy feat to accomplish. Take these sandwiches, please. I wish I had more to offer…" with The Captain going on to say, "Yes Twins. Please. We all here need for you fellows to keep up your strength. All the supplies we have to help in keeping us alive are on that life boat." With that the Twins eagerly took the cherished sandwiches. They were so hungry. Meals for several days now had been so rationed on board the ship and yet not a word of complaint had been uttered. As they started the process of repacking the mugs and all into the life boat, The Laughing Seagull flew directly overhead and from its beak dropped, of all things, an acorn out, with the Maiden Fair catching in. "Oh Captain, do you suppose the Seagulls have found that Isle of the Whispering Oaks? For here is an acorn," she said excitedly!

All of a sudden new strength, new energy, new life seemed to bloom forth in each and every one of them. Hope was alive. Now to persevere, quitting was not an option. Captain cried out to the Seagulls, "Lead us onward!" With that The Maiden Fair's treasured pet laughed a most welcoming sound and cheered on the gulls did they all.

A couple more hours had passed and walked on yet they did. Still there was nothing more to give any further encouragement to their longing souls. They had no hope at all of reaching The Harbour Port that Christmas Eve and now even the hope of reaching the Isle of The Whispering Oaks was waning quickly. They were needing to decide when to camp for the night when again The Seagulls circled them and once again an acorn drop of new hope was dropped into The Maiden's waiting outstretched hand. The Captain was the first to speak, saying to the Twins, "If strength you've enough to go on then I say lets go on and follow them seagulls, otherwise we shall soon need to make some sort of camp for the night as we can't walk all night after walking all day." The Twins speaking up, "We got strength enough for yet a little while." With The Captain replying, "In that case, lets move. Come on we've come so far…."

At about that time a strong gust of wind came up and wouldn't you know it, the wind somehow got blown in such a way as to set The Woolies rolling and a tumbling over and over, head over heals, as it were!! "Baaa Baaa!!" could be heard bellowing forth. The Lad and Gregoras each making a swift run for them, grabbing them by their little jackets and setting them upright on their hooves. "Well, if that don't beat all," chuckled Gregoras with The Lad looking at the lambs in total disbelief. Well, then it was that they got the Woolies located in such a way between them and the life boat so as that certainly would not be happening again soon.

"NOW, are we all ready to move on," questioned The Captain?

"Baaa Baaa"

"Then let's go. Time is a wasting!" said The Captain as he gave a chuckle.

Must have been just a little over a half-hour that had passed when The Lad cried out, "Over there, way over there." He said pointing. "Are those not trees standing silhouetted in the last light of day?" when the Cook cried out, "Lad! Yes, trees at long last. That just has to be The Isle of The Whispering Oaks." Again The Seagulls flew directly overhead and once again an acorn released.

With some hidden surge of strength The Twins broke it seemed almost into a run though really that was not possible. Their steps came quicker and The Lad he did break forth into a gleeful run hollering, "Isle of Whispering Oaks, here we come!"

As they were nearing The Isle they noticed a couple of fishing shanties that had been set on the frozen water. Hmmm thot Cook, so this must be a great place to fish when, "HELP!" Could be heard the cry of the The Lad. Gregoras took off running in the dark, unable to see but hearing only the direction from which the Lad cried. The Twins dropped the life boat and took off just steps behind Gregoras. Gregoras sliding as it were a baseball player sliding into home plate and grabbing The Lad's hand as the rest of him was tumbling, …having fallen through the thin ice of a fishing hole uncovered by a fishing shantie. Gregoras hollered out to The Lad, "Don't let go of my hand," and to The Twins, "Hurry, grab my feet so as I don't slide in with The Lad."

The Twins grabbing each hold of Gregoras with The Captain and The Maiden Fair just reaching the broken hole as Gregoras was with his free hand reaching into the icy bitterly cold water to grab hold onto The Lad…and…and…and… finally pulling him up and out. Cook came trudging behind, having grabbed onto the heirloom quilt. "Here, quick wrap up The Lad." He said while The Captain Brave and True asked, "Is he breathing?" Gregoras noting in the faint light that shone on The Lad from the bit of light of the moon that now shone on him…he is so cold and deathly blue. The Maiden fair reaching for The Lad as The Captain placed his head on the Lad's chest and felt for a pulse… The moments though few seemed to be hours, when all of a sudden the Lad coughed up water and started a snorting type of sound. Gregoras sitting The Lad up and patting his back. The quilt wrapped about him with The Captain removing the soaked scarf off of the Lad and then taking his own coat off and throwing it over the Lad's dripping wet with ice forming in his hair, the cold was that bitter. "Twins, called The Captain, bring the life boat here, quick, we've no time to loose. Seems there is a cabin or shack of some sort on The Isle. We must get this Child under protected cover!" The Twins threw the few remaining sections of wood out of the boat and broke open one of the bales of hay, spreading it loosely as a bed and The Lad placed within it, grabbed the ropes and took off, going at the fastest pace possible. The Captain having already reached this small cabin was all readied to break down the door to enter when he noted that when touching the handle of it, the door swung open. Cook entering and noting a fireplace so large that it seemed to line one entire wall of the cabin. The Maiden Fair entering last with armfuls of the wood thrown out of the boat took them over to the fireplace. Gregoras taking a match from his pocket and thankfully there was a bit of kindling present….

In no time the fire was blazing with The Twins rubbing The Lad and getting him out of his wet clothing. The one twin having already taken off his jacket was now removing his oversized pullover sweater and placing it over the head of The Lad and once it was on The Lad the Sweater was more liken as onto a long nightshirt, so much bigger was the Twins from The Lad. The other Twin reached into his small satchel of items, reaching in and pulling out a pair of socks. The socks on The Lad reaching almost to his hips. Then is was Gregoras that came to The Lad and quietly said in a tone so soft, "Here Lad, an extra pair of my briefs… Twins may give you the shirt off their back but I am afraid if they gave of their briefs you in your small frame would need to have a rope to keep them tied on…er a up." With the Lad replying, "Gregoras! You Saved Me," reaching out and hugging him so tightly. By this time the Woolies had came close sniffing at their master Lad and Baaing out merrily. The Maiden Fair dropping into a near by chair feeling such a combination of relief and joy.

For awhile no one did anything except to stay close by the now raging fire in the fireplace and shiver out of the chills they were experiencing. No one had noticed that Cook left out but noted his return when he hollered, "Someone, open up the door," and there he was with arms full of packages from the life boat. The Maiden Fair now feeling a bit rested and warmed went out now to the life boat and retrieved her basket as well as one of Cook's boxes that he had not enough arms to carry it in on his trip to get the items they would need to fix up a meal.

The Lad's wet clothes as well as the heirloom quilt draped over some chairs in front of the fireplace to dry. The Maiden Fair sitting back down and calling The Lad to her. "Come Lad sit on my lap," with his coming to her and she lifted him up. "Oh you dear, dear Child," she quietly spoke to him. Soon The Lad was asleep with The Captain taking him and tucking him into one of the beds that were more so cots forming bunk beds that were built into a side of the walls.

It must have been about an hour later when Cook was calling all to the rustic table much liken to a picnic table and with benches on ither side. The Lad upon hearing Cook's familiar voice awoke and came to the table not believing quite what was set on the table. "I thot all we had to eat was cheese with bread sandwiches," said of The Lad. Well, yes there were the sandwiches but also some of that delicious herb and bacon flavored chili that had been made a couple of weeks beforehand and frozen. Cook saying, "I saved this for Christmas Eve!" Ah yes, it was Christmas Eve. They all had forgotten… and Thankfully it was a joyous time for all were safe…and still thawing out it seemed. The chili was tastier than even the first serving of it and so good and hot. It was not long before they all were feeling quite warm.

Gregoras taking out his harmonica and playing all the familiar tunes of the Season concluding with, "Silent Night, Holy Night." As Cook finished up in the kitchen The Maiden Fair taking an extra sandwich that was left, going outdoors and breaking it into pieces, hoping Laughing Seagull, his mate and winglets three would come and feast of this meal that was so well earned. She felt of the acorns in her pocket and smiled.

On a small rug in front of the fireplace the Woolies settled in to rest. Lad was quickly asleep. There were cots enough for them all. The Maiden Fair crawling into one of the lower cots as the fellows stayed up and talked quietly. Gregoras began again to softly play on his harmonica and soon Maiden Fair was lulled to sleep.

It was somewhere in the middle of the night when suddenly Maiden awoke with a start, reaching to her basket that she had placed by the head of her bed, and began to take small wrapped packages from it. "Christmas Gifts!" she thot. Getting up and pattering across the wooden floor in her stocking feet she placed packages at each table setting. Cook had already put the plates and mugs for morning out on the table and the individual bags holding the treats were already in place on the plates. Finding the bag with the cookie in the shape of a Pine tree was the Lad's. There she placed two packages. One was kinda bulky and the other more flat surfaced. Then she placed the largest of the small packages on the plate where The Captain would be seated. A mid sized package by where Cook would be sitting with the remaining packages, all three about the same size, one at Gregoras's place setting with the other two by where The Twins would be seated. "Yeah!" she thot and then, "What's this I wonder?" feeling a package by where she would be seated……

The Maiden Fair walking by the quilt hung over the chairs to dry, finding it thusly so and taking it with her as she lay back down. Mmmmm, with that quilt she felt at long last, back at home as it were, and drifted off into sweet peaceful slumber.

Too soon it seemed a new day's dawning was upon them with The Lad bounding over to Maiden, shaking her awake, saying, "Lady, Lady you are not gonna believe this but.. but, oh Lady!" with her reply of, "Lad, what is it?" as she started to sit up. "Lady, Lady! Really, you will never believe what took place outdoors!" then going on to say the Lad saying, "There was this great big rat, must have been all of 4 feet in length, had a sweet little vest on as he sat up on his hind legs holding a gold watch in one paw and in with his other little one holding onto the paw of a BUNny rabbit!! The BUNny was so soft appearing with light brown fur that shone honey colored in the morning light and had on a black velvet coat trimmed with white on the lapels and cuffs." then he went on to say. "Seems your Seagulls were there too and they were sharing those bits of cheese sandwiches with the Rattie and BUNny…and… and then…and… the BUNny with her free hand waved at me!" Gregoras spoke up, "Lad you really took quite the tumble into that fishing hole. Must have really gotten that dear little head of yours soaked." With The Captain breaking in and saying, "You realize of course everyone thot Maiden here had gotten too much water in her when she spoke of The Laughing Seagull……" hmmmmm they all sighed questionly….. hmmm indeed…..

Then it was as The Lad raced back to the window and looked on in awe as the biggest fluffiest snowflakes began to blow steadily, giving him to remember it was Christmas morning, "Oh, Merry Christmas," he called forth to them all and jumping down from the chair he had been hunched up on, looking out the window, he ran over to his Woolies all cozy sitting yet in front of the fireplace with the glowing embers filling the room with a comforting warmth. Then for the first time glancing at the table and exclaiming, "Presents!" Cooked laughed heartily while at the stove stirring a pan of homemade fried potatoes with onions mingled in and seasoned with salt and pepper. "Mmmmmmm smells so good," breathed Lady as she came into the small kitchen that was really located in a corner of the one big room they were all camped within, going on to say, "Cook, did you place in the cinnamon and what few cloves there were when you packed the items we were to bring with us?"

"Yes Missy, over there on that counter."

"Super! Don't mind if I use them do you Cook? I placed in the life boat before we left the last freezer containers of the apple cider. They must be frozen yet and still in the life boat. I'll be back as soon as I go and retrieve them," mentioned Lady.

The Lad had wanted to go with Lady to the life boat but The Captain spoke up mentioning he wanted him to stay indoors and maintain being warm. They had a good amount of distance walk yet to reach the Harbour Point and he needed to have as full of strength as possible to make the journey.

Upon entering back into the cabin The Maiden Fair spoke first to The Lad saying, "Besides the tracks of The Laughing Seagull, his mate and winglets three, there too were tracks of a BUNny and some really different sort of Creature tracks that appeared to be mouse-like only really gigantic …..strangest tracks I ever encountered…." Then going to the stove she placed the apple cider into a saucepan to heat thoroughly while cinnamon was sprinkled in as well as the cloves tossed in. Soon the kitchen was alive with scents, giving all their mouths to water. Cook then talking in low tones and saying to Missy as he opened a couple of cans of salmon, "Been saving these back for a special occasion and seems now is the perfect time," then adding some bread crumbs, a bit of minced onion with some seasonings formed salmon patties and into a pan with near to the last of the butter fried them up. Well, that was the scent that brought them all to the table with The Lad fingering the package at his place setting. "I didn't think in my wildest dreams that there would be presents for me. Lady you don't suppose that ZeLittle Rattie and BUNny brought these here to me do you?" "Hmmm Lad, perhaps…" she replied. Then as the pan fried potatoes with the fried salmon patties were being kept warm, waiting on the Spiced Cider to thoroughly mull, Cook suggested, "What about we open our gifts and then I do believe it shall be time for the feasting!"

"Alrighty!" cheered the Lad and saying, "Cook, maybe you should like to go first?" with Cook replying, "Me? Really… and taking of his gift he found not one but two home made wooden frames with seashells glued all around in place. "Lady told me about the pictures of your daughter but that no frames you seem to have, well now you do. The shells Lady collected this summer and the wooden part of the frames I fastened together."

"Ah, Lad you've made Cook mighty happy indeed," with a tear forming as his face shone. Then one by one the others opened their gifts. For The Twins were carved wooden wrestlers with the words carved on them, "The Come Back Twins." With Gregoras saying, "You fellows sure did make the Great Come Back of all time even if you never get in the wrestling ring again for this far thanks to your muscle we've come." Then noticing that for Gregoras there was in his package a carved wooden candy cane in stripes swirled of red and white, the Lad saying, "Lady mentioned something about how you would appreciate a candy cane more than any other gift. I don't quite get it but Lady said you would understand. I hope you like it." Gregoras saying, "Yes, now wherever I go I will take this with me and always hope for a better day I shall carry within my heart." And as he spoke the hardness once again leaving from his face and a small smile forming. "So Captain, what have you there?" asked Gregoras. "Not certain but sure seems kinda large and bulky," he replied with Lad saying, "Open it, open it… Me and Lady thot of it for you." The Captain chuckling as he removed a set of home made wind chimes with the top of it a piece of wood carved into a sailing ship with the chimes as it were formed of shells strung on string. "Well, one thing is for certain I shall always know when the breezes are blowing," he said. "You think?" replied the maiden with a bit of a giggle. "Lad your turn," she said as he was ripping open the brown paper wrapped packages. In one a small musical instrument of a flute and in the other a book to teach him the basics of playing it and some music to start him a playing. "Oh, now I can be like Gregoras and have music wherever I go," he exclaimed gleefully. "Lady, your turn." He then saying as in her package she discovered a little wooden frame for doing hand quilting. "In the quilt shop Lady I saw them big frames and thot I would make one for you only little-like." With that The Maiden Fair getting up and going over to where The Lad was seated and lighting a kiss atop his head, "Lad, it is perfect. Thank You."

Besides the wrapped presents there was also the packages of cookies at each place setting with The Lad exclaiming, "A Christmas Tree!" and going over to the fire place with the cookie formed in the shape of a tree of pine he placed it atop the mantle of the fireplace saying, "So that we might all be given to enjoy!"

It was then that Lady noticed her treat package was not as she and Cook had prepared for in her sack of goodies was not a gingerbread person but of all things, a gingerbread seagull! "Oh Cook, Thank You!" and Hugs-a-plenty.

They had not paid attention to the outdoors as the gifts were opened but the flurries were turning into a Wintery Storm. It wasn't until they had finished that delicious mid morning meal and sitting supping on their hot spiced cider when they realized that the winds began to howl giving them to know as the cabin shook with now pounding pellets of ice that a storm was raging outdoors.

"Well, we won't be starting out for awhile. Not till this storm passes at least," spoke of The Captain.

As Cook and Maiden tended to clearing the table The Twins went to a shed just off the side of the cabin, bringing in armfuls of logs for the fireplace as Lad went over to Gregoras asking him, "Help me please to understand how to play my new lovely flute, please Gregoras, please…" Hour turned into two then three hours… Still the storm was lashing with mighty thrusts of biting cold… then it could be heard, that familiar sound, Pop! Poppity pop pop! Cook had gone to the kitchen and was making some of the popcorn while melting up the very last of the supply of the butter…. It was only about two in the afternoon and yet now hopes where just about non-existent of venturing out that day. Gregoras taking out his harmonica with The Lad his flute, together they playing, "Mary had a Little Lamb," with Lad saying, "So far it is the only song I know how to play." The Woolies seemed to enjoy it for Baaa Baaa Baaa Baaa could be heard.

As late afternoon came to a close with sky of night beginning to draw its curtains the storm let up. Lad who had stayed much of the day by the window, desiring so much that the Ratte and BUNny would return was given to exclaim, "Hay anyone take note of those lights twinkling in the distant? I didn't notice them till now." The Maiden Fair going and standing where he was and was about to say, "Those must be first stars of night," when suddenly she realized the lights must be, well could it be possible that they were the Harbour Port lights? "Captain?" she asked, "On that map of yours, how far was the Harbour Port from this The Isle of the Whispering Oaks?"

"Maiden Fair that is hard to tell. That map was not really properly scaled and more so a locals type of map. Why do you ask?"

"Well, if I am not mistaken we are nearer our destination than thot." She replied with Cook going to the window now and exclaiming, "Oh, those lights must be the Harbour Port!" and he broke down crying as he continued, "Could it be possible that yet this Christmas Day I shall be reunited once again with my beloved daughter?" Well with those comments all were on their feet with The Captain saying, "Let's get out gear and clear out. Agreed?"

"Agreed!" they all exclaimed together.

They gathered all their belongings and finding a broom in one corner they swept the cabin clean, leaving it tidy. They gathered a supply of wood and made ready in the fireplace the logs so that who ever venturing in after they would have all in place readied to get a blaze a going. Cook found an empty tin can with a lid in one of the cupboards and taking the measure of about a couple of pouns of the kernels of corn from the burlap bag, poured them into the can and leaving a brief note explaining they were travelers in need of shelter and used of some of the logs in the shed, that the unpopped corn was a way in part to give Thanks. There was yet maybe close to a dozen pounds of kernels of corn in that burlap bag. The Captain Brave and True pulling the door closed behind him as he had found it and away they started to walk to a distant glow that beckoned them forward. The Twins grabbing hold of the ropes to the life boat with the Woolies once again between The Lad and the boat, so as not to be given to blow away. They each with their scarves that Gregoras had given them in the earliest hours of that Christmas eve morning wrapped about each their necks and faces, giving them to face the breezes yet wild with flecks of ice, protected from the blast of Wintery Bbrrrr cold.

They must have walked all of at least twenty minutes steady when The Captain could tell by The Lad's heavy breathing that this walk was proving to be too much for him though never a whimper heard. The Lad was remaining as strong as he could and of good courage. Finally after a few more minutes The Captain made request of The Twins, "I realize pulling the life boat is no easy task but given that there is no longer the supplies of the planks of wood, may The Lad sit in the life boat? He seems winded and after last night's watery tumble…"

The captain need not say another word for both Twins exclaimed as the boat came to a stop, "Lad hop in and grab them Woolies in with you." So there with a burlap bag filled with treasured popcorn kernels as a pillow/back support to help keep him sitting upright amongst loosed hay with the heirloom quality quilt about him and a Woolie on each side nestled in along side him he seemed about as content as anything. "Lady, there is room enough for you if you want a life boat ride," said of the one Twin with the other joining in, "Yes, Lad move over a bit and make room for Lady." The Maiden Fair replying with a smile, "Thanks Fellows for the offer but I am rather enjoying this walk and that glow of light that appears to be so warming and welcoming, I am rather enjoying taking each step to get there, though I do appreciate your offer."

"Well Lady if you insist but if you get tired, let us know and we should be overjoyed to take you on in this new fangled sleigh of sorts," they said with a grin.

On and on they walked with each step a greater excitement arising within them. Then they heard it, a shout, when a man's voice on the banks of the shore hollered, "They're coming, they're coming. Someone tell Sandy, the Cook Daughter, that they are coming at long last!" Though Cook was on the side of elderly, just hearing the word "Sandy," was all he needed to hear and his feet picked up some speed and he took off, not quite running but certainly walking at a brisk clip. Within minutes there was a small stream of folks pouring out of the building where that glow shone so bright with a Lady leading the way. She was running with arms wide open and crying, "Daddy, Daddy, you have made it safe and sound, All Glory Be!" Into each others arms they embraced. Never a more tender a moment expressed.

In all fairness to those who may have been reading this Story of The Zephyr Splendour, The Ship at High Seas. Well, The Captain Brave and True, The Maiden Fair, The Lad and Trusty Crew have reached The Harbour Port… The Story continues but now with a bit of a notice given… Just so that any one reading at this point and desires not be be confronted with a story that presents itself in a manner Religious/Christian then this may be the place where you may choose to allow for the story to end.

You are personally invited to continue on as the Ones mentioned continue on their journey.

Then they all stood there for a moment not quite knowing what to do when a voice called out, "These folks must be chilled to the bone. Have them come in. There is yet some pepper steak with rice hot on the stove." Into a side door they ventured with tables all set. A hot meal set before The Captain Brave and True, The Maiden Fair, The Lad, Cook, Twins two and Gregoras. The Woolies were left sheltered, lying in the hay of the life boat and as soon as was possible The Lad noticing a salad bowl untouched asked right out, "May I please take this salad to Woolies that are in the life boat. They too are in need of nourishment…please I beg." A kind voice of one of the ladies saying, "Why Yes certainly Child," and here handing him a cup of hot chocolate, "Here, for you, and you may take it with you as you go and attend to these your Woolies you call them?" The Lad making reply, "Thank You kind one on their behalf. These Woolies are sheep you understand."

It wasn't too long before Gregoras came to where The Lad was and leaning up against a tree so stark and bare of winter, he lit up his pipe with the smoky apple scent filling the air of night. "Well, Lad we made it didn't we?" said of Gregoras with the hardness of his features catching a bit of softness as a smile started to form on his face so weathered by the Storm. Before long The Captain was coming outdoors to where they were and explaining that this the Harbour Port's local church was about to start their evening service. Seems what with the day being both Sunday as well as Christmas Day they decided not to have the regular morning service as many of the folks desired to be home with their family, that rather they would have an evening time of Worship and Praise but had also decided to allow folks to come early, bringing foods for a pot luck meal as it were and that's the reason why there was the hot prepared meal that was ready as they had came into the Harbour Port. The Captain going on to further explain that apparently this was the church where Cook's Daughter, her name Sandy, well where she attended and had some singing part in the evening's festivities and thusly Cook would be staying for the evening service at the church. Well, it seems as soon as The Twins heard there was to be singing they happily decided to stay and made mention to one of the Deacons, think they said his name was Deacon Stratton, well, he is kinda a head concern in the church and mentioned how they so enjoyed music but feared they were not dressed appropriately to be sitting in a church service. Guess it is this Deacon Stratton told them their clothes was no problem. It was understood that this Crew had just survived against many odds and to join right in and besides the folks in this church were not so high and mighty on caring about how others dressed on the outside appearances for this was the Lord's home as it were and his view was how a person's appearance was from the inside heart and spirit of a person out. Well, when Maiden Fair heard all this she turned to me and asked could we stay, please. Well, so it seems I too am staying for the service. Besides with Cook's daughter having a singing part in the festivities I really feel like I ought to stay for his benefit as well. I know how he dearly loves her and would take it as a deep hurt if I refused to stay though I tell ya I sure wouldn't mind getting a room at the local Motel. Warm shower sure would be nice right about now…. The Captain went on to discuss what The Lad and Gregoras would be deciding on with Lad making it clear that under no terms was he about to leave his Woolies and Gregoras letting The Captain know he would keep tabs on The Lad and his Woolies. With that all said The Captain headed now in the front door of the church.

Wasn't too long a time, maybe five minutes or so when a man up in years came out of the church and over to where they were yet with the Woolies explaining that he was Deacon Stratton. "Won't you fellows please come into our church?" Then turning to The Lad he made mention how he had talked this situation over with both The Captain as well as the Minister, The Minister Noe, and it was understood that the Woolies are invited to come in as well. "We have a foyer where already a couple of the ushers are clearing some of the chairs to make room for them there Woolies of yours. It is understood that as a group you have traveled together and at this time are unable to part. We give you to know you are indeed welcomed, and that means all of you. Hear me?" said of Deacon Stratton. A few quiets Baas could be barely heard. "Baa Baa Baa…" said of The Woolies.

Gregoras speaking up now and saying, "Deacon Stratton, me and the Lad will talk this over," with Deacon Stratton putting his hand out to shake hands with them both saying, "Hope you fellows decide on coming in," glancing over at The Wooolies, "You too little lambies shall find as it were, room in the inn this evening." Baa Baa

As Deacon Stratton headed back into the church it was then that Gregoras turned to The Lad saying, "I think we need to take him up on his and apparently the church's offer. Besides I suppose Lady is real concerned about you right now. You know how she gets all in a fuss? Besides, I must say I never heard of a church allowing Woolies entrance. If they are now making room for them then we should go in."

"Well, Gregoras if you say you think we should go in, well o.k. then by me."

"Lad you go ahead and start with them there Woolies of yours. I will be along following shortly. Just allow for me to finish this pipe of mine… now run along."

As The Lad and his Woolies were nearing the church doors main entrance he stopped momentarily to make fresh bow ties on the scarves that the Woolies were wearing. "My goodness Woolies aren't you all dressed up in sweet little jackets and matching bows!" Then making his own scarf to be tied a bit neater, they all headed into the church. From a distance Gregoras noted how a couple of the men were welcoming in The Lad and The Woolies. Also from that distance Gregoras could hear the music of the church's organ as it began to play, "Silent Night, Holy Night," his pipe now gone out and slowing he walked towards the church. He no sooner had started up the steps than the doors were swung wide open with Deacon Stratton once more offering him his hand, "Oh do come right on in," The Lad motioning to Gregoras and barely whispering, "Come in. Here I am." Deacon Stratton talking in a low voice said to Gregoras, "Just the other side of the foyer I left a seat on the end of the back pew so that in that way you could be close to The Lad."

As Gregoras was seated he noted that just the other side of the isle up a few pews sat Lady and The Captain with Cook seated just the other side of Lady. The Twins were seated on that same pew only way over to the other end by the wall. The music continued to play with several songs of the Season being sung. It wasn't too long a time and The Twins being as tired as they were what with all that hauling in the bitter cold the life boat well, they were soon, the both of them sitting there fast asleep.

Then it was that Minister Noe was introduced and came to the podium to minister that evening's service. He started out saying how for what ever the reason he didn't feel that he was to bring the traditional Christmas message and rather would they all turn in their Bibles to Matthew, the 13th Chapter and starting with verse 1 he read, " 1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." The Minister Noe going on to read in verse, " 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."

With those portions of Scripture read he went on for some time speaking on the words just read and before closing out the service he mentioned an offering would be collected with yet a couple of more songs sung before the conclusion of the service. It was at this time that The Lad quietly got up and walking outdoors to the life boat to return with the burlap bag in hands and started to walk up front to where the Minister Noe was as the offering was being collected. Then if the Woolies didn't start to walk down the center isle of the church to be near The Lad. Gregoras started to get up to grab hold of The Woolies, he didn't know The Lad was going to walk down the isle or else he would have grabbed on to him as well. Suddenly Deacon Stratton came to Gregoras and quietly said, "Don't worry or be concerned. Minister Noe will be fine with all this taking place. We are used to shall we say, different events, happening in this church. The Lad is fine and not considered out of order. Apparently he has something to say." Gregoras looked puzzled but reluctantly sat back down.

After the offering was collected the two ushers brought it forward to be prayed over and afterwards the Minister Noe kindly said to The Lad, "Child, I take it you have something you desire to share?" The Lad speaking up,

"Well I was listening to what all you had to say and can't say that I understand most of it but well if it is o.k. with The Captain we got this here popcorn seed and I heard you say something about sowing seed. I guess that means planting seed. Well, here is some for you folks." With that The Lad handed the worn burlap bag of popcorn kernels to the Minister Noe. The Minister seemed taken back for a moment then quickly asked The Captain if this giving was o.ked by him and The Captain about as taken back as The Minister gave the briefest of all nods giving his approval. "Well, in that case if it is now alright with the congregation, Youth Leader Anita will you please step forward." It was a dear little lady of the church, a few years past middle age, who walked to where the Minister was standing. "Yes Minister," she said and he saying, "I know how hard you as leader of the Youth of this church as well as the Youth have faithfully worked this summer clearing a bit of land just down the road here from the church in hopes of planting a garden. Well it seems with this gift your first seed has just now arrived. I want you to take this bag of kernels and come spring get the Youth gathered together for the planting of it."

"Yes Minister Noe, this we will do," she said smiling and turning to The Lad she said, "For saying you don't understand too much of what all was said this evening I somehow think you heard and understood more than anyone what was spoken this evening."

Then it was the concluding of the Church Service for that Sunday Christmas Evening 2005 in that little Harbour Church tucked at the base of the Mountains so grand and glorious. It was late into the evening and still the Twins slept on. Just before the Minister motioned for the song leader to come and lead the congregation in a final song before closing out the evening's services he mentioned to the Crew of The Zephyr Splendour to give no further thot of their lodgings for that evening. No need to wake the fellows that gave their strength that you might all have reached this Harbour Town. Just feel free to camp here in the church overnight. The pews aren't that hard to bed down on and then speaking to the Ladies of the church, "I expect you to arise early and figure out who is going to send what with their husbands for these folks to have a good warm and filling meal come new dawn. Am I making myself clear?" when then in turn, "Yes Minister Noe," was spoken by several of the congregation. "Oh and Captain, Right now I am making request of Deacon Stratton to give notice to his son-in-law yet this evening and Yes I realize it is late, only a couple of hours till midnight but given that he runs the ice cutter boat I want him here bright and early. Captain you know that every morning, well I guess you wouldn't know but ah, well, I am telling you that Cook's daughter each and every morning tried for a good couple of weeks to make radio contact to your ship to try and reach her Dad and when unable to make contact she set our little church prayer line in motion. We have it this way that if there is a special concern of any on the prayer line or in this church, then they call the one listed under their name and then go immediately to prayer, if that one listed is not answering then they go to the next one listed till they reach one on that prayer line listing and each in turn does the same so that in a matter of minutes all are notified and giving prayer as well as sending forth the best possible positive thots. Now, that prayer line daily for these weeks has kept you folks in prayer and we are not a church to simply pray and leave it at that. Now we are going to rally and get that Ship of yours here into the Harbour Port. Matter of fact, Deacon Stratton I will personally foot the bill for your son-in-laws expenses. This praying and then doing nothing, well we don't conduct ourselves in that way, well, we try not to anyhow. What good is prayer or love or faith if there is no action to accommodate it? I ask you all here this evening, What good is it?" with that he concluded his remarks and turning to the song leader, one named Carmichael, a Mr. Carmichael came to the podium and asked all to turn in their hymnals as he lead the church in the final closing music of that evening entitled: Rock of Ages.

At that as the music on the piano and organ began to play a thundering rushing noise filled The Maiden fair's ears and she just about went into shock, well looking back one could say that she did, well, briefly anyhow. She was not quite knowing if she were dreaming or what as the room started to spin. It was almost as gasping for last breaths and not until she felt a nudge of the Captain did she realize she was in church and the song that so oft filled her dreams causing them to turn to nightmares was being sung. The Captain bending over to her and quietly talking in her ear, "You ok. Maiden?" and she in a shock simply giving a nod and trying desperately to gather her thots. The Lady in the pew ahead of them turning around and handing The Maiden Fair and the Captain Brave and True an opened to the page of the song that was being sung songbook. She somehow sensed something was troubling The Maiden and gave her a gentle encouraging smile. The Maiden Fair simply staring at the page with no words could she manage to sing forth. Her throat was as dry as anything and cold chills for a moment raced through her. But then as the music continued to play and she read those first words, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;" a new and abiding warmth began to hold her secure. The twisted words of her nightmares were at long last recognized. Why she thot, "This is not my final hour rather a hiding place I have been in search of found, …safe, …rescued am I."

Rock Of Ages

1)Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.

2)While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown, And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.

By:
Augustus M. Toplady
Thomas Hastings

As Maiden Fair privately was in a world of her own thots, The Minister Noe came and gave a closing prayer, adding, "Now I know how all you folks like to stay here and visit and fellowship one with the other but we have guests in our presence who are mighty tired so what say we head for our owns homes, giving these folks that are so tired some privacy and one last portion of scripture as found in Matthew 11:28 and 29 let me read as I send you all on your way. It reads, Come onto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."

And one final thot, Remember folks, bring our guests some early morning breakfast. Now Good Night and may sweet Peace attend Thee and Merry Christmas everyone!

A Personal Note of Appreciation to Kai for allowing his writing titled:

"Elasticast(TM) Popcorn Ball 2006! Order one for yourself today!"

To be used within this Story of The Continuation of The Zephyr Splendour.

Anticipating a Springtime when waters unfrozen and the Ship is given to set sail again… As Life Flows on, Connie