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My true love gave to me… Two turtle doves…

The General was in his office, fuming at his officers.

“What is the meaning of this?”

The officers looked at each other uncomfortably and didn’t answer.

“We are at war,” the General shouted, pacing up and down. “Our men are supposed to be shooting at the enemy, not singing songs with them and playing ball games!”

One of the officers cleared his throat nervously. “Well, Sir, it was Christmas Day…”

“Christmas Day be damned! This is war! I do not expect this kind of idiotic, sentimental behaviour from our fighting forces, do you understand me? I want a full report on my desk by the end of the day. The ringleaders will be disciplined. Now get out there and get your men fighting!”

The officers saluted and left.

“I’m surprised he didn’t give orders to cancel Christmas in the first place,” one of them muttered when they were safely out of earshot. “Mean spirited man that he is.”

One of the other men nodded. “What do we put in the report?”

“The truth,” another replied. “It’s Hammond’s skin or ours, and I don’t fancy it being ours.”

A messenger stopped them with a salute. “Excuse me sir, is the General in his office?”

They nodded. “Aye, and you’d better be bringing him good news. He’s in a dastardly mood.”

The messenger smiled. “I reckon so, sir. Thank you.”

The officers looked at each other as the messenger went inside and shook their heads.

Inside the office, the General was examining maps and orders. He didn’t look up as the messenger entered and stood to attention.

“What is it,” he said sharply.

“A delivery for you, Sir,” the messenger said. “With apologies for the delay. It should have arrived yesterday.”

The General straightened up and removed his monocle. “What is it,” he repeated, his eyes narrowing. “It had better not be another begging message from that battle-shy dunderwhelp Hammond.”

The messenger took a deep breath. “A Christmas present, Sir. From your daughter.”

He stepped forward and set a small box on the table.

The General looked at it, then up at the messenger. “Dismissed,” he said.

The messenger saluted sharply and left the office as the General picked up the box and opened it. Inside lay something wrapped in delicate tissue paper, and he lifted it out gently.

It was a delicately carved wooden ornament, showing two turtle doves sitting together on a branch. A note fell out of the box as he examined the ornament and he sat down to read it.

“Dear Papa,” it said in a round, childish hand. “Happy Christmas. I hope that your war will be over soon so that you can come home to Mama. She misses you dreadfully, as do I. Love always, Genevieve.”

The General sighed and looked at the turtle doves for a long moment before settling them in the centre of his desk.

“Jenkins,” he called to his aide in the next room. “Send a message to Hammond. Tell him his negotiations for peace will have my support.”

© Kari Fay