Jack was not one for Christmas festivities. He had vague recollections from his early years of the traditions of the village in which he was raised until sent to stay with his first tutor at the age of seven. Having been at sea for most of his adult life, he did not miss what he did not know. But the staff here felt differently and under Mrs Thornhill’s authority, all was done in the fine traditions of the past. ’Tis only one hundred and fifty years since that despot Mr Cromwell took away our rights to a merry time at Christmastide, she had pronounced that first December. Now we have them back, we are duty bound to enjoy them.
So again, this year, the Yuletide log had been dragged to the house on Christmas Eve and placed in the large fireplace in the vestibule, along with some seasonal greenery. The log now gave a welcoming blaze of light and warmth, while two arrangements of laurel and holly sat beneath the two naval masterpieces by Birch. He had beautifully precise brushwork. Visitors did not recognise the artist, but how fitting to have portrayals of that huge sea battle of 1812 by an English émigré turned American citizen. He caught a whiff of rosemary as he passed through to the library to collect his two important letters and take them to the rider who would be waiting at the stables.
Later in the morning, Jack rode Clem over the hill to be present at the Christmas morning worship at the church in Wrighton. He went not out of a strict sense of faith but for appearances’ sake, and the rector’s living was in his gift, after all. More than half his staff was there, as well as most of the village. No doubt the rumours about Miss Fitzgerald were already spreading. Older villagers might well remember the scandal of the Wrighton daughter who bore a child and not be aware of the secret marriage. He wondered if the wet nurse was one of the villagers here today and whether the person who wrote that letter was still alive, almost 20 years on.
Read more, maybe treat yourself to the Kindle edition for Christmas. All good wishes for the festive season.