Christmas Vigil

It is cold on London’s streets. My cloak and leather hood are weak shelter against the icy hand of nature. Occasionally, a shopkeeper lights wood in a brazier outside his shop, and his friends and associates huddle about it. I get as close as I may without interfering in their doings. It is often my lot to stand abroad in whatever weather London offers to do my appointed task.

Sixpence a day doesn’t grow on trees.

Of course snow begins to fall. Dammit. It grows colder and my cloak grows wetter. Above me I see smears of blood red and cerulean. Streaks of clouds stretch across the late sky. Soon it wiIl be as dark as the inside of a cloak. I see families hurrying to their parish churches for the evening vigil. Tomorrow is Christmas and I shall be alone again. It does me little good to dwell on Yules past, at the feasts and warmth and greenery festooning the halls of my family home. The bright stained glass of a church window could not match the many courtiers in the palace bedecked in their velvet and ermine finery. There was music and acrobats and foolish games. And I contented myself that such would always be the way of it for me and mine. That was, perhaps, the most foolish game of all.

Ah well. Eleanor and Gilbert invite me every year to their home for a Christmas repast and every year I decline. It is not my place to be with them. They do not deserve my morose company. Perhaps Jack will go. That would cheer him, surely.

After all, I must keep watch. I am being paid to keep watch and a client cares little if it is Christmas or no.

The fellows at the brazier have noticed me at last and one offers me a bowl of warmed, spiced wine. I can hardly refuse. I can taste cinnamon and mace and sweetened red wine. It is good cheer and I am grateful. I salute the men with my bowl and they salute back, telling ribald stories unfit for a Christmas vigil, but I listen and smile nonetheless. They do not ask my name and I do not give it. The wine bowl is filled again.

And the snow has stopped.