The fire crackles in the hearth. Jack has somehow got his hands on wood; logs. The fire is warm for once, for though peat cooks food and fills the hearth with meager light, it’s warmth is sparing. With a coy look, he told me it is to celebrate the day of my birth, today. How that knave discovered that, I shall never know. Perhaps Gilbert and Eleanor have told him, though I do not know how they should have known either. But no matter. I can hardly be angry when he brings warmth to our wintry rooms.
One’s day of birth is not nearly as important as one’s baptismal day. But for a lord or a prince, such days are marked. And so mine was, some thirty-one years ago. The servants on our estate at Sheen, I was told, had gathered and offered greetings and prayers on the event of my birth. After all, I was the youngest. One brother had already died before me. And before I had reached my sixth year, they had all predeceased me.
My father would have offered the tenants ale and food for the house servants. It would have been a time of celebration. Each year would have seen me receive some special token from my father, and after he died and I had moved to Lancaster’s household, the gifts would have been more substantial. A special dagger. A sword. A horse.
But as I look across the room at young Jack who is even now mending one of my patched stockings, I can think of no gift as great as this one.