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The Ghost of Christmas Past (eve of New Year)


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The bedchamber was lit by a single candle. An old man wheezed, fighting for a clean breath, Not far away an army of courtiers danced, drank and celebrated the arriving New year. The Earl of Devonshire was in no condition to join them, having taken to bed with a vicious cough.


A pall hung over the house as if expecting a dark visitor this evening. Lord Cavendish had offered to stay with his father but had been assured by the older man that he would be there upon his return. In truth, the words had been offered to reassure a son when a father felt only a darker assurance creeping ever closer.


The clock began to strike midnight at last. William's breath was held as he awaited the twelfth stroke. It came as slowly as a funeral possession but it came all the same. Hah, I made it to 1678! the Earl exclaimed to himself at last. It was as if he had cheated death for another year. The silent celebration masked the sound of the front door opening and closing downstairs.


The carpet on the stairs muffled the quiet footsteps that approached. The same was true for the hallway.


The bedroom door swung open and the oak floorboards creaked under the weight of a dark visitor of another kind. "Milord, a note has arrived just now." The voice was that of his longtime servant Thomas. Eyes opened, blurred vision greeted Thomas' arrival. "Open it and read it aloud," the Earl croaked before descending into a fit of cough. With fury the old man was driven to sit upright in bed as he reached for his nearby kerchief.


The seal was broken and Thomas moved towards the light, tilting the letter to gain a better look. "Milord, it is nothing but a long string of numbers." A second and third page revealed the same.


"So, the student outlives the master too, eh Thomas?" The servant turned to the Earl, not knowing how to answer, but the question had not been directed to him. And so it begins.

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  • 4 months later...

Elsewhere that night ...


"Quite odd for a messenger this late," commented the doorman. Once inside he was met by a groom that was already enjoying a bit of mulled wine. "What's that about?"


"The return says its from a Thomas Hobbs. I suppose I'll add it to His Grace's stack. His secretary is still away.


And Elsewhere Still ...


"Yes, yes, I am certain it shall be passed on to His Majesty," came the officious answer from a royal page. As he moved, letter in hand, he mumbled "strange fellow" to himself. No doubt the letter could wait until the next day, or perhaps the next. The King was being inundated with written greetings. It was that time of year.

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