Saturday, December 19th, 1006.—
A very severe frost has set in this week, and there has been much snow; the whole country is decked in her winter braveries for Christmas. O that it may pass in peace, as the birthday of the Prince of Peace should pass!
I intend to spend it at Clifton, after which I shall return to my flock at Aescendune.
Edmund has been out today, but the sharp air hurt his lungs, which have been grievously inflamed, and he was forced to return early.
He has been so patient for one of his temperament, so grateful for attention shown him, one would hardly think the lion could be such a lamb. He intends to receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ on Christmas day in the little church of St. Michael here, and then he will leave for London in the course of the week.
We have heard nothing of Alfgar—we fear there is no hope; but the prince clings to it, and says his dream will come true, and that Alfgar has yet a great work to do.
Christmas Eve, 1006.—
O happy happy Christmastide! All griefs seem hushed and all joys sanctified by the blessed mystery of the Incarnation. O that Mary’s blessed Son, the Prince of Peace, may indeed bring us peace on earth, and good will towards men!
The weather is beautiful. The stars shine as brightly tonight as if they were the lights about His throne; the very earth has decked herself in her clear and spotless robe of snow in His honour. As for the dear ones who were with us last Christmas—Bertric, Alfgar (for I fear he is gone where I hope he keeps a happier Christmas)—they have left the heart less lonely, for if we miss them on earth they seem to attract us to heaven, which is yet more like home when we think of the loved and the lost who await us there.
We sing a midnight mass in an hour in the little church, another tomorrow at dawn, a third in the full daylight. All the good people here will communicate, and the evening will be given up to such merrymaking as is befitting amongst Christians. All the ceorls and serfs will be at the Hall, and the prince will share the entertainment. Herstan and Bertha have been very busy preparing for it, as also their children, Hermann, Ostryth, and Aelfleda.
But I must go and assist in decking the church for the midnight festivity.
CHAPTER XVI. THE FEAST OF CHRISTMAS.
Alfgar had completely lost the reckoning of times and days since his imprisonment, but he felt that weeks must have passed away, and that the critical period foretold by Edmund must be near, so he listened anxiously for any intelligence from the world without.
At last the weather became very cold, and being without a fire, his sufferings were great, until his ferocious gaoler, finding him quite stiffened, brought up a brazier of coals, which saved his prisoner’s life, while it filled the room with smoke, which could only escape by the crevices in walls and roof, for to open a window would have been as bad as to dispense with the fire, such was the state of the outer air.