David Ackerman offers an exclusive extract of his new book published on the 3rd July King John loses his
Back in the warm, and after reading the note left for her, Christalla asked John to sit down. Sitting close to him she said quietly, “When you left Kolokol as a baby boy, with Humpty, Bishop Nicolas, and Princess Frederika more people than you knew watched you sail away. We stood on the shore as your boat sailed into the distance. Soon others, on a distant shore, welcomed you. We were saying goodbye. For only a while, we hoped, but others were saying hello, welcome, and were preparing a new home for you. Nicolas was like a father to you, and although we all know that one day we will say goodbye to those we love, nothing can prepare us for the day when a life sails away”. “John”, Christalla continued holding his small hand in hers, “Last night Nicolas went to sleep and this morning he didn’t wake up. But he woke up on another shore where so many welcomed him to his new home, just as we need to say goodbye to him now”. Tears began to form in John’s eyes, and, wiping them away with the back of his hand, he got up and walked over to a wooden trunk. Opening it, he took out a toy. It was Humpty. He asked Christalla if she could find Rigsby (who was probably in the palace kitchen looking for food). As she left, John held tightly to what had been his favourite toy. At the moment he most needed Nicolas, his greatest friend, he had been left alone. The door opened and Rigsby walked in. Behind him followed Georgiana. She walked across the room, knelt by the king, and as tears turned into sobs, they held to each other. Soon however two encounters were to give John courage and hope. The second would make John realise the truth of Christalla’s words, and to find happiness again.
Hearts are brave again and arms are strong
The curtains of the king’s bedroom were opened as usual by Graham, a page whom John liked as he would often play the piano at palace parties. John, sitting up in bed, said good morning and Graham noticed that rather unusually the king stayed in bed. “I had a dream last night Graham. About Nicolas”. Setting the king’s breakfast tray by his bed Graham sat down on the edge of the matress. “Did it scare you” he asked. “No” replied John “because although I say a dream, Nicolas came to see me”. Graham, who had started his working life collecting scrap metal, knew enough about loss that a small boy might confuse a dream with reality, but he listened. “I woke up and there was a boy my own age sitting where you are now” John continued. “When I asked who he was he said it was Nicolas, but at the same age as I am now. Where I am now, he told me, there is no age as there is no time and he now had a job to do. He would be asked to pray to God for others. He’s a saint, you see”. Graham reminded the king of his tea and thought that whatever the truth of the story John looked happier. “He said that I would always be close to him if I remained close to God and said that he had for me three gifts in three bags, but they were empty and only left to remind me of three gifts I have already. They were gifts I had to use to be a good king. They are faith, hope and love. We spoke about much more and after a while I could see that this was Nicolas, but young again. He had the same eyes”. Graham said that John’s bath would get cold if they kept chatting and so the king got up. “Nicolas left me an idea, and a way that Ophis might well come for me, but also a way of preparing for it” John added as he picked up a towel: “knowing that a saint is by my side”. Graham moved the tray and tidied John’s bed. As he moved a pillow he noticed something odd. To check everything that entered and left the king’s bedroom was Graham’s job. Before him were three small empty bags. From the bathroom came an unusual sound and in his bath a very happy king sang a song he had learnt years before: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…..”
Father David Ackerman is the Vicar of St John’s Kensal Rise. His first book was entitled The Story of St Nicolas and the Six Bells.