Happy Birthday James

by Angus Von Stulpnagel Jnr.


Once upon a time there was a wee boy called James who lived with his mum and dad,in a tiny cottage in Tynron. He was very happy because his mum and dad loved him very much. They might not have been very rich but they were healthy and had lots of fun.

Now, one day, James was on his way to visit his good friend, Old Davie; and he was especially happy because today was his 7th birthday, and it was Davie’s 87th birthday. They always got together on their birthdays and shared a very small birthday cake (just big enough for two people). Davie was a great baker, since he worked as a wee boy in a big house in Culross, in the Kingdom of Fife.

On the way to Davie’s cottage James met an old lady walking the opposite way, and when she saw him she stopped and curtseyed, then walked on, with a big smile on her face.

James was puzzled, but not so puzzled as when he walked round a corner and met two very tall, and very old, men. They both suddenly stopped, and standing to attention, bowed very low to James. James thought it would only be polite to bow back, however when he straightened up the men had gone. He thought they had just walked round the corner, but when he looked, they were gone.

Two minutes later James was at Davie’s house, and as it was a lovely sunny day they had their cake outside in Davie’s cottage garden. They laughed and joked, and Davie sang ‘Happy Birthday to us’. Normally these two friends did not give each other birthday presents, as each was very comfortable with just giving each other their friendship every time they met, and friendship is worth more than even the most expensive presents; but this day Davie put his big wrinkled old hand into his jacket pocket and handed James a very old, and very beautifully made, wooden box, saying “it is time you had this”. Not knowing what to say, James said nothing (which is often the right thing to do) but just turned the box a few times and then carefully opened it. It was then that James experienced the third strange thing that day – for inside the box was something James felt he knew so well it was no surprise at all to see a large gold disk, exactly the size of the palm of his hand. On the front were three eagles on a shield, and, even before James had turned the disk over completely James had already read “Gottvertrauen und Dienst” and “Schloss NeuenKirchen”, he looked up at Davie and very quietly said “Trust in God and Serve”.

“Where is Castle NeuenKirchen Davie?”

“James, it is far away, in a land that has had many names, and from a time when this world was a different place.”

James then told Davie about the old lady and the two strange men he had seen earlier, as he thought they had something to do with the gold disk. Davie just smiled and nodded slowly.

Davie in a quiet, slow, and important voice asked, “Whose seal is this?” (For the gold disk was a seal for sealing very important documents with ribbon and red wax).

“It is mine,” said James, who was probably the most honest boy in the whole of Scotland, and in a voice which made anyone think he had owned the seal for a hundred years.

“And who do you think these people were that you met today James?”

This took James a long time to answer, because, after all this was his first day of being only seven years old, and he knew it was something important. Eventually he said: “They are from a long time ago, and a long way away, and they know me; but I don’t know them.”

“Very good James,” said Davie, looking him straight in the eye, and putting his hands on his shoulders: “Your mother is Princess Paula, and your father is Prince Michael. Today you are seven and receive the royal seal, which will make you Prince James, and possibly even King James some day. Long ago when your great great grandfather was a young man, he met a beautiful girl while he was travelling the world. At that time he was a prince, and was to be crowned King one day of a big country in the mountains far far away. The girl was so beautiful, and the country so beautiful, that he sent word to his father, the King, asking if he could stay in Scotland and marry her. Of course any father wants his son to be happy, and he agreed, because he knew his son was clever and sensible. The kingdom would wait for him, or one of his descendants, to come back when they were ready.”

“Do mum and dad know about this?” asked James.

“Yes, and your dad had cake with me too when he was seven. When he was grown up he met your mum, and told her after they were married, but they decided Tynron was the best place in the world to stay and bring up a family.”

James slipped the seal into the box, and the box into his pocket. He then bowed very low to Davie, who bowed back. They giggled a bit and then James ran off home for his birthday tea. When he got there his dad was sitting on the front doorstep, waiting for him, “How is Old Davie today then?” he asked.

“Just the same as ever, and his cake was the best yet.”

Quietly he pulled the box from his pocket and showed it to his dad, who just smiled and put it back in James’ pocket.

“I’ve been to the castle once”, he said, dreamily “but home is even better. I have everything I need here, and could not be any happier, so I’ll just stay here. You have the seal now, and can choose yourself one day. But now it is time to go in and get ready for your birthday tea, your pals will be here soon.”

They gave each other a hug and went inside.

James thought about asking his dad if the big house Davie had learned to bake in really was in the Kingdom of Fife, and if he really was 87 years old, but decided it was not something he needed to know just now.

The End