Copyright © 2021 Robert Loney
The Birthright
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An excerpt from Chapter 21


   It was an unusually wet spring. Derelicts took whatever shelter they found, the campus providing a number of haunts for them. One of the more luxurious was a ventilation grid beneath an overhang of the law building. The overhang provided shelter from rain, and the grid vented warm air.
   Darkness was falling as one particular derelict found his way to this spot. His clothes were wet and grimy, and his condition weak; he must not have eaten for several days. His distraught expression relaxed a little as he crawled onto the grid and lay down, glad for a place to sleep the night.
   Bishop's College stood just across a long walkway from the law building. Through the dusk, along the walk came two lowly figures.
   "This is Bishop's College," said one as they stood and beheld the Gothic edifice. "Imagine the holy sorts of things that must go on in a school so named."
   "An education that would make a person fit for heaven, I'd say," speculated the other.
   The two men walked up to the locked gates below the tower and peered between the iron bars into the quadrangle.
   "'Tis very quiet in there now, Norbert. They are likely all at prayer."
   "Or reading the Holy Book," suggested Norbert.
   "'Tis like Eden with its eastern gate all sealed. We can only look through the bars and long."
   "See what trees there are within the courtyard. Such fine specimens would you rarely behold elsewhere, with their lacey branching and perfect symmetry."    "Trees of knowledge, no doubt - from which the scholars pick the fruit and eat to their souls' content, in this their paradise."
   The two men continued to gape in reverent silence for a while.
   "I remember seeing a college that looked just like this one back in the Old Country," said Lester. "It belonged to the church. I think this one must too."    "Would that be high church or low church, Lester?"
   "'Tis hard to say without encountering the inhabitants. If they expect you to step off the sidewalk while they pass, then 'tis high church. If they are content to let you remain, then 'tis low."
   "'Tis unfortunate there's nobody about in there now. We could just ask him."
   "Yes, but if 'tis high church, he wouldn't talk to the likes of us anyway."
   The two turned from the gates and looked out into the gathering night.
   "How dark it has gotten, Lester. The sun goes down even at the university."
   "Yes. The sun goes down even here. But within the rooms and minds of the scholars, the lamp of learning continues to shine forth and illuminate. Here there is no real night; they need no candle, neither light of the sun, as I have heard said somewhere or other."
   The pair walked away from the college. They caught sight of the derelict's form lying by the law building.
   "Look at the poor soul over there, Norbert. I always feel for them so. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and we could be in the same circumstances. We barely keep out of them now, labor as we do."
   They made their way down the grassy incline to have a closer look.
   "I wonder what he's doing here at the university; he looks so out of place."
   "He is so young too. It usually takes accumulated years of wear and tear to become so destitute."
   "How like an angel he looks," observed Lester thoughtfully.
   "A troubled angel, far from home," added Norbert.
   "If he were an angel though, he'd be in one of the college chapels, or inspiring the scholars in their studies - not lying out here seeking shelter from the wet and cold."
   "We best be on our way, Norbert. Moor and fen, crag and torrent lie ahead of us still. If we don't keep moving, they will do us in and we will be lying here with him."
   The two men turned away from the derelict, made their way back up to the walk, and ambled off into obscurity.


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