7. OF BIRCHES AND RAINBOWS

7. OF BIRCHES AND RAINBOWS

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Robin Hood has painful memories from his boyhood.

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When I was a lad I had a teacher,” said Robin Hood to the light of his life, the sweet Maid Marion.

That’s more than many a boy is blessed to have,” Marion told him, “and, I’ll bet you, no lasses.”

My teacher was a priest and he told me why that should be,” grinned Robin, “he said quite plainly that it was all down to the very first and most horrendous sin, that of eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. You see, it was a woman that did it, and all women since then have been cursed because of it.”

And wasn’t that woman supposed to be made magically from the first man’s flesh, from a rib of that man? So wasn’t that first sin committed by a him, or at least part of him, his rib?” asked Marion teasingly.

“’Tis said so,” admitted Robin, “if you believe such scallywag tales! I for one don’t! Take the priest who was charged with teaching me. He spent an age trying to convince me that God is love and the essence of all that is kind, and when I didn’t fully understand what he was saying he took a birch to me and turned my buttocks black and blue! I think kindness! I bear the odd faint scar to this very day.”

Then he wasn’t a very good teacher,” murmured Marion, “and later I will attend to those scars.”

And neither was he a very good man,” said Robin grimly, “and today, with nothing else in the air I do believe it’s time for him to receive his reward, for I have learned that he still dwells in Blydworth, and I am planning to go that way on another matter.”

What reward might he have earned?” asked Marion.

Well, he proclaims himself to be a man of God, and he is never happier than when he is quoting from his good book, which is inscribed in an ancient tongue called Latin and which only he understands. Or claims he understands. It is he who renders the ancient bible into the common tongue so that all men know what it says, but we have to trust him in his translation. We have to believe that he gets it right, yet I have been present when he has told the same tale in two different ways and incorporated different facts into the stories! I used to believe that he made it up as he went along, so I have a question for him.”

You have? This is beginning to look as if it might be fun,” laughed Marion. “What question might an outlaw have for a priest to answer?”

It’s simple,” said Robin seriously, “for he told me when he wasn’t flaying my buttocks with the birch that there was a day or a week when it rained and rained for ever and the whole world was flooded, and a man built a boat in order to escape drowning, a boat into which he coaxed two of every animal on Earth in order for them to breed when the waters subsided, and thus repopulate the world.”

I’ve heard that,” nodded Marion.

And that, when the turmoil was all over a mighty voice from the Heavens promised he would never flood the world again, and that he put a rainbow in the heavens as evidence of that promise.”

And your question?” asked Marion, frowning.

How many colours constitute a rainbow,” murmured Robin.

And the answer?” she frowned.

You shall see! I suspect the rogue might be half blind. Come, my love, together we shall walk the groves and pathways of this might forest, and in a fair hour come to Blydworth where my old Master-Priest still lives, in his dotage maybe, but still able to answer questions!”

It was the kind of day when it is a pleasure to walk through the dappled sunlight that finds its way through the canopy of mighty oaks and lesser tress, and paints patterns and images on last year’s brown and broken leaves as they lie where they have been trodden in. Once or twice Robin pulled Marion to one side and down behind a tree or thicket when others came along, not because he was afraid of strangers … most, after all, would have professed him as their friend and did not fear either him or his gang of so-called merry men. But he wanted his passing to be a secret so that when he arrived at the Priest’s reclusive home he would come as a surprise.

Tell me more about your teacher,” asked Marion as they walked along

He was a rogue,” replied Robin, “who got his way with me and other boys in bis tutelage, using fear and pain as his best teaching aids. No, I learned precious little from him, and certainly not the Latin texts as my father would have liked. When a lad is afraid and almost shaking with that fear he is in no state to learn anything, least of all the complexities of a new language or the ancient words of a god that doesn’t make very much sense.”

You must believe in God,” suggested Marion, “for if you take God out of the tale of things you have no explanation for the world we live in, the trees that grow in majesty all around us, the raindrops that form in the heavens and fall to refresh the world, the grasses, even the humble flies that settle on putrid meat and grow fat thereon!”

We all believe what we must,” sighed Robin, “but I am minded that not one of us knows one thing from personal experience and observation that occurred anywhere and in any time before our birth. So for a person to claim that there was a flood and that he knows it to be true is to venture into the realm of magicians in which the past, the present and the future are spread like open books, and these magicians are the very men who claim from time to time that the world will end at such and such a time on such and such a date, and when that time and date pass they make fresh claims about other endings. It’s all nonsense to me, my darling, all words meant to trap the unwary into parting with coin!”

I still have beliefs, Robin,” sighed Marion.

Then enjoy them while you can. But look: the hamlet of Blydworth and the hovel, over there, where the Priest who punished me for being alive yet lives.”

It doesn’t look much like a hovel to me,” observed Marion, “I would call it, rather a large and rather grand dwelling!”

I call it a hovel more for what it contains than for what it is. Come, stay with me!” he replied.

When the door was opened the man standing in its space was bent almost double and was clearly so old his time remaining on this Earth must surely be brief. And he was dressed in a black and brown cloak that bore on it stains left by split liquids and other substances that maybe once were meat and stews.

Master Hood!” croaked the Priest, “I wondered when you might choose to look me up!”

I was reminded of you when I knew I was passing this way and thought it might be a good thing to look at the old fool who scarred me with his birch when I failed to grasp the notion of peace and love and suffering little children to come to whoever it was who called them,” said Robin.

A child needs putting in his place,” croaked the Priest.

I have been, in past years, to the Holy Land on a crusade, attempting to converting Turks and others to your faith,” said Robin, “and whilst there I observed that your faith and theirs have many similarities, including the tale of a flood.”

They borrow or steal good Christian words … though I have never travelled so far,” acknowledged the Priest.

So I believe. But tell me, old Priest, what are the colours of the rainbow that we are assured guarantees us freedom from drowning?” asked Robin, scowling.

There are three,” muttered his old teacher. “There is red, there is yellow and there is green. Those are all I have seen, and I have seen many rainbows.”

And blue? Violet? What of those?” asked Robin Hood.

There are no such colours,” growled the old man, “and, Master Hood, if your sole intention is to confound an elderly priest with questions in return for a sound well-disciplined education, then I bid you farewell, and you can take that sinful daughter of Eve with you!”

And the old man slammed his door shut, a fragile piece of timber if ever there was, one, and they could hear him muttering to himself on the other side of it.

Not such a nice man,” observed the lovely Marion. “I didn’t think I was that sinful.”

You can be sometimes,” grinned Robin, “but now I have seen the man I know his trouble. He can see but half the range of colours and not the other half. So to him the grass is green but the sky … it has no colour when the clouds have blown away. And what would he make of a springtime vale of bluebells as we see them every year?”

Poor man,” sighed Marion.

Poor me!” responded Robin, “when he beat me my bruises were blue!”

© Peter Rogerson 08.10.17




© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on October 8, 2017
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Sherwood, teaching, Priest, punishment


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 73 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing



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