The weather outside was gorgeous, a perfect spring Saturday, and Harriet wished she could take her schoolwork out to the cathedral’s lawn and work in the shade of her favorite tree. But she had promised her friends Sean and Mason that she would help them with their Hebrew Translations homework. Still, she glanced longingly out of the tower window. The sky was very blue, and the sounds of a rowdy game of stickball drifted in the air.
“Is it ever possible for you boys to do your work when it’s assigned?” she sighed, turning back to the table.
At fourteen, the three friends were fourth-year students at the St. Michael’s School of Religion and Theology, a renovated cathedral in the English countryside in which they lived nine months of the year.
Groaning, Sean heaved open the immense book they had borrowed from the library. “It’s not our fault Professor Lewis assigns so much. I think he expects us to translate the entire Old Testament in one year!”
“Less complaining,” Mason muttered, writing steadily with his quill pen, “more working. It’s only certain passages.”
“Besides,” Sean went on without hearing him, “why do we have to translate these books when someone else already did like, a thousand years ago?” He dug in his bag for paper and a pen, keeping an eye on the window.
Harriet made an irritated noise in her throat. “Sean, don’t you ever listen?” she chastised. “It’s terribly important to understand the author’s intent, and you can’t without the original language.”
Harriet turned to Mason with an incredulous look, but he only shrugged. “I don’t make excuses for him.”
“It’s important,” she said tersely, “because there are people who misinterpret the Book and spread lies about our faith.”
Having lain out paper and dipped his quill in his inkpot, Sean sat back in his plush chair. “Well, that seems like a lousy thing to do.”
“Tell me about it,” Harriet said. “If you’ve been paying attention during Secular History, which I suspect you haven’t, then you’d remember Professor Strobel’s lecture about people who align themselves with…him.”
Mason looked up. “Him?”
“You know.” She leaned forward, and both boys did likewise. In her lowest whisper she breathed, “Satan.”
A first-year girl across the tower lounge gasped and dropped the book she was holding.
“Harriet!” Sean hissed, scandalized.
“Sorry!” she said, a little flustered. “I don’t know why everyone is so scared to use his name, I mean, it’s quite obvious that when you name something—”
“That’s not the point,” Mason countered. “You just don’t use the name.”
Rolling her eyes, Harriet sighed for a third time. “Fine. The Prince of Lies.”
“Thank you,” Sean said, heaving a breath of relief.
“Anyway,” she forged on, “things are getting bad out there, in the city. Not only do they not use his name but I hear it’s becoming impossible to use the Lord’s name as well. My mum said that at my primary school, they now recognize every holiday but the Christian ones.”
“But they’re seculars,” Mason said, “they don’t believe.”
“True, but it was never this bad.” Harriet drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “They never used to be against us like this.”
Sean’s face had lost a bit of color. “When did it start?” he asked softly. “The not believing, I mean.”
Harriet chose her next words very carefully. “I think, when we started denying that the Prince of Lies even exists.”
“We?” Mason narrowed his eyes.
“Yes. Even some of us.”
They were quiet then. The game of stickball reached a pinnacle, and there was much cheering down below.
“Well, I think this is a lost cause,” Sean said, shutting the large library book. “I won’t be able to concentrate now. Mason, a game of rummy?”
“Love to.” Mason blew gently on his paper to make sure the ink was dry, then put it in his bag along with his quill and inkpot.
“You boys are hopeless. Utterly hopeless. I’m going to study for my Apologetics exam.” Harriet made a big show of withdrawing the copious notes she had taken in the class and spreading them out before her.
Later, though, she did take a break to take a short walk out across the lawn. The sun still shone pleasantly over the rolling green acres of land in which their school was nestled. But to the south, toward the metropolis, deep gray clouds gathered.
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