Sprokett Gate towers before me in the moonlight, a masterpiece of wood and iron. It has a smaller pedestrian gateway within it, which I open to receive my guests. I lean nonchalantly in the heavy wooden frame and listen to the sounds of the City at night. Sirens sound in the middle distance and the cries of late night revellers echo through the ancient winding streets. The moon is bright tonight and casts its silvery light along Princes Street and spills into the courtyard.
I do not have to wait long. I soon hear drunken voices raised in song – although I use the term very loosely. It could be a bastardisation of the old favourite ‘The Good Ship Venus’ but I wouldn’t want to put money on it. I guess at there being approximately seven males heading towards me, accompanied by what sounds like a couple of horses clip-clopping along the pavement. That can’t be right. A quick glance around the gateway and I realise my mistake. Accompanying the young gentlemen are four hefty young ladies of considerable girth in vertigo-inducing heels, snorting and giggling as they totter along in outfits clearly destined for much smaller persons.
When the sounds of merriment are almost upon me, I step from the shadows with palms outstretched and a broad grin.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” more of an announcement than a welcome “And welcome to Old College. May I see your student identifications?”
Eleven pairs of bleary eyes peek at me in horror. A couple of the ‘ladies’ giggle nervously. One of the young men fumbles hurriedly through his pockets and eventually produces his College ID card. I make a mental note of his name and nod approvingly. “And your guests?” I enquire.
“They are from Hawkins College,” the youth replies as politely as one can when slurring ones words. “We – um – we are celebrating the first night of a play put on there this evening.”
“How marvellous!” I beam patronisingly. “And I suppose Hawkins College has no facilities for celebrating such an event?” This awkward moment is having the desired sobering effect on my little band of thespians. “Or, perhaps, you have already abused the hospitality of Hawkins? Outstayed your welcome, so to speak? And you thought that Old College would be more tolerant of your celebratory techniques?” Very awkward now. I feel a bit guilty about ruining the party atmosphere.
There are explanations, there are protestations. There are even apologies. For a moment, I think there would be tears. I relent a little. I was young once, not so very long ago. They have been putting on a play, not stealing cars or breaking into houses. They at least have something to celebrate. I take down all of their names and issue stern words of advice about disturbing the peace of Old College. Suitably chastised, they are permitted to enter and I escort them to the lodgings of our student, under no illusion that I will return at the slightest hint of disturbance. I remind them that I have the keys to the lodgings and will not hesitate to use them if I deem it necessary. The solemn looks and nods do not convince me entirely, but I haven’t the heart to throw them all out. Once I have completed my business in The Library, I will be back to check up on them.