The next day it was back to lessons with Miss Stewart. Mary did not like her very much. She was a prim spinster whose vocation as a teacher was based more upon a sense of duty than a liking for children. Rebecca Stewart did not get along with her precocious charge, and in turn Mary made it abundantly and frequently clear that the dislike was mutual.
"Now Mary, do stop fidgetting. Today you are going to learn the future tense of the French verb 'etre'. We will start immediately. Repetez sil vous plait.... je serai..."
"Je seray"
"Tu Seras..."
"Tu seras,"
"Nous serons..."
"News Seronz"
"No Mary! a French accent, not a Yorkshire one!"

After about an hour spent in making her charge feel small, Mary's hated governess retired to the kitchen, leaving Mary to learn the future tense of the various french verbs by the simple expedient of making her write them out over and over again! Not surprisingly, it wasn't very long before Mary's thoughts began to drift away from the work in hand, as she pulled out a folded paper and began to pore over a puzzle rather more interesting than the declension of french verbs.

"MARY! Can I not leave you alone for a moment? What are you doing child?"
"Oh! er..... nothing Miss Stewart. Just doodling that's all."
"Doodling you say?" She snatched away the scrap of paper and studied it thoughtfully. "Really Mary I will not tolerate this continual lying of yours!"
"But I'm not......"
"Enough! You couldn't have doodled this, it's in Greek (at least for the most part) We are supposed to be studying French are we not?"
"Yes miss. You say it's Greek miss?"
"Of course child. Where did it come from?"

Mary hesitated a moment. "Oh ... just out of one of papa's books Miss Stewart. I thought it just looked interesting that's all. Are they really words miss?"
"Of course they are, you silly girl. Unfortunately I don't read Greek- but I can spell out the letters. Now let's see.... Now that's odd! The letters are Greek but it's not written in Greek - it's actually in French!"
"French! Now there you are miss! What does it say?"
"Nothing of any consequence to you child."
"But Miss Stewart...."
"That's enough Mary. As it seems to me that you are so especially interested in this odd item of the French language, you can write it out for me five hundred times as a punishment for indiscipline."
"Yes miss."
"Five hundred times, and I want it done by noon. Is that clear?"
"Yes miss. By noon miss." Mary tried to look glum, but inside she was glowing with delight.

The governess handed Mary back the paper. Underneath the Greek letters she had pencilled in their French meaning. Mary gazed excitedly at two short, simple words....


copyright © Jim Jarratt 2007