A hesitant knock at the door disturbed the summer afternoon of study and desultory argument.
"Who is it?" asked Thomas Healey.
The door opened and a skinny but well dressed youth, much encumbered with baggage, stood in the dimly lit, cramped landing. Standing next to him, it was possible to make out the features of Jack Hobson, the college porter. After a pause, in which the youth opened and shut his mouth several times without managing to say anything, the porter spoke. "Gentlemen, this is your new lodging mate, Master Richard Abell. A fellow commoner."
This statement was not met with rapture by either of the current occupants of the room. Thomas Healey and his long-time friend, roommate and fellow BA, Simon Gunton, had been rather dreading this moment. They had been alone together ever since their former colleague abruptly and simultaneously inherited a large estate and lost the paternal insistence on education. He had departed the cloisters of academia with no intention to return.
The duo had discussed the generosity of newly rich young men with John Smith, the college President and Bursar. They pointed to the appreciation one might have for the little courtesies such as maintaining a place for him should he choose to return and so on. Unfortunately, it seemed that a new academic year wiped the slate somewhat cleaner than they would prefer. Now they would have to share their rooms with another young snot.
"If the young gentleman would care to acquaint himself with his new companions, I'll just put the baggage by the cot," continued the servant, as he prodded the young man into the room.
"Ah . . . yes. Good Day, Sirs. I trust I am not disturbing your studies excessively."
Simon Gunton decided to take pity on the new student. After all, it wasn't his fault. And at least he wasn't one of those sprigs of the nobility who considered the entire world their servants.
"Welcome, young Abell! I'm Gunton and that scowling visage's name is Healey. Don't worry about the scowl; he's always like that even with a pot of ale in front of him."
At that welcome the young man seemed to gain some measure of confidence. In short order he was able to shake hands with both Gunton and Healey, swiftly supervise the placement of his luggage and escort the porter to the door while unobtrusively slipping a coin into his hand. Then he turned back to the others and suggested that after he had unpacked and ordered his belongings he would be pleased to purchase some ale while they acquainted him with his new world.
An hour or so later, Gunton and Healey escorted young Abell down to the quad. They pointed out the location of the important communal parts such as the chapel, the library, the hall and "last but most definitely not least" the buttery. From the buttery emerged, as if on cue, two more young men and a torrent of abuse for "idlers and wasters who have nothing better to do than sup ale and dispute rampant speculation and gossip fit for market wives while obstructing those with gainful employment."
Healey looked at the two and called out to one of them:
"Dunster, my good man, you have wrought ruin for us all this afternoon! We are now perforce required to mix with the common herd in an extramural tavern and expose ourselves to who knows what licentious behavior—perhaps you would like to accompany us to make amends?"
The man to whom this was addressed—slightly older than his companion—shrugged off the blame with a cheerful smile.
"By all means, Healey. It would seem that you have fallen upon hard times and are required to share your lodgings with a companion again—to wit this elegant young gentleman. I shall be pleased to accompany you, purely to ensure that you do not corrupt his morals with your despicable Arminian views." Turning to Abell, he continued, "I am Dunster, my companion is Saltmarsh. Contrary to the views of the honorable President, we are neither idlers nor gossipers as we will be pleased to demonstrate. Methinks the President has been discoursing with our Master. As usual, he has discovered that Magisterial might doth prevail over both Bursarial budgets and Presidential privileges."
Abell was in turn introduced by Gunton. The five walked out past the porter's lodge and across the street towards a door that had a peculiar fish hanging over it. This, Abell was informed, was a "Pickerel." He received the further advice that the Pickerel was the preferred tavern for the right thinking students. It combined propinquity with decency. However, it was also noted that the Three Swans—the "Bursar's other buttery"—was also a Magdalene tavern. It was owned by the Bursar and was known to have been bequeathed to the college.
The problem with the Three Swans, explained Healey, was the clientele. Since it was closer to the castle up the hill and at the corner of a busy cross roads, it tended to have non-local customers. The Pickerel served the bakers, brewers and other trades that were packed into the maze of lanes between Magdalene and St John's College, up the river. Saltmarsh explained that this difference was important: due to the traveling nature of the Three Swans customers, it was unwilling to advance credit to its customers. The Pickerel was more accommodating. Since Saltmarsh was, as he cheerfully admitted, a sizar—an undergraduate who acted as a servant to reduce his tuition costs—Abell presumed he had often made use of this generosity.
They took their seats around a table in the middle of the room. As the junior, Abell insisted on paying for ale for all of them. "Marry, 'tis a small enough cost and one that will be repaid many fold by your imparting such advice as may assist in my navigating the perils and monsters of this place."
Dunster took it upon himself to impart the first advice and introduced the red headed maid who was distributing the beer. "This young lady is Elizabeth Chapman—Bess to her friends—daughter of our host. She is critical to befriend, lest you wish to expire from unquenched thirst. Like her regal namesake, she is mistress of her realm and prone to banishing courtiers who displease her."
Abell looked on with bemusement as the young woman—surely not more than a year or two older than his sixteen—bantered with Dunster and Saltmarsh, threatening them with unspeakable punishments should they corrupt the morals of this handsome young gentleman. He felt compelled to intervene to stop the unaccustomed complements.
"Mistress, I fear you do me too much honor. My father is no more than a London merchant, not even a guildsman. My family keeps on telling me that I spend far too much time reading and not enough time at any activity that might improve my frame."
"Is that so?" Bess responded. "Well, you are in good company here. Both Dunster and Saltmarsh arrived here as miserable sizars with no more meat on their bones than a February cow. Now Dunster is an honorable BA and while 'tis true that Mr. Saltmarsh is still a sizar, there is considerably more of him than there was a year ago. But I'll spare your blushes. I must be away to bring sustenance to others."
Bess left them and they fell to discussing families and origins. This led on by turns to discussion of the college, both its people and its religion.
" . . . now I am myself much taken with Bishop Laud's view that excessive simplicity is a false modesty and as much a sin as outright popery," expounded Healey. "The Master is much of my opinion. We do not have the Romish trappings in chapel but neither are we as plain as the Genevans or their fellows across the river as Sidney Sussex might wish. Rituals help bind us to God and we can show our devotion by decorating God's house at least as well as our own abodes. Mr. Dunster, as I well know, does not agree with me on this point but yet we are willing to sit at the same table and debate the issue. You will find this is usual within the college. We are united in our detestation of Rome but in very little else. We manage to get along without too much disharmony. Indeed, the main source of disharmony is not theological but one might say etymological. To wit—do you prefer your Smith to be spelled with an 'I' or a 'Y'?"
Abell looked a little confused at this.
"Our master is Henry Smyth," Healey elaborated, "with a 'Y'. He was formerly a sizar at Trinity and more recently is my lord Howard's chaplain. He is a man of some power and influence within the university and the land. Despite that he is not, by any means, well connected within this community of Mary Magdalene. He has been Master merely five years. Our Bursar and President, on the other hand, is John Smith with an 'I'. He has been Bursar since the early years of the reign of King James and has stood by this college in thick times and thin. And all that time he has been becoming richer and more critical to the smooth running of the college. Indeed, one suspects he had rather hoped to be master himself upon the demise of Goche.
"Now the two have had numerous battles over this and that," he continued. "The fellows are eternally split between those who favor the present wealth and favor of the Bursar and those who prefer the Master and such future favors as may come from him and his patrons. We juniors, even those of us with a degree, must therefore navigate between the Scylla of one and the Charybdis of the other. Any junior who provokes a confrontation had best be prepared for subsequent sanctions."
There were nods of agreement from the other seniors at this summary.
Saltmarsh added, "Of course, as a fellow commoner you won't be meeting the Bursar as regularly as a sizar. But any serious transgression against the statutes will mean that you will have the pleasure of an interview with the same man in his other guise as President. When you do so, do not under any circumstances claim that you had leave from the Master lest you become the cause of yet another battle. As they say: when great men fight, the causes of their wrath are likely to get trodden under foot."
After a thoughtful pause, Abell spoke up. "Sirs, you have well repaid my investment in ale and I thank you. Perhaps we might move onto more philosophical matters? My father and our neighbors have argued endlessly about this new place in Germany—this Grantville—with its Americans and their peculiar ideas—"
Gunton snorted and broke in. "Oh, come on! Surely you don't believe all that rubbish. It's just an excuse for the Habsburgs to explain why they are losing to the Swedes!"
"Pray pardon, but I have met one who has been there. The royal physician, Dr. Harvey, did return from there upon one of my father's vessels and we did sup with him in London. The place most certainly exists and they do assuredly speak some kind of English and not the Dutch of their neighbors. Dr. Harvey had some part of a book which was printed on shiny paper and had images in colors that were like life. He would not let us read the text. He said His Majesty should choose who might have that privilege. Even so, the images were so real it was like looking through a window. He did show us a copy of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth that I have seen with mine own eyes. It was as if the artist had painted it, save that the page was completely flat and too thin for paints. I cannot say that . . . "
This time it was Saltmarsh who interrupted. "So is it true that they come from the future? Or are they merely wizards from Cathay or somewhere?"
"Dr. Harvey said he could not be sure whether they came from our future or not, but that he was sure they came from a future," Abell said. "They knew too much about people and places they could have no direct interest in or knowledge of, he said. They treated him well because in their past he had done some favor to their ancestors some years from now. But he said that they also told him that because they had come here the future would change so that he wouldn't do the same things. That doesn't make sense. Surely you either do something or you don't."
"Ha, ha, Dunster!" said Healey. "That's one in the eye for you predestinationists! Consider, you could find out what you did and then do something else. Think of it—you could do mighty deeds in a history that never happens! Perhaps you go to heaven there and are damned here. Or do you think that you will be allowed to choose which life to use when you come to be judged?"
"My dear Healey, restrain yourself. The doctrine of predestination is not yet wrecked. Even should there be two histories why should one not be blessed or damned equally in either? The events may be different but the soul will be the same and the soul will behave in like manner. But there is surely a simpler solution. Mayhap these Americans have been placed here on earth by the Almighty to provide a lesson to us all. They might think they had a history before they were here but the Omnipotent Almighty could surely cause them to come into existence with memories should He wish that. After all He created food to feed the five thousand, creating bread and fish from nothing. If He could do that with bread and fish, why should He not be able to create people? As Creator, He did create this world once, why should He relinquish the power of creation today?" Dunster paused smugly at this point, secure that he had comprehensively demolished Healey's arguments.
After a pause Gunton brought up another point. "Whether or not they prove or disprove predestination, since we are assured they exist they do challenge a number of other beliefs. For example we are told that they have no religion, that they welcome anyone—Christian, Jew or heretic—that they have no kings and no respect for the established order. Surely this is greater import. Luther challenged the authority of Rome and the result has been more than a hundred years of bloodshed to free ourselves from the tyranny of Rome. Now these Americans challenge the authority of monarchs and nobles everywhere. How much blood will be shed to prove or disprove this?"
Abell had no idea about the causes of wars, but that reminded him of something else. "Not only that, they let women do as they please. Dr. Harvey said that even some of their soldiers were women! Not to mention their governors. Why, their leader is married to a Jewess who seems to have authority in her own right."
Utter silence reigned as this was digested.
"Well then, perhaps you are right, Mr. Dunster," spluttered Healey. "Surely the Almighty has placed this Grantville upon the earth to be a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. It may be an object lesson to be destroyed. Perhaps it is a warning to us of the limits to humanist reform and rationality. A place that denies the differences between the sexes is surely as depraved as Sodom and Gomorrah and as destined to eternal damnation. Why, the place must be a very bedlam of false prophets in the first place. Governed and defended by women? Well, hubris seems almost too kind a word for it! I just hope that its inevitable collapse does not presage the collapse of Lutheran Protestantism as well. It seems that the most likely cause of its destruction will be a Catholic army."
Healey's voice had risen in volume as he voiced his outrage and his words were clearly audible to the tavern's queen. This Bess, perhaps in memory of the namesake she had been compared to earlier, was unwilling to hear her sex denigrated without complaint and rushed over to make a defense.
"How can you say that? Why you, along with all true Englishmen, admire Queen Elizabeth. If she can rule so well, why cannot another? And what, pray, is so special about soldiering that it should be restricted to men? As many a would-be cut-throat has discovered; a woman can wield a pistol as well as a man!"
Healey was not to be dealt with so easily and ignored the earlier warnings of the price of Bess' displeasure. He vehemently responded, "One good queen does not mean much. Think of the actions of her sister Mary and the chaos caused by that other Mary, queen of the Scots. Recall the pernicious influence of the Medici ladies upon the kingdom of France. It is perhaps a harsh truth but such is the way of the world. The evidence seems clear; most women are too driven by passion and emotion to rule justly and wisely. I believe the same holds for other crafts. Soldiering is not just a matter of killing. It also requires discipline and steadfastness. 'Tis the same reason women cannot be educated beyond a certain level. As gentle creatures, they do not have the fortitude to continue in the face of constant adversity. For a short period passion may overcome their usual properties, but passion cannot be sustained. In the long term all of us remain true to our essential properties. The property of woman is to nurture, while the property of man is to strive."
As Healey paused for breath, Dunster took up the baton. "My colleague is right. To be sure, women can show courage against adversity but it is passive. She does not strive to overcome but merely submits, with or without complaint, to her fate. A woman's virtue is constancy, to remain true to her own. A woman may be roused to defend her children. She may even sacrifice herself for them, but that is surely an example of the nurturing instinct. To be a soldier, to be a scholar, to be a ruler requires more than passivity. It requires that one be willing to push against the limits, not accept them; to conquer the passion and direct it inwards. It requires self-discipline and that is not something that can be learned."
Bess was less than impressed with these arguments.
"Oh, really. Scholars! How do you know? Have you ever in fact tried to educate a woman? Or do anything other than leave her in her current state?"
Bess answered her own questions. "Of course, you haven't. Because everybody knows that women can't do that. Well, now, in this Grantville we have a place where people don't know that. And according to your friend, Abell, when women are given the chance they can actually do these things too."
She paused for a moment then continued, "Healey, you gave all these examples of bad Queens, but you seem to have forgotten the large number of bad Kings. Kings who are as capricious, as poor rulers as any queen. I'm told half the princes of Europe are drunkards and most of the rest arrant cowards who hide behind privilege and never lead their subjects. And as for education, recall that many of the colleges in this town have been founded or re-founded or supported by women. Why, we even have a Queens' college! If women can found colleges, why should they not also benefit from them? 'Tis well known that some noblewomen have private tutors and learn a great deal. Why should they be any different to your own sisters? I wager we could fill a college of women and there would none of the idlers that call themselves fellow commoners!"
Abell felt obliged to defend the concept. "My lady, I have the honor to be a fellow commoner! I certainly have no desire for sloth. I fought my father to be permitted to study. He wanted me to lead traders to Muscovy and other icy wastes."
"No doubt you will be the exception that proves the rule," Bess responded. "I think I recall that all your colleagues, even those now graduates, did in former times express themselves most forcefully about the lack of scholarly devotion of most fellow commoners. Gilded popinjays who pretend to scholarship and whose only virtue is that they provided employment for impoverished sizars was the consensus reached last Michaelmas, was it not?" Bess smiled sweetly at Healey and Gunton, who had the grace to look somewhat abashed. "If memory be one of the keystones of serious scholarship, then I think I may perhaps be a better scholar than either of these."
Gunton tried to defend himself. "Now then, Bess, we were not claiming such was an immutable law of God, merely that in our observation this was the usual case. A lad who has overcome paternal disapproval to study is entirely different to one who has yielded to paternal desires to claim a learned, if not clerical, son."
"If that's the case, why should women be any different? If women actually had the opportunity to attend university you would see whether or not women were passive. It's hard to be active when there's an entire world insisting that you not behave that way. I still say that the main reason women are claimed to be unable to be educated is because no one has ever tried."
"But what point would it serve you to attend a university?" Healey asked. "What could you do with your knowledge? Most graduates intend to use their learning to become pastors. Even within the university it is required to take holy orders to proceed. No woman can be a priest."
"I've never understood why a woman can't be a priest. It doesn't matter, though. Not everyone is a priest; there are lawyers, physicians, philosophers at the least." Bess turned to the youngster. "Tell me, Abell, what do you propose to do with yourself once you have gained the learning that you desire?"
"I was hoping to study medicine as did Dr. Harvey. Before he spoke of Grantville I had intended to travel to Padua to study anatomy, but now perhaps I should go to Grantville instead. They have more knowledge than Padua and they aren't papists."
Dunster thought of the garbled tales and rumors that had been circulating in Cambridge. "Admirable sentiments, and I wish you the best of fortunes in your endeavors. If they are not warlocks or devils you will indeed be better in Germany, at least spiritually. But have you considered the physical risks? Germany has been fighting for years and an army could loot the place in a day. 'Tis true that, at the moment, Gustav Adolf is on the ascendant and these Americans have allied themselves with him. But Magdeburg was sacked only last year, why should Grantville be any better? Still you have some years to go before you need make up your mind. Perhaps things will be more peaceable then. And perhaps by then we will have more information from visitors about what this place really is."
Bess wouldn't let the conversation get sidetracked this way. "Well, then, you are not apparently planning on becoming a priest! Is there any reason why a woman should not become a physician? And kindly don't bother to talk about the possibility that our delicate sensibilities cannot stand the sight of blood or death. I've probably butchered more animals than all of you put together. And while this inn is a lot quieter than the ones nearer the castle, we've seen plenty of tavern brawls here and worse! I misdoubt I'm the only woman who can say likewise—just ask any farmer's wife."
Saltmarsh, a farmer's son himself, had some sympathy with the barmaid but still felt obliged to point out the problems with her argument. "Perhaps, in theory, a woman might be capable of the physical acts required of a physician but there is still the delicacy of discussing a patient's health. A man would be most embarrassed to talk about such things to even his wife, let alone some strange woman. Other physicians would be likewise. Still, even were that obstacle overcome I don't see what good it does us to argue. No woman would have enough Greek or Latin to read Galen or any other of the ancients. She would be unable to become properly trained. There are enough men who pretend to be physicians, and many of them are, at best, half-trained quacks. We don't need females added to the mix."
Bess and Abell simultaneously tried to point out the flaws in that one.
"Your rhetoric is unsound—that a woman cannot . . . "
"That argument chases its tail . . . go ahead, sir. Methinks we have found the same flaw in the logic."
"Thank you, milady. First 'tis claimed that a woman should not be educated because she can do nothing with it, then you do reverse your claim and state that a women cannot become a physician because she hath not the education. The correct logical deduction is surely that if a woman were to receive appropriate education then she could be a physician. Your statement that the world does not lack for bumbling quacks surely brings home another truth that echoes the previous comment about fellow commoners, namely that many men show limited desire to push the limits and strive against passive acceptance. We cannot directly deduce that since many men appear to have womanly virtues that the reverse is true. However, it seems not implausible.
"Consider Dr. Harvey's notorious treatise on blood and circulation. Despite that it is counter to the wisdom of the ancients, it follows directly from countless observations made over the period of a score or more years. Perhaps the same applies to women and education."
There was a thoughtful pause as Abell's elders considered and accepted the logic of his arguments. The pause was followed by the shuffling of feet and straightening of clothing that indicated a desire to quit the field of battle while still able to retreat in good order. Murmurs of "must be getting back now, must mumble mumble before cough" and the like, followed apace. Indeed, Abell was left behind to settle the account while the others rushed the door at a speed that was only just dignified. Bess shared a conspiratorial grin as she gathered up the tankards.
"Mister Abell, you seem to have discommoded your seniors with an ease that belies your years. Pray return often that we may attempt more such victories."
Abell, realizing that two of these seniors were his roommates and fearing possible reprisals, seemed less happy
"Oh, never fear," Bess added. "Healey will be using our arguments next week to trap anyone he can. Dunster pays little attention to anything beyond books and etchings and Gunton will forgive anything that he can use to make a puritan look like a fool. In Magdalene, debate and rhetoric are diversions, not serious."
In his relief at not having blighted his Cambridge career in the first hour, Abell was moved to generosity towards his new acquaintance.
"You know, if you had the desire, mayhap we could try and see what you could learn. I'm no tutor but I have the books and . . . " He stopped, unsure whether what Bess would think of his offer. Perhaps it was condescending; perhaps she would think he made it for other, improper, reasons.
Bess seemed to understand his hesitation for she smiled at him. "Why, thank you, kind sir. I fear there are many demands on my time, but mayhap we can find some spare moments here and there. My father will look askance at me if I continue to dally with you, so be off now. We'll discuss this further anon."
A few days later Abell had become familiar with the routine of life at Magdalene. He had been assigned one of the fellows as a tutor, had his first tutorial and been farmed off to his roommate Healey for day to day tutoring. The weekday started early with a lecture at six in the morning, followed by chapel. Chapel was followed by breakfast at about eight o'clock. That was followed by a second hour-long lecture. As a fellow-commoner, Abell was free of communal commitments after the end of that lecture until hall in the evening. He was merely required to spend some hours being tutored by Healey. Since it was still summer neither he nor his roommates had trouble getting up before six, as dawn was a good hour earlier. However, he was warned that this would become considerably harder as the year progressed.
Healey and he had come to the arrangement that they would spend the mornings studying together and thus in the afternoon he was on his own. The first two or three afternoons he had spent with Gunton and Healey, wandering amongst the printers, booksellers and other scholastic suppliers in Cambridge. He purchased the items he had not brought with him. On the fourth day, a Saturday, he was told in no uncertain terms that he was on his own. Healey reminded him that, despite it being market day, failing to show up to hall would be a bad start to his college career.
Healey and Gunton then left him in their room to consider his books and possessions while they left for some nebulous destination that did not require the presence of juniors. After half an hour the Euclidean task he had been set by Healey had been completed and ten minutes later he was bored. As he contemplated the long beverage-less afternoon of soul-searching that would be his lot if he remained on his own in his room, he also realized he had very few options available for socializing. All his seniors would be occupied with their own tasks and unlikely to wish to converse with a sixteen-year-old.
The two other fellow-commoners were also at least two years older than he and had made it clear they were not interested in befriending a junior whose father was a lowly merchant. The only other juniors he had been introduced to were all sizars and thus would be working. That left the Queen of the Pickerel, though she'd most likely be working harder than the sizars, it being market day after all. On the other hand, he could go to the Pickerel and drink a tankard of ale and then explore the market on his own. It certainly beat sitting alone.
As he was walking past the porter's lodge he heard a cry
"Master Abell! Sir!"
He looked around and saw the porter Hobson who had helped with his bags on the first day. He was waving a letter.
"Sir, I was just coming to give this note to you."
Abell took the note, thanked the porter and stepped back into the court to open it. It was clearly a reused scrap. His parents, who were snobby about such things, hadn't written it, then. The letter was short and written in a simple hand with a grasp of spelling that was more eccentric than normal.
If you were series inn yourr ofer mayhap we cold beginne thise afternon, I hav som tim at libertee. I hop that does not disterbe your studdees
It took him no more than a moment to shove the letter into a pocket and rush out of the gates and across the street to the Pickerel. He opened the door of the tavern and looked around. No sign of Bess. But how could he ask for her? Everyone would think he was looking for her for, ah, other reasons. As he stood just inside the door and pondered what to do, a serving maid came up to him.
"How can I serve you, sir?"
He gulped and blurted out, "I was looking for Mistress Chapman . . . "
"Right you are, sir. If you are Master Abell then she told us you'd be along. Pray sit in this booth here while I fetch her."
A few minutes later two foaming tankards of ale arrived on the table and the red headed person who brought them sat opposite him.
"God gi' good day, Sir. Did you fly on wings? I did but give Hobson the note mere minutes ago."
Abell blushed and stammered, "No, no, I was, err, 'twas . . . ahh, I was just about to step out of the college when he saw me. In fact I was thinking of coming over here, I hadn't forgotten. But I had thought you would be working hard on market day."
"And you a merchant's son? Think you a moment: we are not by the market, nor even close. Our regulars are the tradesmen behind us who are all at their market stalls now. This evening we will be busy, but during market hours we are not so full." Bess paused for a moment and then, in a tone of voice that was totally different to her normal self-confident manner, she asked, "Are you really willing to teach me? I'm not sure I really want to be a physician, you know. I just want to do something more than serve ale all day . . . I mean I do want to help people but maybe I could do something else. I just don't really know what."
Abell took refuge in a swig of ale while he tried to think what to say, reflecting on his own recently finished school days.
"At the beginning I do not think that signifies. No matter what you wish to do eventually, the first stage is clear. You must learn to read and write better in English. You must learn to read and write Latin and possibly Greek. Beyond that I suspect that theology, divinity and ecclesiastical studies are not of use. On the other hand, you wish to travel. As well as Latin maybe you should learn French and, if you intend to go to Grantville, High Dutch would be of use. Natural philosophy and mathematics are probably also useful, but until you can read Latin you will be limited to the more basic forms of arithmetic."
He paused for a moment, "This could take a long while, you know. How much time can you study each day? Schoolboys take six or more years to learn little more than Latin, Greek and arithmetic."
It was Bess' turn to think. After a while she replied, "I think you have the heart of the matter. I shall start with Latin and methinks that learning Latin will itself help my reading and writing of English. Once we have overleapt that hurdle, 'twill be time enough to choose the next. As for time? That is a harder problem. For the nonce I may be at liberty for an hour or two most afternoons, and if I can convince my father, mayhap he will excuse me from some of my morning chores. If one of the maids leaves or we have more custom in the afternoon I may have to halt my learning for a while."