The community possessed two wheelbarrows. These, they quickly decorated with soggy leaves and vines and sloshed out in the falling drizzle to bring their new schoolmaster home in style.
Rue couldn’t have been more relieved to see his neighbors come out pushing the barrows. His papa had walked a long way in four days and now leaned heavily on his stick and heavier on his son. The schoolmaster Gervung limped.
Treevung hid behind his brother Gervung and Rue for fear that the crowd would beat him or at least throw sticks at him. The returning travelers met their welcoming party. Old Man S’TO was lifted high while the crowd cheered and thanked him for bringing the valley a new teacher. Gervung also was lifted high then placed in the second barrow to ride in style into the valley.
“Look we have brought two teachers. This is Treevung. He can read and write and do numbers too.” Rue pulled the young lad forward to meet the cheering crowd. Men lifted Treevung up and set him on their shoulders as the crowd clapped and cheered while they processed to the newly build schoolhouse which was little more than a roof over a large flat rock.
Rue kept an eye on Treevung as the lad sat half-terrified on Trek’s shoulders. Rue could not read or write. He didn’t remember the names of all the letters, but he knew the hearts of other men. He knew Treevung’s heart did not know love. He would watch the lad to see that he did not become a bully. He hoped that being treated with respect and honored as a teacher would help the lad’s heart grow before his head became puffed up with vanity.
After the schoolhouse had been inspected and Old Man S’TO made a speech and Gervung made a speech, the tired travelers were allowed to climb the hill to the S’TO house where Marina and Sabrina served the men dinner while trying to tell Gervung and Treevung everything they needed to know about the school.
“These are the books we use.” Sabrina handed Gervung the two alphabet books that had started to look dog eared and a bit dirty from grubby hands holding them.
“While school has been out, we have been making clay tablets for the students to write on. We have charcoal for writing.” Marina displayed the supplies.
“We decided that tomorrow morning, I will come with you and help sort the students into classes. In the afternoon, Sabrina will bring more tablets, and I will come home.” Marina thought she might miss socializing with her neighbors at school, but she knew she would not miss teaching. As it turned out, neither Marina nor Sabrina had the opportunity to miss teaching as the number of students swelled beyond the ability of the two men to handle.
On the morning of the first day of school, Marina and Gervung set off down the hill toward the school with Treevung behind them carrying tablets and complaining that he wasn’t a teacher.
“That’s okay. Your brother will need help until planting time, then most of the students will go to work in the fields. You can find yourself a home and some land then. I’ll help you learn to teach.”
Treevung felt slightly comforted by the young woman’s assurances and had no idea that she knew less than he did.
Gervung felt a little overwhelmed when confronted with students ranging in age from five to a very old man with long greasy gray hair and a filthy beard.
Marina quickly sorted the students into classes, passed out tablets and charcoal to the best students, and set Gervung to teaching them. She introduced Treevung to the next class of students and told him to help them with their numbers.
She took the largest class that still had no idea what a school, education, reading and writing involved. She soon had them singing and playing alphabet games. Gervung narrowed his eyes and grew impressed at how even the very old man followed what the pretty young teacher told him to do.
Treevung had no idea what to do with his class, but he managed by asking the students what they knew about numbers. He found one middle-aged man who could count the number of goats on the hillside at a glance. Most of his students could write their numbers and count on their fingers up to ten. He began to tell them how to write the numbers up to twenty. The man who counted the goats quickly caught the concept of tens and took over showing the others how many sets of ten each number represented. Treevung left him to work with the more advanced students while he helped the rest of his class write their numbers. He didn’t know what to make of the young girl holding a two year old on her lap and showing the baby how to write the numbers. Marina hadn’t sent anybody home, so he guessed this girl could stay.
Sabrina arrived with lunch and more tablets for the teachers. Marina greeted her twin happily then ran to the edge of the creek to vomit for the first time since Papa had promised to find another teacher for the school. Marina explained to her sister where she’d left off and limped home rubbing her aching back.
Treevung watched Marina rub her back and remembered how kind and cheerful she’d been all morning when her back must have hurt. He knew he had something to think about. He watched Sabrina take over the lowest class with a new song. He looked at Gervung and saw him watching Sabrina and shaking his head. Treevung and Gervung traded classes for an hour before Sabrina asked to include their classes in the games. “The nuns spent much of the time in games. Sister Mary Esther said that students learn better when they play games and help each other.” Sister Mary Esther hadn’t really mentioned students. Her comments had been about scullery maids working better.
Gervung nodded as if he knew this to be true. Treevung stood with his mouth hanging open as he gazed upon the vast knowledge and wisdom Sabrina displayed. In his heart, he knew that Sabrina was correct.
The students had noticed that both Marina and Sabrina had told the schoolmaster how to do his job, and he obeyed them. Their awe over the young women’s knowledge and wisdom grew. They nodded and winked to each other saying that it took two educated men to replace one of their very own young S’TO women.
The secret of Marina and Sabrina’s total illiteracy remained intact. Even Gervung did not suspect for many years.