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.”“You can tell me more about it tomorrow night.” She sighed.“But I hope they live happily ever after,” she added, sounding wistful.“Like some of the fairy tales Mr.Wainwright used to read to us in school.”Tomorrow night, when my real lessons would start.I felt excited, but worried too.Would I be able to learn all I needed to know? Or would I be too far behind, if I ever did get to high school?I lay awake for a while, wondering.Just before I drifted away into sleep, I had one last thought: I will learn what’s in those books.I will!Chapter EightMr.Wainwright knocked on the kitchen door promptly at seven the next evening.I had carried my math books downstairs and then helped Mary Ellen with the dishes so they’d be finished in plenty of time before the teacher came.When I let him in, I had to tilt my head back to look up at him.He was wearing a heavy jacket and his light brown hair was sticking up every which way.“I rode my bicycle over from Lakeville, so I’m afraid I’m a bit windblown,” he said.“I didn’t realize it was quite so cold and windy out.Next time I’ll borrow Mrs.Harnett’s horse and buggy.She said she wouldn’t mind.” He smiled at me and then at Mary Ellen.I took his jacket and was hanging it on a peg by the door when Papa came into the kitchen.“Good evening, Mr.Tilton,” said Mr.Wainwright, unwrapping the scarf from around his neck.“Nice of you to come.I imagine Anna is pretty anxious to get started, so we’ll leave the kitchen to the two of you.”“Thank you, sir.” His eyes followed Mary Ellen and Papa as they left the room.“I haven’t seen your sister in three years, since she graduated from the 8th grade.She’s grown up into quite a young lady.” He paused, and I waited for him to go on.But after a moment, he said, “Now, let’s have a look at the books Doc brought you.”We settled down at the kitchen table and Mr.Wainwright examined the small pile of math books.“We’ll start with Algebra,” he said.“We can tackle the Geometry later.”For the next couple of hours he led me through some of the complexities of equations and how to solve them, using the symbols x and y.The way Mr.Wainwright explained it, it made perfect, logical sense, and I breathed a sigh of relief.“It’s not as bad as I thought.You make it seem quite easy.”“Oh, it’s not that hard,” he said.“You’ll do fine.I knew you would.I can come again on Friday, if that’s all right.Meanwhile, do the problems at the end of that first chapter.We’ll go over them together next time.”“I will.And yes, please come Friday.Mama said to ask you to supper.We usually eat about half-past five.”“Thank you, I’ll look forward to that.Goodnight, Anna.”I stayed where I was, working on the problems Mr.Wainwright had assigned, until my eyes began to smart, and I had to give up and go to bed.Mary Ellen was already half asleep.“How was it?” she mumbled.“Good! I like working with Mr.Wainwright.He makes everything seem easy, and it’s nice having him all to myself, without a dozen other pupils all wanting his attention.”“You’re so smart, I knew you could do it.” Mary Ellen pulled the covers up over her shoulders.“Night, Anna.”* * * *On Friday night, Mr.Wainwright arrived just as supper was ready.I had helped Mama make chicken pot pie, and while we ate, Mr.Wainwright told us about growing up in New York City, where his father worked for the New York Telephone Company.He and his family had lived in an apartment in Brooklyn and he went to school by streetcar.“How did you end up here, in a one-room country schoolhouse?” Papa asked.“Well, sir, I very foolishly dropped out of City College before I graduated.For a while I worked as a clerk at the telephone company where my father works.After a couple of years of that, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I found this job teaching while I finish my degree during the summers.I was up in New Brunswick taking courses at Rutgers all last summer.”He took another bite of chicken pie.“This is delicious, Mrs.Tilton.” He turned to look at Mary Ellen.“What have you been doing since you graduated, Mary Ellen?”Mary Ellen looked at him with panic in her eyes.“I---” she looked beseechingly at Papa.“There’s a lot of work on a farm,” Papa said.“Mary Ellen and Anna both help their mother, don’t you, girls?”Mary Ellen looked down at her hands, twisting in her lap.I answered for both of us.“Yes, Papa,” I said.“Mr.Wainwright, do you have any sisters or brothers?”“I have three younger sisters.”He looked a little curiously at Mary Ellen.I wondered if he noticed how pale she was, and that she was thinner than she used to be.Mama busied herself clearing the table and Mary Ellen got up quickly to help.When she took Mr.Wainwright’s plate, he smiled up at her and thanked her, but she avoided his eyes and didn’t answer.While Mary Ellen did the dishes, I ran upstairs and brought down an armful of books.“I’ve been studying the algebra book and I finished all the problems in Chapter 1,” I told Mr.Wainwright.“And I’m reading Romeo and Juliet, too.I’ve been telling Mary Ellen a little of the story at night after we’re in bed, and reading some of the parts out loud.The language is so beautiful, isn’t it, Mary Ellen?”She nodded but kept her back to us as she dumped the soapy water out of the pan and hung up the dish towel, then walked into the parlor and closed the door behind her.“Did I say something to upset your sister?” Mr.Wainwright asked.“No, not at all.It’s just that Mary Ellen wasn’t very well all last summer.You wouldn’t have heard, since you were away.She’s better now, but she’s still kind of getting her strength back.”“Oh, well, I’m glad it wasn’t me, and I’m glad she’s getting better.And now, let’s hit the books, shall we? Any questions about the algebra?” I shook my head.“Good.Then let’s see the problems you did.”For the rest of the evening, Mr.Wainwright and I were absorbed in the world of numbers.Mary Ellen didn’t reappear until after he’d left.“Why did you act so unfriendly to Mr.Wainwright?” I asked.“I thought you liked him.I even used to think you had a little crush on him.”“I did like him, in school [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]