out take image of notebook  

photo of brad watson

  arthur phillips

Scott spoke clearly and slowly, his teaching voice: "Whither Spot?"

"To his canine home, with nought but a bone for sustenance?" volunteered one student, not quickly but with admirable smoothness and a much-improved accent.

"Delightfully rendered," praised Scott. "And whither Jane?"

"Jane, with her belovèd paramour, Dick, returneth likewise to her manse, and there to abide, perchance to sleep until rrr…rrr…rosy morn?" uncertainly offered Attilla, a bridge engineer who had enrolled in this course to help him win contracts with American and British construction firms.

"Wilt they lie together?" blurted smirking Mihály, with the easy mastery typical of class clowns the world over. "'Tis a sin, is't not, for them to know each other thus, without the blessings of Hymen?" The class was divided into those who laughed and those who could not follow Mihály's joke.

"Mihály, thou schelm," Scott scolded with well-enunciated good humor. "I offer myself to you as neither priest nor magistrate, but only as a man of knowledge, a book-man, in faith. The rights and wrongs of it be outside my ken and, further, outside the proper inquiries of our study chamber. Unless I am deceivčd," Scott amusingly mimed inspecting the class's textbook to satisfying student laughter, "and I see that I am not, our text, which from my pen did flow as mighty Danube flows, speaks not to thy unholy investigation. Let us turn modestly away from such matters, and, prithee, scholars, answer only this: who courseth most swift upon the grass when the gauntlet of challenge is hurled: Dick, Jane, or Spot?" Scott was an excellent teacher, and never spoke more quickly than his slowest student could follow.

"Spot, true to his canine lineage, courseth most swift?" tentatively suggested a senior officer of the Hungarian National Bank.

"Thou speak'st the truth and well, my good lord of the Exchequer. And now, as Apollo's fiery chariot doth begin its descent and the clock marks five, lest I hold you in my grasp beyond our allotted hours together, I bid thee all Godspeed until the morrow, and ask only that thou complet'st thy study of this tale, to commit into thy hearts and into the secure and holy vaults of thy memories the list of vocabulary which attachèd be, and to strive to complete sections Six, Seven, Eight, nor to omit Nine in thy practice folios."

"Zounds! It is an unholy burden, master. Art thou wroth with us, thy charges, or dost thou think us to be like unto great Hermes, endowed with celestial swiftness?" Mihály had always complained about the homework in Beginners II, and now, just one week into Beginners III, his attitude was unimproved.

"I, too, feel the bite of this yoke," agreed a night manager from one of the Western-owned hotels, though he struggled to aggregate the correct grammar. "Have we lubber fiends at our beck?"

"Can our hours, like young hares or old men's sorrows, breed and multiply until thy monstrous appetite for our time be assuaged?" This wisp of gentle, feminine sarcasm floated on the soft accents of Mária, Scott's star pupil, and with her intercession, he saw the need to relent.

"In troth, fair Mária's words do escort April spring into the wint'ry recesses of my heart," he conceded. "So let my final edict be thus recorded: Section Nine I remove from thy shoulders and bid thee now stand tall and straight. Mayhaps now homework's sting may transform, and but

The warming tickle of a zephyr be/

Now off and fly, be free, Beginners III."

The improvised concluding couplet was a triumph he would cherish for days, though there was no one he could share it with.

When Scott arrived in Budapest, November of 1989, he took a teaching job in what was then one of the few English language schools in the country. His English literature degree, his experience teaching English as a Second Language in Seattle, and his patent American-ness secured him first the instructor's post and then quickly thereafter—as enrollment began to swell in early 1990—a course-planning position. He was careful to teach all of the students he had inherited and all experienced students with the standard course materials the ISFT issued him. With his first, fresh Beginners I at the end of January, however, he began to use exclusively materials which he himself had written or adapted. In the school's loose hierarchy and suddenly overwhelming tide of new students, he was able to do so unnoticed and undisturbed. Mr. Price's Intensive Beginners I became Intensive Beginners II in late March, and with graduation on July 1, became his first Intensive Beginners III. Three months later, these same students were due to become his first Intensive Intermediates, for which pupal progression Scott was spending his evenings and weekends preparing a suitable curriculum.

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Copyright © 2002 Arthur Pbillips.