Little Roots

There’s a perennial debate about test scores, and about how Albion’s children compare to those of Pinene, of Ontogeny-Among-the-Lilies. When the dark clouds of war mass over the harbor, how sturdy will their golems be? How deeply etched the name of truth on their foreheads? In softer times, how are they renowned? How often visited, how often spoken of in ducal halls, or among the oligarchs?

The first year of study is hard; there is so much to unlearn. At twelve they are choked with illusions, and smart to have them pulled away. Many drop out, saddened to see the lie put to theater; they will ever after twist their mouth bitterly when they must walk through the narrow streets of the Quarter. Eggheads, they will say, and virgin, and howl at their dirty sleeves and unwashed hair.

“Balance,” says Mr. Ramirez, chalk smeared upon his beard. “Everything must balance. Start with what you can see: where you started and where you ended. Then balance. Nothing is created or destroyed. We will do this first equation together, then you will do the next twenty in your groups.” A pudgy hand. “Yes, Ms. Murgatroyd.”

Murgatroyd: “When will we get to blow things up, sir?”

Mr. Ramirez blows chalk out of his mustache. “Perhaps toward the summer I will show you something. Perhaps. But you, Ms. Murgatroyd, you will not blow anything up in this class. No. Your work this year–and for many years to come–will be all theory. You will do ten thousand times on the page what you will hesitate to do once in the atelier.” Groans from every corner. “No! Ten thousand times a thousand; you are playing with what is most essential, and that is something to do bravely, yes, joyfully, yes, but also–always!–fearfully! I will teach you caution, Ms. Murgatroyd; in this way may you be exalted.”