Greek and Roman-Chapter III: Visiting the School
IT took Titus several minutes to catch up with Flora. Whenever he was even half an inch from her, she would look behind and speed with more power from which Titus knew not where it came from.
When he had finally overtaken her, it was when he had turned a corner and she was waiting for him near a small building. It was house. And inside were several boys and an old man. Titus realized that this was a school.
“This is where my brother goes to school,” Flora said when he had walked up to her. Her face was flushed and her breathing seemed difficult but she was smiling so Titus knew she must be alright.
“Really?” Titus inquired.
“But I thought rich people had their own tutors. Not everyday teachers.”Just great, Lord Stupidness; you just insulted, not only her honor but her own brother. Titus gulped. I hope his age limit is no older than fourteen.
“Oh, no,” Flora said shaking her head. “Here, in Rome, all boys go to the school. Some schools are probably not the best but the majority goes to school. Senators—like my father—usually send their sons to a school by a well-known teacher.” Flora jabbed her thumb into the school. “My brother, Marcus, goes to Master Hippias’s School of Learning, also known as Hippias’s Hippos.” Flora smiled even more.
“Why is it called ‘Hippias’s Hippos’?” Titus asked.
“Because,” Flora explained, “the Hippias’s is a Greek descendent, born in Hippo, which is in North Africa.” Flora giggled. Also, Hippias is not the thinnest man in Rome.”
“But what’s a hippo?” Titus could not make heads or owls out of this ‘hippo’ nonsense.
Flora laughed once more. “A hippo, you ninny, is a animal that resides in Africa. Well, to be more exact, Alexandria.”
“Oh, a hippo. I know that that is,” Titus lied.
Flora folded her arms and gave Titus a wicked grin. “Oh really? Well then, what kind of animal is a hippo? Bird, mammal or reptile?”
Titus looked around. His sweat began to flow like the River Nile. He couldn’t stall much longer. Just guess, he told himself.
“A reptile,” he blurted out.
Flora shook her head. “Tut-tut-tut. Wrong. A hippo is actually a mammal.” Suddenly, her eyes became secretive. “It has big mysterious eyes and large enormous mouth—” Flora cupped her hands to illustrate the mouth of the beast “—and they hide in the water bushes, in search for prey.” Her voice grew quiet until Titus had to come closer to hear a single word. “And then, when you are out on a leisurely sail… They chump at the boat and drown you down in the Nile!” Flora snapped her hands on Titus’s nose.
Now, Titus usually took pain with great courage—as a Roman should, his father had said. But this took him by surprise and the shock of pain going through his nose gave him the urge to say:
“What in Zeus’s beard was that?” came a stingy and angered voice. Zeus? Titus wondered. Ah-hah! A Greek! An almost bald, plump gray haired man in a toga came out of the schoolhouse. At first glance Titus could tell he was a Greek, but did not, and could not greet him as a Greek should at that moment.
The man looked at Titus and declared, pointing his finger at him, “You! You son of a dog’s tail, come inside! You are almost a whole day late! Now stop doodly dawdling with pretty slave girls and get your sorry donkey for a brain inside my classroom.” The man, who Titus took to be Hippias, grabbed him by the ear and started pulling him into his classroom.
“Owe, owe! Let me go!” Titus screamed. His ear had never been pulled except in the affectionate way. This was anything but affectionate.
“Leave him alone, you old hag!” Titus heard Flora shout. He felt her hands grab his chiton and could feel the tugging on his chest.“
Stop, stop, stop,” Titus said quietly but sternly.
No one listened.
That’s it, Titus decided. “SSTTOOPPP, THAT’S EEENOOUUGH!”
Once again, there was silence.
Hippias and Flora let go of Titus, who hung his head in shame. All hail the King of Foolish-Mouth. He has not only scoffed at Flora and her brother, but I have also yelled at a well-known schoolteacher. (Sigh), indeed my life is over.
But Titus was surprised when Hippias said, “I’m-I’m sorry for being unkind.” He fixed his toga. “I am not usually aggressive but, only on an occasion as this. I beg your pardon, Lucius.”
“Lucius!” Titus and Flora exclaimed.
“That’s Master Lucius to you, slave girl.” Hippias corrected.
“But I am not Lucius,” said Titus, pointing to himself. “I’m his cousin.”
Hippias’s eyes grew wide. “You are the son of Antonius Julius Andronicus.”
Titus nodded. “Yes.” He noticed the streams of sweat that ran down Hippias’s face.
Finally, Hippias answered, “I am very, very, very sorry for my behavior. It’s just that you look almost exactly like Lucius. Similar as how your father and your uncle looked alike.” Hippias looked around so his students weren’t listening and whispered, “And please, please do not tell your father, uncle or that brat of a cousin!” The schoolmaster said the words ‘brat of a cousin’ with such distance that Titus thought he was talking of a dog.
“Master, um, Hippias, Sir, um why is my cousin Lucius so corrupt?” Titus asked.
Hippias looked distasteful in the direction of Uncle Flavius’s mansion. “That boy needed a good whooping when he was a babe, and since he had many nurses and his mother barely looked at him, he grew up thinking that he was prince of the household and the commander of everything in his court—” Hippias gave Titus a smirk “—meaning his room.” When he realized that neither Titus nor Flora got the joke, the schoolmaster kept talking:
“Anyway, now that he is in school, the boy won’t stop talking about his rich father and of how the other boys’ fathers are only generals or head chefs of the Emperor. What Lucius doesn’t know is that his father is only rich because the Emperor controls the Senators more than the chefs and generals. Do you understand?”
Although Titus didn’t fully understand Hippias’s words, he nodded.
“Good, now run along and do whatever you boys from Greece do.” Hippias turned towards the schoolhouse and acted as if the two children were stray cats. “Even though,” Hippias continued, “I was a Greek boy like you, I have gone through many years and childhood is a distant memory right now. Like one time...” The schoolteacher peeked from behind his shoulder to see if Titus and Flora were still there.
The two children were gone.
Hippias smiled a wicked grin and stalked back inside the schoolhouse.
TITUS and Flora had left and walked back to the Forum. He rubbed his shoulder, which hurt as much as his ear from Flora’s pulling.
“Sorry,” Flora said.
“Don’t worry. It’s okay,” said Titus. They sat on the brim of a fountain and watched the sun as its last seconds in the sky were counted. Before Titus could realize anything, Flora’s head was placed onto Titus’s shoulder. The Forum wasn’t as busy as it was during the morning. The afternoon sky turned purplish-orange and Titus could see several birds in the sky. He barely heard Flora’s voice:
“You know, you’re not so bad. For a boy.”
Titus chuckled. “And you are not so bad, girl or boy.”
Flora lifted her head. “You think so?”
“Not at all. I know so.”
IT was almost evening when Flora and Titus entered the mansion once again. Flora told Junius that they had been on a walk and she had been ordered by her father to show Titus around. Junius quickly opened the mansion’s door, letting in a smug Flora and Titus.
“Prff! That was easy,” said Flora.
“Yeah, I guess,” Titus said. “Now, we better get back into the garden before Uncle Flavius or Father finds we snuck out.”
Flora gave Titus a mischievous wink. “Oh, I don’t think you uncle or father will notice you being gone.”
“Come, I’ll show you,” Flora called to Titus with her finger, and they continued down the hall. When they came by the door that leads to the men’s dining room, the servants who opened the doors were still standing, with normal concern on their faces.
“Let us in,” Flora ordered in a un-spoiled-brat voice.
One of the servants shook his head. “We cannot let any female inside except they are called.”
“But she is called,” Titus said. “Senator Manilus’s exact words were, ‘Fetch the girl for me.’”
The servant placed his forefinger on his chin and said in a thoughtful voice, “Hmm… Well, I did hear Senator Manilus say something like that. Though he does mutter a lot of things when he’s drunk,” he muttered. “Fine. I shall let you in.” The first servant nodded at the second and they both opened the door. What Titus saw surprised him very much.
Lively music was played by the beautiful servant girls, who danced with flowers in their hair. They performed for their drunken guests. On a couch was Titus’s father, drunk as a bat, laughing merrily and beckoning to the slave girls to bring him more wine, and a kiss at one point. The rest of the men were the same, except they had become sober and were now talking about politics. Manilus, who was in a very tempered argument, was the first to see Titus and Flora. They had quietly strolled over to Manilus by the fountain that was gushing water at that minute.
“Flora?” Manilus said, confused. “What are you doing here?”
“You called for me,” Flora answered bluntly. “You know, ‘fetch the girl for me’.”
Manilus looked even more confused. “I said that? I guess I was more drunk then than I am now. Now what do you want?” Manilus demanded.
“Oh nothing. I just wanted Titus to see how his father was.”
When the two children had exited the men’s dining room, Titus let all of the shock in his face explode. “What in Mother Earth was that? I have never seen my father act that way before.”
Flora shrugged. “You will get used to it.”
Well I won’t, and I will make sure I it won’t be okay with me forever.”