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Prologue - Spring, 1801
The man they called ╘Teacher╒ looked out through the grimy, smeared window of the classroom, shielding his eyes from the glare of the morning sunshine, staring across to where the young boy knelt. He watched as the boy took the twig in his right hand and carefully etched the squares onto the dusty floor of the playground. He had observed the same behaviour for the last week or so. Each morning at first break the boy would sweep away the lines and numbers from the previous day and score out a fresh playing area. Then he would take a favoured stone from his waistcoat pocket and throw it towards the first of the squares, signalling the start of the game.
The boy played alone, concentrating intensely on the flight and fall of the stone, and only pausing occasionally to scribble furiously into the small notebook that he carried with him at all times. Occasionally another child would venture over to investigate or to tease, but the boy, for the most part, ignored any intruders.
The Teacher crossed the playground, stopping some feet away from the small hopping boy, so as not to disturb his game. He waited patiently for a few moments observing the throws and the scribbles and the hops, until eventually the boy turned to face him. The Teacher smiled when he saw that the boy had remained on one leg as he turned whilst still hopping, at the same time the boy, realising how silly he must look, put his other foot down to the ground.
╥Teacher?╙ The word was a greeting and a question all rolled into one.
At first the Teacher stood silent, staring intently at the small boy who, despite being only eight years old, was the most intelligent human being the Teacher had ever met. The boy stood still now as his wide eyes stared back at his Teacher, eyes that that were always filled with wonder; curious blue eyes with a sliver of green that flashed and twinkled, giving him an inquisitive air.