“If there’s one comfort to be had,” Lukas murmured to himself as he entered the scriptorium once again, “it’s that I won’t have to worry about Brother Titus anymore.”
After the red ink fiasco, Titus had politely yet forcefully declined to work with Lukas any further. Instead, he was being turned over to Brother Gregory, the more congenial scribe who was also a skilled translator.
However kind a man Brother Gregory was, he was perpetually late for everything. Lukas waited fifteen minutes in the scriptorium before he arrived. Both the rotundity of his stomach and his chronic shortness of breath made it apparent that Brother Gregory cared too much for his intellectual pursuits to be bothered with physical exercise.
“Good morning!” Gregory greeted, with as much of a smile as was allowed by the Law of St. Benedict. “And how does this new day find ye, lad?”
“I’m well, Brother Gregory,” Lukas said, fidgeting impatiently. “What do you want for me to translate?”
Gregory held out a large, ancient book to Lukas—a Latin version of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. “Read this to me in Gaelic.”
Lukas held the book carefully, opening it to its first page. “All of Gaul is divided into three parts,” he began. “One part inhabits...rather, Belgians inhabit one part….”
“The Belgians,” Gregory corrected. “Latin doesn’t have words for a, an, or the. You’ll have to remember to throw them in.”
“How will I know where to put them?” Lukas asked.
“Nay, Brother Gregory, I won’t. That’s what ye’re supposed to teach me.”
Brother Gregory leaned back in his chair. “There are certain words,” he said, “that simply sound like they need an article adjective.”
That, sir, Lukas barely kept himself from saying aloud, was about as helpful as snowshoes on a horse.
Lukas studied his textbook again. “Would you give me an example?”
“Certainly. Gloria in excelsis Deo. It isn’t translated as ‘Glory to God in highest,’ it’s ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ Certain words. If it doesn’t sound right, add a, an, or the.”
“Suppose I don’t know if I should use a or the,” Lukas said. “What then?”
Brother Gregory smiled and raised his fat hands towards heaven. “Use yer judgment.”
Lukas tried his best not to sigh and turned again resolutely to his book. “The Belgians inhabit one part, the Aquitanians another, and Gauls...the Gauls...themselves the third.”
“Very good, lad,” Gregory said. He handed Lukas another book—this one a Greek medical textbook. “Read this in Latin.”
Lukas fumbled with the heavy volume and tried to read the faded Greek letters. “There’s a word here I don’t know,” he said. “What do I do?”
“Assume it’s a name,” Gregory said. “Ye won’t be faulted, not with a medical textbook.”
The next few hours were tedious, both because of the rapid switching between three different languages and Brother Gregory’s inability to offer sound advice. He mentioned twice that translating was better learned than taught, that only practice would rid Lukas of his novice errors, but his student began to think otherwise.
Finally, the bell rang for the midday prayer service, and Lukas was glad to leave the stuffy scriptorium behind him.
“How went the lessons?” Mattathias whispered as he stood in the pew next to Lukas.
“Not well,” Lukas said quietly. “If I end up doing anything with books, it will probably be making the vellum to write them on.”
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.