The boy couldn’t solve the mathematics problem because he
1) didn’t like to make any effort.
2) was not interested in caterpillars.
3) refused to do mathematics in general.
4) was distracted by his teacher’s dances.
Scarcely had we settled into the Strawberry-pink Villa before my mother decided that I was running wild, and that it was necessary for me to have some sort of education. As usual when a problem arose, the entire family flung itself with enthusiasm into the task of solving it. Each member had his or her own idea of what was best for me.
Sitting under the open window in the twilight, I had listened with interest, not unmixed with indignation, to the family discussion of my fate. Finally my mother decided that George would be a good teacher for me. Now it was settled, I wondered vaguely who George was, and why it was so necessary for me to have lessons. But the dusk was thick with flower-scents, and the olive-groves were dark, mysterious, and fascinating. I forgot about the imminent danger of being educated, and went off with Roger to hunt for glow-worms in the sprawling brambles.
Later I discovered that George was my brother’s friend and he had come to Corfu to write. There was nothing very unusual about this, for all Larry’s acquaintances in those days were either authors, poets, or painters.
My new teacher came over to the villa to discuss my education with Mother, and we were introduced. We regarded each other with suspicion. George was a very tall and extremely thin man with a brown beard and a pair of large spectacles. He had a deep, melancholy voice, a dry and sarcastic sense of humor. However, he was not upset by the fact that there were no school-books available on the island; he simply looked through his own library and appeared on the appointed day armed with his own selection of books. He patiently taught me Geography from the maps in the back of an ancient copy of Pears Encyclopedia, English from books that ranged from Wilde to Gibbon, French from the book called “Le Petit Larousse”, and mathematics from memory. From my point of view the most important thing was that we devoted some of our time to natural history, and George carefully taught me how to observe and how to note down observations in a diary. At once my enthusiastic interest in nature became focused, for I found that by writing things down I could learn and remember much more. The only morning that I was ever on time for my lessons were those which were given up to natural history.
Every morning at nine George would come into the little dining-room of the villa, sit at the table methodically arranging the books. He would droop over the exercise- book pensively, pulling at his beard. Then in his large, clear writing he would set the task for me to solve.
“If it took two caterpillars a week to eat eight leaves, how long would four caterpillars take to eat the same number? Now, apply yourself to that”.
While I was struggling with the apparently insoluble problem of the caterpillar appetites, George was practicing some dancing moves in the hall as at that time he was engaged in learning some of the local dances, for which he had a passion. Through all this I would be watching him, fascinated, the exercise-book lying forgotten in front of me. Mathematics was not one of our successful subjects.
In geography we made better progress, for George was able to give a more zoological tinge to the lesson. We drew giant maps and then filled in the various places of interest, together with drawings of the most exciting animals and birds to be found there.
Through all this I would be watching him, fascinated, the exercise-book lying forgotten in front of me. Mathematics was not one of our successful subjects.