And so they began the morning’s lesson, which was devoted to the dull task of copying. Hazel and Harriet sat together, their book open on the table, and began copying its contents onto a sheet of paper. No talking was allowed, looking around the classroom was not allowed. They must sit for two hours and copy from the books until the bell rang and they could run around and shake the boredom from their bones.
Harriet was dutifully copying, but Hazel could not bear it. She gazed round the classroom at the other animals: the drooping stripy head of the badger; the rabbit’s ears, limp with boredom.
Harriet nudged her and glanced at the book.
“Stop looking around. Mrs Screech will see.”
Hazel reluctantly turned her attention back to the book. They were copying ‘Grains of the World’ and had just finished a long description of cereals. Harriet turned the page and sighed to see a long paragraph entitled ‘Nuts of the World’.
“Hazel,” screeched Mrs Screech. “Were you talking?”
“I was asking Harriet about the page.”
“Well, stop it at once and get on with your work. We’re here to learn.”
Hazel surveyed the page: ‘Nuts of England’, ‘Nuts of Europe’, ‘Tropical Nuts’. At least there were some pictures to look at.
She looked at the page again and her ears pricked up with excitement. Pointing to a picture of a coconut, she nudged her sister again.
“I’ve seen one,” she whispered.
“What?” replied Harriet.
“But we’re in England. It’s a tropical nut. It says so in the book.”
“I’ve seen one. In the house at the top of the valley.”
Harriet looked at her sister in horror, realising what was coming next.
“Hazel, you can’t.”
“I’m going to get it. For the Harvest Table. That’ll show them.”
“You can’t,” said her sister in an appalled tone. “It’s miles. You’ll be seen. It’s dangerous.”
“Hazel!” shouted Mrs Screech, “That’s the second time I’ve spoken to you. Go out of the classroom and stand under the Naughty Tree.”
“I’m going!” shouted Hazel in a remarkably similar tone, and turning to her sister, said in a fierce whisper, “And you’re going to help me.”
“I am not,” replied Harriet. “Certainly not. Definitely not.” She curled her tail at a defiant angle and turned back to her copying.