A Little Learning . . . .

He looked at the enormous green and gold machine standing unattended in the darkness at the edge of the sleeping town, and a gleam came into his eyes. This would be the greatest adventure of his life!
“Let’s do it, let’s go for it!”
“Are you sure, Ben?’ Moira asked. “It looks dangerous to me!”
“Quite sure! I’ve ridden on one of these a dozen times at least. They’re no more dangerous than a fairground ride – come on how often have you sat on the back of one of those and gone round and round? It’s just bigger with an independent engine and its own controls.”

He pulled the wheeled steps over to the two riders’ seats, climbed them and hauled her after him. “Look, this front seat’s for the pilot. There are only three controls. This green button on his handle starts it up, those foot pieces on his harness are for turning left or right, and when he gets where he wants to be he uses the red button to land. And, oh yes, it has an automatic stopping system. We can be over at the island in just a few moments, and no one will know where we’ve gone. Just think – we can be away and free for days!”
Persuaded by his confidence, Moira was so anxious to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere of their boarding school if only for a few days, that regardless of any punishment which might follow this escapade, she climbed onto the rear seat, fastened the leg straps, pulled her helmet firmly down and took a firm grip on the passenger handle in front of her .
Ben, having strapped himself on and pushed the steps out of the way, placed his feet on the turning controls, and looked round at her. She nodded, and with a thumbs up he pressed the green button and a rattling, grumbling sound accompanied the unfolding of the great wings. They raised themselves ready for flight, but to Ben’s surprise they didn’t take off. He pressed the green button again, but nothing happened.

“Where do you wish to go, my Lord?”
Ben was so shocked to hear the deep, breathy voice sounding in his ears that he couldn’t think what to do or say. At last he stammered, “What? . . .Who. . who are you?”
There was an ominous silence, followed by a deep rumble from deep within, “Are you not a Dragonrider?” the voice asked.
“Er. . er, what’s a Dragon?”
“I am! And you have woken me to fly! However if you are not a true Dragonrider, but merely a Pretender, then by all our laws I shall have to take you where you will most certainly not want to go! Pretender, I advise you to hold tight – and pray for mercy!”
And with that the mighty wings began to beat, they soared into the sky, banked steeply to the right and flew, not towards freedom on the island, but straight towards the peak of the volcano which loomed over their homeland.

When the Dragonrider returned to his steed in the morning he was surprised to find him warmer than expected, but dragons were capricious and independent creatures, not to be interrogated about their activities, even by their riders, so mounting, he went about his business and thought no more about it.

At the school, Ben and Moira were written down as having run away – which, of course, they had – but ten years later their case remains open and unsolved.

An exercise entitled ‘A Little Learning Is A Dangerous Thing.’


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