CHAPTER 5: A New Neighbour Brings A Time Peace
“Hullo!” came a voice behind Fernie, disrupting her reverie. She turned to see a boy about her age.
“Hullo,” she said.
“What are you doing?” he enquired, walking toward her. Well, skipping more than walking, with gangly arms swinging to and fro.
“I’m studying the fronds on these ferns.”
“Fronds?” he said, grinning. “That is my name!”
Fernie giggled. “Your name is Fronds?”
“No,” he corrected himself. “I mean, Fronde is my surname. So my family is ‘The Frondes.’ But our family is originally from France and most people mispronounce our name as ‘FRAND, or sometime FRAND-EE. Then my mother started saying ‘Frande’ with the accent on the D, but then people started saying FROND-AH, but it is properly pronounced FROND,” he explained in a rat-a-tat way. “I am Edward,” he said almost as an afterthought, and made a polite bow.
“I’m Fer…” she began, but corrected herself. “I am Fanny FitzWilliam.”
“Oh!” exclaimed he. “We shall be great friends! My father is to teach at university with your father.”
Fernie smiled shyly to herself. Could it be? Could they be friends? But she asked, “Your surname is truly ‘Fronde?’”
“Yes,” Edward nodded in animation.
Fernie was curious, in spite of her shyness of meeting this new person. “Do you know what a real frond is?”
“I dunno,” he said, picking up a stick and tossing it into the brook.
“It’s one of these,” she said, crouching by a collection of ferns. “Did your father not teach you of fronds?”
|In the 1800's, "frond" was a term specific to ferns. It has since|
evolved to mean any fern-like palmate, feather-looking leaf
structure with leaves that branch off from the main stem. A
new, unfurled frond is also called a "fiddle head."
“Father has been away in India and we were staying with Granny but then Father came back from India and now we are all moved here.” He spoke very fast and swung his arms as he talked and then leapt over to Fernie and bounced down onto his stomach to gaze at the fronds. “Are these fronds?”
Fernie smiled. “Yes.”
“Well,” said he.
“Well,” said she.
And then they both looked at each other and smiled.
He looked at the fronds and then at her and said, “I am still rather uncertain as to what fronds are. I do not see how they are at all different from leaves. For are they not leaves such as we have on other plants?”
Fernie nodded. “Yes, they are the leaves specific to ferns. Fern leaves are called fronds. For you see,” as she pointed to the stalk and traced outward with the feathery leaves, "The leaves extend from the stalk. And sometimes, other leaves extend from there. The structure can be very intricate."
|Fern images courtesy of Pixabay|
Edward looked up at the trees and around him and thought about this. He grinned. “I gather I would not talk about the fronds of a chestnut tree, then.”
Fernie grinned back. Did he not know of ferns at all? How was this that he had not learnt anything botanical from his own father. But then, she supposed that if Papa had been away in India, she would not have had the advantage of knowing about fronds, either. Even if it were her last name. Then she laughed anew. That would be very humourous indeed! Fernie Frond.
He laughed with her and said, “What is so amusing?”
Did she dare tell him? She looked at his grinning face and said, “My own father calls me Fernie because I love ferns so much.”
Edward laughed even more. “I understand why you laughed at my name! What a fine joke for you!” and he leapt up. “And now for me! We shall have such good fun in other company. For I would suspect that no one else knows what a frond is.”
“Indeed,” Fernie affirmed.
Fernie looked at the sunlight overhead and surmised that it was close to noon. She sighed and pulled out her timepiece. It was no use. It was not noon, but she could not tell what the hour was. However, she did know that when the sun was at such an angle as it was, it was most certainly time to make her way back home.
Edward looked at her looking at the pocket watch. “Father says I mayn’t have my own timepiece until I can tell time. I am well-impressed that you can tell time!”
Fernie blushed and looked down.
Edward looked at her face with realization and said, “You are still learning! How wonderful for you that your own father gave you a timepiece with which to practice! For how may I practice with no timepiece?" he declared in wild gesticulation. That is what I asked Father, but he did not see my reasoning.” Then he grinned anew.
Fernie looked at Edward. He did not seem to be bothered by his circumstances at all. And he had somehow described her own circumstances as much more advantageous than she felt them to be.
She said, “I must go home now for Mama will be asking for me. Would you like to go back with me?”
“Yes, let us make haste and. . . frond at once, Fernie!” said Edward, and he ran ahead of her down the path. Fernie laughed. He was very quick in both understanding and movement. She had a new friend. She gathered up her collections into her satchel and began down the path. Edward had stopped a little ways ahead to wait for her.
Edward Fronde. Fronde! Of course they would be friends—or as Edward was to say later, they were great fronds.