IN BRIEF

LONDON (AP) Beatrice Christopher died in 1922 as she lived, an obscure young housemaid in a magnificent stately home.

Now the chance discovery of her diaries tug at emotions and excite historians with a tale of lost love and rare insight into a servant's life at the time of the Great War.

''It's a lovely little story,'' historian David Smith of Britain's National Trust said Wednesday. ''But it's real importance is that hardly anyone in Beatrice's position wrote and kept diaries.

''Most servants were basically literate, but Beatrice's writing is beautiful and expressive. You can see education shining through.''

As an 18-year-old in 1910, Miss Christopher joined the 15 servants at Kingston Lacy, the 17th century mansion of a lead-mining family, the Bankes, in Dorset, 100 miles southwest of London.

She worked there until she died at age 30, emaciated and wracked by a cough apparently suffering from tuberculosis, or some might say a broken heart.

In 1918 her soldier-fiance had jilted her for a Dutch girl he got pregnant, and that same year her father died and her elder brother, William, was killed in action.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) A $40 million libel lawsuit was filed by a man offended by the ability of computer software to recognize and respond to a racial slur.

The lawsuit alleges that Thomas D. Wallace and his sons, Terry, Todd and Troy, suffered emotional distress after finding the word ''nigger'' in an encyclopedia in software from Compton's NewMedia of Carlsbad, Calif. The lawsuit also names Compton's owner, Tribune Co. of Chicago, and Best Buy, where the software was purchased.

Wallace, who is black, said he discovered the slur when he inadvertently typed ''nigger'' while looking up the Niger River. In response, the computer found references under ''Drama,'' ''Martin Luther King Jr.,'' ''Black Americans or African Americans'' and ''English Literature.''

The word appears in a manuscript, the title of a play, the title of a book and a quote in which someone attempted to slur King, said Tribune Co. spokesman Joseph A. Hays. ''The complaint is without merit,'' Hays said. ''What's more, it's just plain silly.''

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