When Jennings and Darbishire were takings off
their clothes in the dormitory that evenings, the boy who took part in
the competitions came up to them.
"Have you already read those poems?" asked Bromwich.
"Yes, there was only one good poem," answered Jennings.
"Mine?" asked Bromwich.
"No. Yours went into the waste-paper basket."
"Oh!" exclaimed Bromwich. "I've spent a lot of time on that poem."
"And mine?" asked Temple.
"Yours was very poor, too," said Jennings. "I
don't want to tell you who is the winner, because it's still a secret,
but if you keep it I'll tell you that Venables' poem is the best."
"Good old Venables!" cried Temple.
"Hey, Venables, you've taken the first prize in the wall-newspaper competition!" cried Atkinson.
Venables was washing his face at the washbasin. He turned his head.
"Have I?" he exclaimed. He quickly dried his face on the towel and came up to Darbishire and Jennings.
"When shall I get the cake?" asked Venables.
Jennings began to take off his shoes. He "did not hear" the question.
"When shall I get the cake?" Venables repeated.
"You see," said Jennings. "We don't have the cakes yet."
"What!" exclaimed Venables. "But you've promised it!"
"Yes, you've promised a big cake. And there must be a big cake," said Atkinson.
"If I don't get my prize, I'll..."
"All right, all right! Don't get angry. You'll get your prize," said Jennings.
"The big cake?" asked Venables.
"No, something ten times better."
"Ten times better? What?"
"It's a secret. You will know tomorrow, and I'm sure you'll like it."
At that moment Jennings did not know anything
about the prize himself. But what could he say? There was no other way
open to him.
When all the boys went to their beds Darbishire said to Jennings:
"It's a good thing you've thought of something, Jen. What is it?"
"I don't know yet."
"But you said...you said we could give him
something ten times better than a big cake. What shall we give him?..
Can't we sell something and buy something else for the money?"
"I'm not going to say good-bye to my camera or my printing set, thank you very much."
"No, I mean some old thing that costs a lot
because it's old. You'll be surprised to know how much old things
sometimes cost. My father knows a man who has a book which was published
at the time of Julius Caesar, and he says it costs a hundred pounds."
"Who says - Julius Caesar?"
"No, you silly! My father says. It's a rare first edition, you see."
"But I don't have anything that was published at the time of Julius Caesar. Maybe my Latin textbook."
"Oh, no. I'm talking about some first editions that people buy when they are a hundred years old."
"I don't think my Latin textbook is younger
than a hundred," Jennings said with a smile. "And I remember the words
'first edition' on the first page of the book. There are only two books
in school like it - Venables' and mine. All the other boys have much
"Don't be silly, Jennings! You are not going to tell me that your Latin book is valuable."
Jennings decided to see for himself. There were
still some minutes before the lights were put out. He got out of bed,
hurried out of the dormitory, went to his desk in the classroom and
found the book. He opened it and read: A First Latin Grammar by A.
Grimshaw. First Edition MCMLXII (1962).
Jennings tried to translate Roman numerals. "That must be... Yes, of course: 1852!"
He took the book and hurried out of the
classroom. "First I must find out if the book is valuable," he thought
when he ran to the dormitory. "If it is valuable I'll sell it for -
well, Darbishire says a hundred pounds - for ten shillings, maybe. So
I'll have money to buy Venables his cake and I'll leave some money to
buy a newer edition of the book." He read the price: four-and-sixpence.
"What will Mr Penberton say if I come into class without my Latin
Grammar? So I will have to buy a newer edition of the book."
He was near the door of the dormitory when he heard a voice.
"Come here, Jennings." It was the Headmaster.
It was too late to hide the Latin book.
"Do you know, Jennings, that your dormitory light were put out five minutes ago?"
Jennings said something, which could mean "Yes-sir" or "No-sir"
"Then I don't understand, Jennings, why you are not in bed."
"I went to my classroom to get a book, sir."
"And how are you going to read it in the dark?"
asked the Headmaster. But at that moment he looked at the book, which
Jennings was holding, and his expression changed. "Grimshaw's Latin
Grammar! Well, well, Jennings, I must say that I am surprised. Does this
mean that you have at last decided to begin to learn Latin?"
"Oh, I don't know, sir. I... I... I was going
to look through it before lights were out if there was time. Or maybe in
the morning, before I get up, sir."
"Very good, Jennings. You have left it too late
for this evening, but I think that there is no better thing than to
read A Latin Grammar in the morning. It's a very valuable book."
"Yes, sir. Do you mean that it's a rare book, sir?"
"I mean that it's very difficult to get it. I
ordered some copies many months ago, but I haven't yet got them,"
answered the Headmaster. "A very interesting man - Mr Grimshaw. I
attended his lectures at the university."
Jennings opened his eyes wide in surprise. "You... you've seen him, sir?"
"Mr Grimshaw must be a hundred and fifty years old," THOUGHT Jennings. "No wonder he was interesting."
"It says here, sir," Jennings pointed to the first page, "that he wrote the book in 1852."
Mr Pemberton looked at the page.
"No, Jennings. MCMLXII is - well, try to read it yourself. Good night."
The Headmaster went away. "He is a good boy,
that Jennings," he thought on the way to his room. "Of course it was
silly of him to make a mistake of a hundred years when he was
translating the Roman numerals. But after he knows his Latin grammar he
will understand. No, he isn't a bad boy, that Jennings."
Jennings hurried into his dormitory. It was dark there. But Darbishire was not sleeping. He was waiting for his friend.
"Have you got it, Jen?" he asked in a whisper.
"Yes, you are quite right. The Headmaster says that it's a rare and valuable book."
"Did he say that?"
"He used other words, but that's what he meant. And I think it's very old because the author is dead."
"How do you know he is dead?"
"It says so in the book, it calls him a Late Lecturer."
"That's nothing. Maybe it means that he was usually late for his lectures."
"I'm sure it doesn't mean that," said Jennings. "I'm sure 'late' means 'dead' here."
"But how could a dead man write a book?"
"Well? Maybe he wasn't dead when he wrote it, but he is dead now."
"Maybe," said Darbishire.
"So first thing tomorrow we'll decide how we can get a lot of money for it."
But Darbishire did not answer. He was already sleeping.