The next morning Jennings was sitting at his
breakfast with a sad face. "There is no second-hand bookshop nearer then
Dungambury," thought Jennings, "and Mr Carter will never give
Darbishire and me permission to go so far. And if we can reach
Dunhambury, shall we find a second-hand bookshop where we can sell the
book for a hundred pounds or.. ten shillings?"
He was going to talk to Darbishire, when Venables spoke from the other side of the table.
"Don't forget my prize, Jennings. Remember, it has to be something good."
"Yes, what's it going to be?" asked Atkinson.
"I can't tell you yet," said Jennings,
"because... well, because I haven't got it yet. But it's all right. I'm
going to sell my Latin book and buy something for the money."
"Sell you Latin book!" The boys were surprised.
"Yes, it costs a lot of money, maybe a hundred pounds, because it's a rare first edition."
"But what will you use in class?" asked Temple.
"Oh, that's all right. The Headmaster won't know because I shall buy a newer edition."
* * *
There was no football game that Saturday and
the boys could get permission to go to the village and buy sweets there
at the little house that had a notice in the window. Home-made Cakes and
Jennings and Darbishire had other plans. But
before they went out of the school yard they heard footsteps behind hem.
They turned round and saw Venables. In his hand he carried his
Grimshaw's Latin Grammar.
"Wait a minute," he said. "Are you going to Dunhambury?"
"Ssh! Don't speak so loudly!" said Jennings.
"If Mr Carter knows that we are going so far there will be... I don't
know what there will be."
"It's about these Latin books," Venables said
in a whisper. "Mine is a first edition too. So I wondered if you could
take it with you."
"I don't advise you to sell yours," said Darbishire. "Jennings is selling his because he has to buy you a big cake."
"But I want to sell mine, too. Please, Jennings, take it," said Venables.
Jennings thought for a moment. If he could sell one book, he could sell two books at the same time.
"All right," he said.
"Thank you very much," smiled Venables. "But,
please, buy a newer edition before you sell the old book. The Headmaster
will be very angry if I haven't got a book for his class on Monday."
Jennings and Darbishire hurried to the bus
stop. They had very little time. It was a long way to Dunhambury, and
they had to be back at school by half past four.
For a quarter of an hour they waited at the bus stop. At last a bus came, and soon they arrived at Dunhambury.
For some time they could not find a bookshop. They saw all kinds of shops, but not a bookshop.
"There must be a bookshop in the town," Darbishire said.
"But, maybe these people have no time to read books," said Jennings.
"Shall we ask?"
"Whether they are too busy to read?"
"No, you silly! Shall we ask where a bookshop is?"
"Better not. Nobody must know that the pupils
of Linbury Court Boarding School have come here to sell rare and
valuable books, because..." Jennings stopped and looked at his friend.
"Why do you still have your school cap on, Darbi?"
"I'm sorry," said Darbishire. He took off his school cap and put it in his pocket.
* * *
At last they saw a bookshop. There were a lot
of old books in the shop window but it was so dusty that the boys could
not read the titles of the books. In front of the shop there was a long
table with many books in it.
"It's very risky to leave these books out in the street," Darbishire said, "if they are valuable first editions."
Jennings took a dust thick book from the table.
"Poems by Alfred Tennyson," he read. "This book must cost a lot," he
said. "It's very thick."
"A hundred pounds?" asked Darbishire.
Jennings looked at the price. "No, nine pence. Maybe it's only a second edition. Let's go in, shall we!"
It was a dark little shop, and for a moment the
boys thought it was empty: because Mr Barlow, the bookseller, looked
like his books. His clothes were as dusty as the books on his shelves
and he looked at the boys through spectacles which were as dusty as his
"Well?" he asked the boys. "What can I do for you?"
"Jennings handed him the two books that he carried.
"How much do these books cost?" he asked.
Mr Barlow took of his spectacles.
"Hm. Grimshaw's First Latin Grammar. Ah, yes, a
very good book." He turned over some pages. When Mr Barlow began to
turn the pages of the book Jennings closed his eyes. The pages were not
very clean and all the pages were not there.
"A very good book," repeated Mr Barlow. "Very good condition. Beautiful binding."
"Oh, do you think so?" exclaimed Jennings. He
turned to Darbishire. "Do you hear that, Darbi?" Then he turned back to
the counter. "How much does it cost, please?"
Mr Barlow looked up at the ceiling.
"Let's say five shillings each," he said.
"Oh! Is that all?" exclaimed Jennings. That was much less than a hundred pound.
"You will not buy them for less than that," said the bookseller.
"Buy them! I don't want to buy them. I want to sell them," exclaimed Jennings.
"Didn't you take these books from that table near by shop?" asked Mr Barlow.
"Oh, no! We brought them with us. They are ours - they are!"
"How do I know that they are really yours?
People often bring me in a book and I give them a good price for it, and
all the time it's my own book that they have taken from the table
"But they are really ours," repeated Jennings. "You must believe us."
There was something in Jennings' voice that made Mr Barlow believe the boys. He looked at the books again.
"These books aren't much good to me. The pages are not clean, and all the pages are not there."
"But a minute ago you said that the books were in a good condition."
"Oh, yes," said the bookseller, "but that was
before I knew you wanted to sell them. Well, I'll give you three pence
"Three pence!" exclaimed Jennings. He got very
angry. "They cost five shillings each a minute ago when you thought we
wanted to buy them."
Mr Barlow put on his spectacles.
"That's business, my boy," he said. "These old
books don't cost... Oh, wait a moment! I think somebody has ordered
Grimshaw's Latin Grammar."
He opened his order book. "Yes, I thought so!
The Headmaster of Linbury Court Boarding School asked me to sent him any
copies which I had."
The bookseller took the two books and put three sixpence on the counter.
"I'm giving you nine pence for each! That is much more than they really cost."
"Just think," Jennings said to Darbishire in a
whisper. "The Headmaster will have to pay five shillings for the book
which he thinks is in my desk."
"We can't take a hundred pounds for it," answered Darbishire.
"What are you talking about?" asked Mr Barlow.
"I... I don't want to sell the books I want them back," said Darbishire.
Now Mr Barlow did not want to give them back.
"You will not get a better price for them," he
said. "Well, I'll give you one shilling and nine for the two of them.
"No, thank you very much. They are not for sale," said Jennings.
"Not for sale! What do you mean - not for sale? You've said you came here to sell them!" cried the bookseller.
"Yes, I know, but now quite suddenly I've decided not to sell them."
Mr Barlow put the books back on the counter.
"You are two silly boys who don't know whether
you want to buy books or sell them," the bookseller said angrily. "Get
out of my shop, and take your books with you!"
The boys were only too happy to go!