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Chapter Thirteen. Jennings gives the prize.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Thirteen.  Jennings gives the prize.

Jennings and Darbishire went into the street.
"Just think, Jen. The headmaster takes the Latin book and finds your name on the first page," said Darbishire and leaned on Mr Barlow's table. When he did it a pile of books fell from the table.
"You are so clumsy, Darbi!" Jennings said angrily. "Now look what you've done!"
"I'm sorry, Jen. It was that clumsy table..."
"Quick; pick them up before the old man comes out of his shop!"
The boys picked the books up and put them back on the table. The last book, which Jennings was just going to put back on the table was Poems by Alfred Tennyson. The book had opened when it had fallen down and Jennings took his handkerchief from his pocket to clean the dust from the two open pages.
"I think it's all right now, so we'll put it..." He stopped and looked in surprise at the page in front of him.
"What's the matter?" asked Darbishire.
"I don't know."
"Listen to this on page one hundred and thirty-four of Alfred Tennyson's poems:

'Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me!'

"It's a nice poem, isn't it?" said Darbishire. "You know, Jen, I think I've heard that poem somewhere before."
"I'm sure you have heard it," cried Jennings. "And I know when and where."
"That's right! Of course! It's Venables' poem."
"But it isn't! It's Tennyson's. It's in his book, and it means that it is his! You see what it means, Darbi? Venables never wrote this poem - he copied it from Alfred Tennyson! He tried to deceive us."
Jennings put the book back on the table and the boys hurried to the bus stop. The boys were very angry. Of course, they did not have to give a prize now, a prize, which they did not have. But it was very dishonest of Venables!
At the same time as Jennings and Darbishire were getting on the four-o'clock bus in the town of Dunhambury, Venables went into Mr Carter's room.
"Please, sir, I'm back from the village, sir."
"All right, Venables. And if you are going to the common room, will you put up this notice on the notice-board?"
"Certainly, sir."
Venables took the sheet of paper and looked to it. "There will be on inspection of all textbooks at 5 p.m. this afternoon," it said.
"Why this interest in textbooks?" thought Venables. "And what if Jennings doesn't come back in time? And what if he sold out valuable first editions and couldn't buy any newer editions?"
"Why are we having an inspection, sir?" asked Venables.
"There's a shortage of Latin text books and the Headmaster wants to know how many pupils have on Latin textbooks."
A shortage of Latin textbooks!
"Is it difficult to get them, sir?"
"Very difficult."
"I see. Thank you, sir," said Venables and went out of Mr Carter's room. Why did he give Jennings his Latin textbook? He did not want to get any prize now. All he wanted was to get back his Latin textbook.
In the common room he found Temple and Atkinson. They were looking at the Form Three Times.
"When will they print the next issue?" said Temple.
"There is a lot of work in printing a wall newspaper, don't forget," said Atkinson. "I expect Jennings is waiting for some more news."
Venables came up to the notice-board and put up the notice which Temple and Atkinson read without any interest.
Venables told them the story of the Latin textbooks.
"And he was going to sell them and buy cheaper editions, and now we'll have this inspection," he finished.
"Don't worry. You'll get your second edition when Jennings comes back," said Temple.
"But I shan't. Mr Carter says you can't buy them, and maybe Jennings has already sold the old books before he finds out that there are no newer books."
"But Darbishire told you not to sell your Latin book. It's no good giving you good advice, Venables. It goes in one ear and out of the other."
"Well, let this be a lesson to you, Venables," said Temple. "And your lesson will begin at 5 o'clock."
"And Jennings' lesson,' said Venables. "And I'll tell him something. Just wait till he comes back. Just wait!"
They waited for twenty minutes. Then the common room door opened and Jennings and Darbishire stood in the doorway.
"So there you are, Venables!" began Jennings. "I'm telling you, you are a liar."
"It's a good thing you've come back, Jen," said Venables. "Quick, have you got my Latin book?"
"Never mind Latin books! You are a thief!" Jennings waved a sheet of paper, which he had taken from the tuck-box room on his way to the common room. "You see this, Venables, with Break, Break, Break on it?"
"Yes, I do," answered Venables.
"Did you write this?"
"Of course I did," answered Venables. "I wrote it and sent it in for the competition."
"Well, you didn't write it. It was Alfred Tennyson," exclaimed Jennings.
Venables looked at Jennings in surprise.
"Do you think I don't know my own handwriting?"
There were already many boys in the common room, and Darbishire began to explain.
"Now, listen," he said. "We know it's Venables' handwriting, but we've found out that he didn't write the poem himself. He copied it out of Alfred Tennyson's book. Well, what do you say about that, Venables?"
"But I didn't send it in for the best poem competition," he said. "I sent it in for the best handwriting competition. The rules said you had to write twenty lines, so I copied this poem out of a book. I never said I wrote the poem myself."
Jennings opened his mouth. This, then was the explanation. What a fool he was!
'"Oh! Hm! Yes, I see... But how could we know which competition you meant? Why didn't you write it, well, on the other side of the page?"
"I couldn't do that. The rules said: 'Write on one side only,'" Venables explained. If you don't believe me, look at the envelope."
So all the boys went to the tuck-box room. In the waste-paper basket they found Venables' envelope with the words Handwriting Competition in the top left-hand corner.
"I'm sorry, Jen," said Darbishire. "I didn't see it."
"Yes, and when will you give him a prize? asked Temple. "You promised it before tea don't forget."
"The prize! Now we shall have to give him the prize, because his handwriting is really wonderful," thought Jennings. "But what?"
"Well, we were going to buy you a big cake with the money which we got for the Latin books, but..."
"Oh, I quite forgot about it!" exclaimed Venables. The book inspection could begin at any moment, and Jennings was talking about the money he had for his book. "You can keep your big cakes, I don't want them! All I want is my Latin book back."
"Do you want it more than anything else?" asked Jennings with a hope.
"Yes, it's the only thing that I want; but if you've sold it, well..."
Jennings smiled and said loudly, "We are now going to give the Form Three Times best handwriting prize to the happy winner."
"I don't want a prize. I want my Latin textbook back," said the happy winner.
"We are not going to give him a big cake. We are going to give the winner something which he will like ten times better."
With these words Jennings took two copies of Grimshaw's Latin Grammar from his pocket and gave one of them to the winner.
"So you didn't sell it," exclaimed the winner who was really very happy now.


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