A school story
Two men, John and Edgar, were having dinner together one
night when a conversation started on the subject of school-days.
One of them, John, told the following strange story:
'When I went to the school in September of 1870, I
immediately became friendly with a Scottish boy called McLeod.
It was a large school and the teachers changed quite often. One
term a new teacher named Sampson came to teach at the school.
He taught us Latin. He was tall and pale with a black beard and
he was popular with the boys because he used to tell us all about
his travels to different countries. He always carried an old gold
coin in is pocket, which he found on a trip to Turkey, and one
day he let us look at this coin closely. On one side of it was the
head of a king — I don't know which one — and on the other side
of it were the letters G.W.S. (for Sampsons name) and the date
24 July 1865.
We enjoyed Sampsons classes because he often asked us to
invent sentences of our own, instead of always doing the boring
exercises in the grammar book. One day, he asked us for
sentences using the word 'remember' in Latin. We all wrote our
sentences in the usual way, and Sampson came round to correct
each of us. My friend McLeod seemed to be having some
difficulty in thinking of a sentence and when the bell went for
break. I saw him write something very quickly, just before
Sampson reached him. So McLeod's semence was the last one
that Sampson corrected that day; 1 waited outside the classroom
for what seemed a long time before my friend at last came out. I
guessed that he was in trouble for making a mistake.When he did
come out, he was looking thoughtful.
'What happened? Was old Sampson angry?' I asked.
'No. My sentence was all right. I think. I wrote "Memento
putei inter quattuor taxos",' said McLeod.
'Well, what does all that mean?' I asked.
'That's the funny thing,' he explained.'1 don't really know, you
see. I couldn't think of anything to write until just before
Sampson got to me. Then those words just came into my head
from nowhere and — it was very strange — I could see a sort of
picture of it in my head. I think it means "Remember the well
among the four trees". When Sampson read it he went quiet for a
long time, then he started to ask me questions about my family
and where 1 came from. Then he let me go.'
We soon forgot about the lesson and McLeod's strange sentence
because the next day McLeod became ill with a cold and he didn't
come to school for a week. Nothing happened for about a month,
until one day when we were, again, writing Latin sentences for
Sampson. This time we had to write them on pieces of paper and
give them to him for correction. He started looking through
them, but when he got to one piece of paper he turned white and
cried out, looking very frightened. He got up and hurried out of
the classroom and we sat there for a long time, wondering what to
do. Finally, I got up to have a look at the papers and the first thing
1 noticed was that the top one was in red ink. Our school never
allowed us to use red ink; it was against the rules. The sentence on
the paper said 'Si tu non veneris ad me, ego veniam ad te', which
means 'If you don't come to me, I will come to you'. All the boys
looked at it and they all promised that the sentence was not theirs.
To check, I counted the pieces of paper — there were seventeen of
them . . . but there were only sixteen boys in the class. Where this
paper came from, no one could say. 1 put it in my pocket and it