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Diary of Dorkius Maximus in Pompeii, страница 1


Diary of Dorkius Maximus in Pompeii

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Diary of Dorkius Maximus in Pompeii

  Written by Tim Collins

  Illustrated by Andrew Pinder

  Edited by Sophie Schrey and Philippa Wingate

  Cover design by Angie Allison

  First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Buster Books,

  an imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited,

  9 Lion Yard, Tremadoc Road, London SW4 7NQ


  Copyright © Buster Books 2014

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  ISBN: 978-1-78055-268-2 in paperback print format

  ISBN: 978-1-78055-276-7 in ebook format

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  June I

  June II

  June III

  June IV

  June V

  June IX

  June X

  June XI

  June XII

  June XIII

  June XIV

  June XV

  June XVI

  June XVII

  June XVIII

  June XIX

  June XX

  June XXI

  June XXII

  June XXIII

  June XXIV

  June XXV

  June XXVI


  June XXIX

  July I

  July II

  July III

  July IV

  July V

  July VI

  July VII

  July VIII

  July IX

  July X

  July XI

  July XII

  July XIII

  July XIV

  July XV

  July XVI

  July XVII

  July XVIII

  July XIX

  July XX

  July XXI

  July XXII

  July XXIII

  July XXIV

  July XXV

  July XXVI

  July XXVII


  July XXIX

  July XXX

  July XXXI

  August I

  August II

  August III

  August IV

  August V

  August VI

  August VII

  August VIII

  August IX

  August X

  August XI

  About Pompeii and Vesuvius

  Ancient Roman Words

  A Note On Roman Numerals

  June I

  Disaster! We’re all leaving Rome for the summer and going to some miserable little town that’s miles away. Who would be crazy enough to leave Rome, the GREATEST city in the world, for Pompeii, a dump no one’s ever heard of? My dad, that’s who.

  Mum’s not sure she wants to go either. I don’t usually listen to her bonkers superstitions, but Servius, her soothsayer, has made a useful prediction for once.

  But does Dad listen to me or the soothsayer? NO.

  June II

  Mum is still fretting about going to Pompeii but Dad won’t give in. Julius Caesar has ordered him to make the local government pay more tax, and you don’t argue with Caesar if you like having your head on your body.

  Mum won’t stop moaning, so Dad put our slave Odius on listening duty tonight. All Odius had to do was sit there while Mum went on about how terrible it would be if we moved to Pompeii. But after half an hour he gave up, saying he remembered he had to scrub the atrium.

  Odius usually LOVES sitting around doing nothing. At least we know how to make him work now.

  June III

  This is VERY suspicious. Mum came back from seeing Servius today and announced she wants to go to Pompeii after all. Apparently, Servius read some new pig entrails and changed his prophecy.

  I asked Dad if he’d bribed the greedy old soothsayer, but he denied it. Yet this afternoon I spotted Servius in the market buying a bronze statue. Bit of a coincidence that he can afford such fancy stuff so soon after changing his prophecy, eh?

  Just as I thought. The whole prophecy thing is COMPLETELY and UTTERLY pointless.

  June IV

  It gets worse. I just asked my best friend Linos if he wanted to come to Pompeii with me, but he said he’s too busy with his wee laundry. He’s become a real workaholic since he opened that place. He doesn’t even pause for a toilet break, because he can just use the laundry tub he’s standing in. It’s quite an efficient system, really.

  June V

  I was planning to take my full set of gladiator figurines with me to Pompeii, but Dad said there wouldn’t be room for them in the cart.

  But guess what I saw when I clambered in? Mum’s sacred chickens. So we’ve got room for THEM, have we?

  Mum is obsessed with those chickens. The only way she can make any decisions is to ask their opinion by offering them grain. Apparently, she asked if they wanted to come, and they said yes, so she HAD to bring them.

  I admit that the chickens didn’t look much like they wanted to come, but are they really going to squawk for the whole journey?

  Mum cares more about those chickens than about me. I’m surprised she didn’t make me and Dad carry them on a litter.

  June IX

  We arrived in Pompeii as it was getting dark. We had to ride round a massive mountain called Vesuvius and down a road lined with graves to reach the town.

  We entered the city by the Salt Gate and stopped in front of a bald man who was slouching on the floor and chewing a piece of bread. Dad asked him for directions to the house that had the mosaic of a guard dog outside it, but he just shrugged.

  Caesar has arranged for us to stay in this house, and he assured us everyone would know where it was. Everyone except this man, apparently.

  We trailed round the streets looking for the mosaic, only to arrive back where we’d started. The bald man was standing up now, and it turned out he’d been sitting on the mosaic of a guard dog.

  When Dad asked him why he’d misled us, he said he couldn’t understand our accents. Accents? We’re the ones who sound normal. They’re the ones who sound like weirdos.

  I’ve been given a small room at the side of the atrium and I’m currently lying on my bed and wondering how things could get any worse.

  June X

  Remind me NEVER to wonder how things can get worse. Soon after I’d written that last diary entry, Mum threw the sacred chickens into my room. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she’d placed grain outside each door to discover which room they wanted to stay in.

  And guess what? They chose mine. Of COURSE they did.

  Needless to say, I had a terrible night. Every time I drifted off to sleep, the chickens clucked in my ear and woke me up.

  So I got up at first light and went out to see the town. I’d assumed the bit of town we rode round last night was the grotty part, but it turns out to have been the whole thing.

  As I wandered about, a horrible fishy smell kept wafting into my nostrils. After a while, I worked out where it was coming from. It’s this really stinky fish sauce they make here. Every stall sells it, and everyone drenches all their food in it. YUCK.

  I thought things were looking up when Dad said we were having dormice for dinner.

  But when our new chef stomped out of the kitchen and I saw he was that bald man who
d been slumped outside the house yesterday, my hopes fell.

  No prizes for guessing which rancid sauce he smothered the dormice in. What a waste of a tasty treat.

  June XI

  Dad is just as annoyed with this place as I am. This morning he went out to look for the local government officials. He stopped to ask a group of layabouts in the forum if they knew where to find them. It turns out they WERE them.

  He asked for a meeting, and they said he was already having one. It didn’t turn out to be a very long one. When Dad asked them if they’d pay more tax, they refused.

  It’s all down to two magistrates called Pontius and Pullo. Dad said they were stubborn and stupid, and wouldn’t listen to any of his promises or threats. I hope they change their minds soon. I can’t stand it here.

  June XII

  Dad seems to think we’ll be here for a while, because he sent me to the local school today to help me ‘settle down’. I don’t want to settle down, I want to go home.

  He took me to a tiny building near the forum and pulled back a curtain to reveal a small room with red walls and two rows of pupils facing a teacher.

  ‘Hi, I’m Dorkius Maximus from Rome,’ I said, taking my place on one of the benches.

  ‘I’m Marcus,’ said the teacher. ‘We’re doing alphabet today. Let me know if you have trouble keeping up.’

  I wondered what sort of lesson could possibly be called ‘alphabet’. But as I settled down on my bench, my classmates warmed up by reciting every letter over and over again.

  After half an hour, it dawned on me. This wasn’t the warm up for the lesson. This WAS the lesson. And it went on and on and on.

  Speaking as someone who’s heard Mum talking to her sacred chickens for hours on end, I thought I knew boredom. But this was something else.

  When it had FINALLY finished, the boy next to me said, ‘I love alphabet. It’s my favourite lesson. What’s yours?’

  I tried to think of what else might count as a lesson around here. Breathing? Going to the toilet? Staring at rocks?

  ‘Public speaking,’ I said.

  The boy nodded thoughtfully, but I could tell he didn’t have clue what I was on about. This is going to be a LONG summer.

  June XIII

  At least one of us is happy here. I came home this afternoon to find Mum showing her sacred chickens to a group of townsfolk who had gathered in the atrium.

  Mum fed grain to the birds and explained how they were predicting the future. You’d think the locals had just discovered fire from the way they were staring in open-mouthed wonder.

  When Mum finished, people lined up to toss grain at the chickens and ask them questions. A man at the back got really worried when he asked them if he’d have good fortune and they refused to eat the grain. I pointed out that the chickens had just eaten ten portions of grain, and they were just really full, but he ignored me.

  The chickens were probably right, though. No one that stupid could have good fortune.

  June XIV

  Marcus said we were going to have a writing lesson today, and I assumed it would be a little more challenging than the alphabet lesson. I should have known better. It consisted of nothing more than the pupils writing their names on their wax tablets over and over again.

  Marcus told me to join in, so I took my scroll, ink and quill out of my bag. There were gasps all around the room as I began to write.

  I thought Marcus might think I was a genius for being able to write more than my own name, but he told me off for disrupting the class with fancy things.

  Fancy? This lot think scrolls are fancy? They probably still think the wheel is cutting-edge technology.

  The class gathered round as I explained how I write an account of everything that happens in my scroll. I tried to demonstrate by reading the entry about my first day in the class, but then I remembered I wasn’t very nice about them, so I made up a more positive account instead.

  The whole class applauded when I’d finished.

  ‘I can’t believe we’ve appeared in a scroll,’ said the boy next to me. ‘Wait until I tell Mum and Dad.’

  I’m glad I made the account sound more positive. My classmates might be thick, but they seem nice, and it would have been a shame to upset them.

  June XV

  I made an effort to hang around with some of the boys from school today, but I didn’t have much in common with them. I tried to get the conversation going by asking them what they want to be when they grow up.

  ‘I want to be a litter carrier,’ said one. ‘You get to visit lots of different parts of Pompeii and be near important people.’

  ‘I want to be a floor cleaner,’ said another. ‘My uncle does that, and he finds loads of coins people have dropped.’

  ‘I want to be a wee collector,’ said another. ‘For the local laundry.’

  ‘You’re just a dreamer,’ said the first one. ‘No one from our school has ever got a job like that.’

  ‘I have a friend who used to be a wee collector,’ I said. ‘He owns his own laundry now.’

  The boys listened in awe as I told them about Linos’s wee laundry. I decided to practise my speech-making skills by turning it into a rousing speech about how everyone should follow their dreams.

  I can’t believe the dream in question was wee collecting, though. Whatever happened to wanting to be a centurion or a senator or a chariot racer? These Pompeii kids need to aim a lot higher.

  June XVI

  Dad tried to send me back to school today, but I refused to go. I told him the lessons were actually making me stupider, and if I went to any more of them I’d forget how to eat and sit on chairs. He said he didn’t want me moping around the house all day and went out to find me a tutor.

  He soon returned and announced that the only tutor in Pompeii had left town over a month ago. He was called Numerius and he lived in the house opposite the Forum Gate. Apparently he was the cleverest man in the whole of Pompeii, but that isn’t saying much. It’s like being the nicest-smelling worker in the wee laundry.

  Dad says no one knows why he left. Er ... let me guess. Is it because this entire town is full of dimwits? It’s more of a mystery that a smart man like Numerius wanted to live here in the first place.

  June XVII

  I was walking past the Forum Gate today when I saw Numerius’s house and I decided to have a snoop. I was hoping he might have left some empty scrolls behind that I could ‘borrow’, but I couldn’t find any. One of the rooms was lined with narrow shelves. It must have been an impressive library once.

  I noticed someone had scratched the words, ‘Fortune looks over cold water’, into one of the shelves, but it didn’t mean anything to me. It seemed a very strange piece of graffiti. People usually write about how horrible their ex-girlfriends are or what a satisfying poo they’ve just had. They don’t write nonsense phrases like that.

  I’m guessing Numerius wrote it. Given that everyone else around here seems to have trouble writing their own names, it’s quite likely. But why? Was it a secret clue to something? I can’t work it out.

  June XVIII

  Pontius and Pullo called round this afternoon, followed by a large group of slaves.

  ‘Excellent,’ said Dad, striding into the atrium. ‘Does this mean you’ve reconsidered the whole tax situation?’

  ‘No,’ said Pontius. ‘We’re here to see these amazing chickens we’ve heard so much about.’

  Dad tutted and stormed back into his room.

  They crouched down and inspected the birds. Mum came in with a handful of grain and began her usual demonstration of their so-called magical powers.

  Pontius and Pullo watched in amazement.

  I can’t believe those are the people Dad has to persuade to pay more tax. They’re IDIOTS. We’ll be stuck here forever.

  ‘Hello, I’m Spurius,’ said one of the slaves, who came over and shook my hand. ‘I’m a nomenclator, which means it’s my job to remember the names and details of everyone in tow
n so my masters don’t have to. It helps save embarrassment.’

  ‘I’m Dorkius Maximus,’ I said. ‘And I’m a true Roman hero.’ Spurius nodded.

  When Pontius and Pullo were leaving, Spurius pointed at me and said, ‘That’s Doofus Maximus. True Roman weirdo.’ Pontius and Pullo smiled at me.

  I couldn’t believe it. His only job is to remember names and he forgot mine after just a few minutes.

  June XIX

  There was a gladiator show in the local amphitheatre today, and I went along because I thought it might cheer me up.

  The amphitheatre was surprisingly impressive, though the corridors smelt like Linos’s laundry. It was packed with thousands of supporters, so I thought I was in for a great afternoon of gory fun.

  Half the crowd were chanting ‘Celadus’ and the other half were chanting ‘Cresces’. I’d never heard either name before, but reckoned they must be good fighters to get everyone so worked up.

  I knew I couldn’t be more wrong as soon as I saw the gladiators coming out from opposite sides of the arena and wheezing across the sand. Celadus had a small sword and a rusty helmet, while Cresces had a tatty net and a bent trident.

  Neither of them looked like the fighters I watch in Rome. They were fat and looked at least ten years too old for the job.

  In fact, Celadus had to stop and get his breath back before he’d even reached the middle of the arena. Rather than charging in for the kill, Cresces took his helmet off and scratched his head, revealing thinning grey hair.

  When they finally got round to fighting, it wasn’t hard to see why gladiators live to be so old around here. They jabbed weakly at each other, bumbling back and forth. The only thing they were likely to die of was old age.

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