Reading The Viking Necklace

It hadn't really been a surprise. They had been expecting it to happen. Miss Grimwald asked them all to come into the office: Old Bert, the stage manager; Simon who did lights, sound, and made the tea; Mrs Huckle who sold the tickets; and lastly Tania. Tania had only been working at the Theatre Royal for six weeks. Miss Grimwald looked older and greyer - more tired, perhaps - than Tania had ever seen her before.
'Well,' she announced, 'this is it. I had hoped that I could keep the theatre open for a few more months, but I'm afraid the bank won't give me any more time. I owe them a great deal of money. I don't know what will become of the old place. It's been a theatre since 1872, you know. I'm afraid that it will become a bingo hall or casino or something. Fortunately, they can't knock it down. It's an historic building, you see.' There were tears in her eyes. Old Bert shuffled forward. 'You don't need to pay me for a while, Miss Grimwald, I'll gladly -' Miss Grimwald touched him gently on the arm. Thank you, Bert. Thank you. But I'm afraid that it's too late for that now. It's too late for anything.'
She looked up at the portrait on the wall. It was a painting of Sir Percival Trumper, the great Victorian actor who had built the theatre. 'Sir Percival Trumper acted on this stage. He played Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, King Lear... and soon it will be just another bingo hall.'
Miss Grimwald had arranged to give most of the costumes and scenery to a local amateur theatrical group. Tania was given the job of sorting everything out. The theatre was dark now. The last production, a mystery thriller, had finished. Tania spent two days looking through the old boxes and suitcases, pulling out dusty old costumes that hadn't been used for years. Until the 1960s the theatre had had its own company of actors, and produced its own plays. That had become too expensive, and although the theatre had been able to stay open, the plays had been performed by touring companies, and sometimes by local amateur groups. Tania had to throw away most of the things. They were too old and too dirty even to give away.

It was late in the afternoon when she found the necklace. It was wrapped up in a black costume that had been eaten by mice and insects and was full of holes. It was a rough heavy necklace made of a dull yellowish metal. Tania thought it was rather ugly, but there was something about it that looked strangely familiar. Just then, Simon walked past carrying a huge pile of old books to the dustbins.
'Simon,' she called, 'have a look at this.'
Simon picked it up. 'It's heavier than it looks, isn't it?' he said.
'Have you seen it before?'
Simon frowned. 'Funny you should say that. I was just wondering where I'd seen it.'
Then Tania remembered. 'Sir Percival!'
"What?' said Simon.
'Sir Percival - the old man in the portrait in Miss Grimwald's office! He's wearing a necklace like this.'
They went down to the office. Miss Grimwald wasn't there, but the portrait was. They examined it. 'You're right,' said Simon. 'It's the same necklace.'
Tania looked at the inscription below the picture, and read it aloud.' "Sir Percival Trumper in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1891".'
'He was a bit old for Hamlet, wasn't he?' laughed Simon. 'He must have been in his sixties. Hamlet's supposed to be a young man!'
'Sir Percival owned the theatre,' said Tania. 'I reckon he had first choice of roles. Anyway, the necklace is identical. It must be the same one. Isn't that strange? I must tell Miss Grimwald.'
'It's just cheap theatrical jewellery,' said Simon. 'It won't be worth anything.'
Tania helped Simon with the old books. They were the old theatre records: programmes, playscripts, accounts, and so on. They stopped to read them for a few moments.
'Hey,' said Simon, 'isn't that a coincidence? Look! These are the account books for 1891-92, the same year that old Sir Percy played Hamlet'
'Let's see,' said Tania. She looked quickly through the book. 'Here you are: Hamlet, 14th October to 27th October; then they went straight on to Macbeth two days later. How did they learn the words?'
'It can't have been too difficult,' said Simon. 'I guess old Sir Percy must have played Hamlet two or three times a year for twenty years. It was his most famous role.'
Tania started laughing. They had to buy him a new costume. He'd got too fat for the old one, I expect! It's here. "2nd October 1891. New Hamlet costume (black with silver trimming), Grey and Dallard, Theatrical Costumiers, Soho Square. Twelve pounds and fourteen shillings." That's £12.70 in modern money.'
Simon looked over her shoulder. 'It's a pity to throw these old books away,' he said.
"They should be in a museum. There's so much information in here. They wrote down everything. Look. "Insurance quotation for Viking necklace (Hamlet), one pound two shillings a month. Quotation refused - too expensive."' That was a lot of money in those days,' said Tania. 'The average person only earned about a pound a week.'
'That must have been the necklace in the picture, the necklace you found.' Simon thought for a moment. 'So why did they want to insure it? Nothing else was insured. Perhaps it is worth something after all.'
'This is turning into a real mystery,' said Tania. 'We've got all the books and records. There must be something in them about it.'
They spent hours looking through the old books. Finally Simon found something. He was looking through some old newspaper cuttings from the 1890s. They were yellow with age, and some of them fell to pieces when he touched them. He showed a cutting to Tania.
'Who's the Bard of Avon?' she asked.
'Tania! Come on ... that's what they call Shakespeare! If this really is the missing necklace, then it belonged to Shakespeare himself.'
'It was wrapped up in an old black costume,' said Tania thoughtfully. 'Someone might have stolen it and hidden it there.'
'More likely old Sir Percy forgot that it was wrapped up in the costume,' said Simon.
'It's getting late,' said Tania. 'Let's meet tomorrow and go to the university library. I want to see that picture of Shakespeare!'
The university library was one of the finest libraries in the south of England. They quickly found the Heubelbein picture in a Shakespeare biography, and confirmed that it looked like the same necklace. Then they set out to try to find out as much as they could about it. Tania found some information in a book of art history. The Heubelbein portrait was in it, together with a short text
It took a long time to explain the story to Miss Grimwald. Tania discovered from the records that the necklace had belonged to the theatre, rather than to Sir Percival. When the story appeared in the newspapers, they received an offer of £3,000,000 for the necklace from an American museum. When Miss Grimwald asked for time to think, the offer was doubled. The Theatre Royal's future was secure at last. Two months later, at the Grand Re-opening, Tania and Simon were the guests of honour. The portrait of old Sir Percival had been moved into the lobby. After all, as Tania said, it was the old actor's forgetfulness that had saved the theatre.

Answer these questions:

1. Why did the theatre have financial problems?
2. How did the theatre try to improve their financial situation?
3. Why did the banks refuse to accommodate the theatre with loans any more?
4. Why were the company of the theatre distressed about a possibility of turning the theatre building into a bingo hall?
5. How did Tanya happen to find the necklace?
6. What did Tanya and Simon think the necklace was at first? Why did they change their minds?
7. How did it happen that the necklace had been wrapped up the old costume all the time and considered to have been lost?
8. Why did Tanya and Simon become so much interested in the necklace that they started looking for more information about it?
9. Why did they not throw the old theatre accounting records but studied them instead?
10. Why did they conduct the whole investigation themselves and didn't tell anybody else in the theatre about the necklace?
11. Did Tanya and Simon look into the necklace matter spontaneously or did they follow a certain plan? Why?
12. What would have happened if the necklace had belonged not to the theatre but to Sir Percival?
13. Why did Miss Grimwald ask for time to think over the bank's offer? What else could she wish for but the money? Or more money?
14. How do you think the theatre disposed of the money they received from the American museum? Why?