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Chapter Twenty-Nine. Mr Wilkins looks for... Mr Wilkins

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Twenty-Nine.  Mr Wilkins looks for... Mr Wilkins

Jennings and Darbishire hurried downstairs. Near the library they stopped. In front of them was the hall which they had to cross to walk to the dining hall at the far end of the building. Suddenly they heard footsteps. Somebody walked in the hall.
"Can you see anybody?" Darbishire whispered.
"I can," answered Jennings. He could see Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins going from the hall into the corridor on their way to the dining hall.
"Sir! ... Sir!" he called in a whisper. But
neither of the teachers heard his whisper. Jennings took Darbishire by the hand again and the boys crossed the hall and hurried along the corridor after the teachers. But when they turned the last corner they could only see Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins disappearing through the dining hall door.
"After them, quick!" said Jennings.
"Yes, but what if...?"
"Don't argue, Darbi! Do as I say."
When Jennings spoke, the dining hall door opened again and Mr Pemberton came out into the corridor after his supper. He looked at the boys in surprise.
"What are you boys doing out of bed?" he asked.
"Oh, sir! Sir! There's a burglar in the school, sir!" said Jennings.
The news didn't surprise the Headmaster. "Nonsense," he answered.
"But there is a burglar, sir,- really!"
"Yes, that's quite right. We've seen him!" said Darbishire. "Only his back, of course, but I'm sure he was a burglar, because he climbed in through the window. All the other boys in the dormitory saw him too, sir."
"And he is walking about the school somewhere at this moment. So we thought we must come and tell somebody, sir," said Jennings.
The Headmaster did not know how Mr Wilkins has come into the building and believed the boys.
"And where exactly is this man?" he asked.
"We don't know where he is now, sir. It was some minutes ago that we saw him," answered Jennings. "But we didn't meet him when we were coming down here. So maybe he is still on the ground floor somewhere, sir."
"All right; I'll see to it. And you, please, go back to your dormitory," said the Headmaster.
"It's most unfair," Jennings said to Darbishire when they walked back to their dormitory; "We told him about the burglar and he sent us to bed."
On their way back to their dormitory they came to each dormitory and told the boys the news of the burglar. By the time they reached their own dormitory the whole school woke up.
The Headmaster hurried back to the dining hall where Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins were beginning their supper. Mr Hind and one or two other teachers who had already finished their supper were going to leave the table. They looked up at the Headmaster when he came into the room.
"I think that there may be a stranger in the building," said Mr Pemberton.
The teacher stood up from the table.
"There may be nothing in it, of course," continued the Headmaster, "but I think we have to organize small search-parties which will go and look for the stranger. You will come with me. Hind, and we'll go around the ground floor. And maybe you will go in pairs to the other parts of the building."
And with these words the Headmaster and Mr Hind went out of the dining hall.
Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins left their supper and went out of the dining hall too.
"You see. Carter, I was right after all. Now you've heard what the Headmaster said, and maybe you'll believe me."
Mr Carter did not answer. "I want to know who told the Headmaster about a stranger," he thought. "I'll ask him about it when I see him."
They looked for a stranger for half an hour - in classrooms, common room, library, kitchens and gymnasium. But they could not find anybody, of course.
* * *
It was after ten o'clock when the teachers gathered in the staff room. Mr Hind was already there when Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins came in, but the Headmaster was still in the school yard.
"Tell me. Hind," asked Mr Carter. "Did the Headmaster say how he had found out about a stranger?"
"Oh, yes, Two of the boys told him," Mr Hind answered. "One of them was Jennings,
I think."
"Jennings, as usual! Let's go to Dormitory 4, Wilkins, and find out everything ourselves,"
said Mr Carter.
"I don't see how they can help us. They've already told the Headmaster all they know," answered Mr Wilkins. "If you ask me the burglar is miles away now."
"I don't think he is so far," said Mr Carter and went out of the staff room. Mr Wilkins followed him. In Dormitory 4 when Mr Carter turned on the light the boys began to ask
the teachers questions.
"Sir, have you caught him, sir?" asked
"If you haven't caught him, he must still be somewhere in the building. But where can he be?" asked Temple.
"We all saw him, really, sir," said Bromwich.
"Yes, but I was the first to see him," said Jennings. "Don't forget."
"Well, Jennings," said Mr Carter. "Exactly when and where did you see him?"
"Some minutes after the teacher on duty turned off the light in Dormitory 6, sir. I looked down at the school yard and there was a man climbing in through the window
of Classroom 2, sir."
"What!" exclaimed Mr Wilkins. "Classroom 2!... Classroom 2 window! But, you silly little boy, Jennings, that wasn't a burglar. I was climbing in because I hadn't got a key!"
Jennings caught his breath. • "I'm sorry, I'm very sorry, sir!" he said. "Sorry!" exclaimed Mr Wilkins. "Sorry! Do you understand what you made me do? For half an hour I walked round the building looking for myself!" Suddenly he turned to Mr Carter and said, "Yes, Carter, but if I am Jennings' burglar, who did I hear when I was in Dormitory 6 - the man who tapped on the window?"
Mr Carter quickly went to the window. Near the window he saw two tobacco tins with a long piece of string between them "I think maybe this will explain everything," said Mr Carter. "Isn't it so, Jennings?"
For some moments Jennings did not speak.
Then he said, "Well, yes, that was me, sir. You see, I was lowering my telephone to Dormitory 6, but at that moment Mr Wilkins:' looked out."
"That's funny!" exclaimed Mr Carter. "It means, Wilkins, that your burglar was Jennings; and his burglar was you."
Mr Wilkins did not like the explanation. "Yes, yes, yes. But why did the silly little boy drop telephone out of the windows after lights out?"
"Well, sir, we pretended we were going into space. We were on Mars, you see, and we wanted to send a message..."
"Mars!... Space!... Nonsense!" exclaimed Mr Wilkins.
"And what was the message that you were going to send?" asked Mr Carter.
"Well, sir, we were going to tell them that we were doing all these things in the name of peace," answered Jennings.
"You were doing all these things in the name of peace?" exclaimed Mr Wilkins again. "You certainly must be crazy, Jennings!"
It was too late, decided Mr Carter, to ask any more questions. So he turned off the light in Dormitory 4, and together with Mr Wilkins he went back to his cold supper.