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Chapter Thirty-Five. Jennings' plan to get back his exercise-book.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Thirty-Five.  Jennings' plan to get back his exercise-book.

When the lessons were over at the end of afternoon school Jennings hurried along the corridor to the staff room. He found Mr Wilkins in an arm-chair. He was thinking over a crossword puzzle. On the table near him was the pile of Form Three's geography exercise-books.
"Sir, please, sir, may I have my geography exercise-book for a minute, sir?" Jennings asked.
Mr Wilkins didn't even look up from his crossword puzzle. "Of course you can't have it back now. You will have it back when I've corrected it," he answered.
"But, sir, it's very important. I've just remembered something."
"You know quite well that you can't make any changes when the test is over. Well, you could look up the right answers and..."
"Oh, no, it's not that," said Jennings. "I don't want to change anything I've written 111 the test, sir."
"Then why do you want your book back?"
"Well, sir, I - I..." There was no short answer to this question. "I just want to have It back," finished Jennings.
"I don't understand, boy, what you are talking about. You'll have your book back tomorrow when I've corrected the test and not before."
"Thank you, sir," said Jennigs and slowly went out of the staff room.
He came back to his classroom where three of his friends were looking for some paper to make paper chains.
"Something awful has happened," he said and then told Darbishire, Temple and Atkinson the whole story.
"And his name under the portrait in big letters, too!" exclaimed Darbishire. "What are you going to do?"
"It's a pity you made the drawing so funny," said Atkinson. "His ears are not as big as you made them, Jen."
"And his eyes are not so big, either," said Temple.
"And the words in the balloon about silly little boy! I can understand what he'll say when he sees it."
"He mustn't see it," Jennings cried. "I must get my exercise-book back and rub out the picture while there is still time."
But it was very difficult to do, of course. Nobody could tell when Mr Wilkins was going to correct the tests, when Jennings could rub out the drawing or when the staff room was empty and the teachers were in other parts of the building.
"I shall go to the staff room after tea with an eraser and knock on the door," said Jennings.
"And what if there are any teachers there?" asked Darbishire.
"Then I shall - I shall..." Jennings thought" for a moment. "I shall say something like:
Do they think the weather will be fine tomorrow. And then I'll go back and try again later."
"And they may be there when you go back again. And you can't go all evening and ask them about the weather every five minutes," said Atkinson.
"Well, you think of something better then," said Jennings. "All of you! All think of something."
They thought!... And for some minutes they did not say a word. It was Jennings' fault, of course, but they wished to do all they could to help him.
"I think we must all help you," said Temple.
"Thank you, but how?" asked Jennings
"One of us will go to the staff room," Temple began to explain his plan, "and if he finds that there are any teachers there, he will make his excuse and come back. Then the second one will do the same. Then the third. Then the fourth. But I'm sure one of us will succeed."
The boys thought it was a good idea. They decided that Mr Wilkins was not going to correct the tests till the boys were in bed, because he was on duty that evening. So the best time for them was during the half hour, before the dormitory bell, when the teacher on duty usually walked round the building.
"That's what we'll do, then," Jennings decided. "We'll synchronize our watches, because we mustn't all go there at the same time, and we'll draw names out of a hat to see who goes first."
So they wrote their names on pieces of paper and put them in a pencil-box (they had no hat). Then Jennings drew the pieces of paper.
"We'll go at five-minute intervals," he said
"The first will knock on the door of the staff room at nineteen thirty-five."
"What time is that?" asked Atkinson.
"Twenty-five minutes to eight, of course. If the staff room is empty he rubs out the drawing and reports to the others that he has done the work. If there is somebody there, of course, he makes his excuse and goes away, and the next one will go five minutes later."
"I can never think of a good excuse when I need it," said Darbishire.
"Then begin to think now," said Jennings. "It isn't difficult. One of us can ask him to sign his autograph book..."
"A very good excuse," said everybody.
"...and somebody else can ask him..." For the moment he could not think of another good excuse. "Well, somebody else can ask him something else; it doesn't matter what. The main thing is we all four go at different • times and all have different excuses. We must do it, by hook or by crook."
The tea bell rang and the boys went to the dining hall. They all liked their plan which really was very good. But it was a pity that they did not have time to think of different excuses which they could use.
At half past seven that evening Mr Wilkins put his crossword puzzle on the table and stood up from his armchair. "It's time for me to walk round the school and see what those boys are doing," he said to Mr Hind who was also in the staff room.
"What if I ask you to change duties with me?" said Mr Hind. "A friend of mine has invited me to the cinema tomorrow night when I must be on duty, and I'm looking for somebody to change duties with me."
"All right," agreed Mr Wilkins. "It'll give me a chance to correct Form Three's geography test." Mr Wilkins sat down again, and Mr Hind left the room. "Form Three's geography test! Yes, of course, I'll begin it at once," decided Mr Wilkins. He looked at the table and saw his unfinished crossword puzzle. "Maybe I'll finish that first."
He took the crossword puzzle from the table. The most difficult was number 17 down. He began to think what it could be.


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