groups‎ > ‎

Chapter Twenty-Four. Margaret Wilkins helps the boys again.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Twenty-Four.  Margaret Wilkins helps the boys again.

Soon Margaret and her brother heard footsteps in the corridor and then a knock at the door. "Come in!" called Mr Wilkins, and two boys with very sad faces came into the room.
"Please, sir, we've come to report you, sir."
"Yes, of course! Come in, Jennings and Darbishire. Well, well! You... you've met my sister, I think," Mr Wilkins looked at Margaret and smiled.
But the boys did not dare to look up- they were still looking at their shoes.
"I think you've come about that detention class that we had this afternoon," said Mr Wilkins and smiled again.
"We are very sorry we were absent, sir," said Jennings at last, "and for all we said, too, sir."
"Well, never mind! I'm also sorry you missed it! We learned a lot."
The two boys could not believe their ears. What was the matter with Mr Wilkins? They did not know how to explain their story to him, but he did not want any explanation and greeted them like film stars. No, they just could not believe it!
"I think the best thing will be if you come and see me before you go to bed and we'll do some of these sums together, shall we?"
"Yes, sir... certainly, sir. Thank you very much, sir," Darbishire said quickly.
"But... is that all, sir?" asked Jennings.
"Yes, that's all. Oh, yes, have something to eat before you go," said Mr Wilkins.
He smiled again and took the plate of cakes from the table. If he had to be decent, he decided to be really decent.
Cakes again! That was too much for Jennings and Darbishire.
"Oh, no, thank you very much, sir," said Jennings.
"Well, boy,- have a cake when I tell you to."
"But, sir, I can't, sir."
"Nonsense!" said Mr Wilkins. "Boys can always eat cakes. I remember when I was a boy - well, never mind,- have a cake!"
Margaret decided to help them.
"I think they've had enough doughnuts and cakes for one afternoon," she said.
Mr Wilkins put the plate back on the table.
"By the way, Jennings, I was going to help you with your wall newspaper, wasn't I?"
"Yes, you were, Miss Wilkins. But after I said, I thought - I mean - I didn't think..."
"But I'll be only too happy to help you. What can I tell you about my brother that will be interesting to you and your readers?"
Mr Wilkins looked at hi& sister in alarm.
"I say, Margaret, be fair! You promised..."
"Don't interrupt, dear, I'm trying to think... Oh, yes! Some years ago my brother..."
"Margaret... I... I... Don't do it..."
No, no, he couldn't believe that his own sister whom he loved so much, could let him down.
"Well, some years ago, Jennings, when my brother was at the University, he rowed in the Cambridge crew that won the Boat Race three times."
"Did he really!" exclaimed Darbishire.
What wonderful news!" exclaimed linings. "May I shake hands with you, sir?"
"Why didn't you tell us before, sir? You • not so unfamous as we thought, sir." Darbishire's eyes were shining behind his speckles.
"You'll be the hero of the school when the Form Three Times comes out," shouted Jennings.
"I'm sure you don't want to write in your newspaper about unimportant things like this," said Mr Wilkins.
"Oh, but it's just the thing we want for our newspaper. And I want to take a photo "I you and put it in the next issue of the I arm Three Times: Mr L. P. Wilkins, a member of the famous Cambridge crew." And then he suddenly asked, "What does L. P. stand for? We really must put your full name, don't you think, sir?"
At once Margaret saved the situation.
"All the members of the Cambridge crew knew my brother by his initials, Jennings, So it will be quite correct to write about him in the wall newspaper as L. P. Wilkins."
The happy boys said good-bye and left the room. But a moment later Jennings was back.
"Please, Miss Wilkins, I quite forgot to tell you about that ten shillings. Venables doesn't want to pay, because he says that he was going to spend only half of the money. But if you don't mind, Darbishire and I can send you sixpence every week for twenty weeks
"That's all right, Jennings, you can forget about it.
"Oh, but really, we can't let you..." Margaret stood up from her chair.
"You may know, Jennings, that the Wilkins family can be very severe. So if you don't stop talking nonsense about that ten shillings, I shall become a fire-breathing dragon of the must frantic type."
"Yes, Miss Wilkins... Thank you, Miss Wilkins," said Jennings, and leaving the room closed the door.
* * *
"What happened when you reported to Old Wilkie?" Venables asked Jennings and Darbishire at breakfast on Sunday morning.
"He helped us to do the sums before the dormitory bell last night," answered Jennings.
"Yes, but before that-what punishment did he give you?"
"Well, he was going to make us eat cakes, but we didn't want to, and he let us go."
Venables was surprised, and Jennings and Darbishire were happy-After breakfast they sat down at a table in a corner of a common room. They decided to finish the second issue of the Form Three Times and hang it on the notice-board on Monday.
The first story was about Mr Wilkins, of course.
"When I talked to him last night he told me that he and another student used to get up early and practise every morning," said Darbishire.
"Maybe we'll begin our story with this. Something like: When Mr Wilkins was young he used to have a row with somebody before breakfast."
Jennings wrote it down, looked at it and said, "We can't say that, Darbi. You may say row [rou] and row [rau]. And if you say row [rau] it will mean..."
"I see", interrupted Darbishire, "and not surprised - he could have a row [rau] every morning - I know Old Wilkie. But maybe it will be better to say that when he had a row [rou] he always used a boat, so the boys will understand."
"Well, of course he had a row in a boat- where else?"
They tried many ways to make the meaning clear, but they decided to cross it out, and, wrote that Mr Wilkins was a famous sportsman.
Then they came to Mr Carter's age. "Have you worked out that sum about Mr Carter's age?" asked Darbishire.
"I asked Mr Carter to tell me that sum again, but couldn't work it out with x's and y's; so I used a's and b's."
"And what's the answer?"
"Well, maybe I made a mistake somewhere, but my answer is: he must be a hundred-and-six next birthday. It shows that you can't believe all that grown-ups say."
"You are right, Jen," agreed Darbishire. "You can never tell what they are going to do next. Look at Old Wilkie last Saturday. You can't explain his behaviour, can you?"
"No, I can't," said Jennings.
Jennings and Darbishire finished writing their newspaper just as the dinner bell rang.
They took their stories to Mr Carter who corrected and typed them, and on Monday morning the next issue of the Form Three Times was hanging on the notice-board in the common room.
After that Mr Wilkins had to write more than twenty autographs that morning. Then he shut himself in his room and did not answer the door.
For three days he did not look at the notice-board in the common room, but on the evening of the fourth day, after the boys were in bed, Mr Carter saw him tiptoeing from the common room.
"Well, Wilkins, what do you think of your life-story?" asked Mr Carter.
"Silly little boys!" answered Mr Wilkins. "If only they showed as much interest in their algebra as they have in the Boat Race. Silly little boys!"
But Mr Carter could see that Mr Wilkins was really happy.
Next day the Headmaster visited the common room and looked through the Form Three Times. After that he had a short talk with Mr Carter and left the common room. Jennings and Darbishire ran up to Mr Carter.
"Sir, please, sir, what did he say?"
"Yes, sir, did he like it, sir?"
"I think so," Mr Carter answered. "He told me that such hobbies keep you out of mischief."
"It's very nice of him to say so," said Jennings.
Mr Carter smiled.
"What's the matter, sir? Have I said something funny?" asked Jennings.
"No, no," said Mr Carter. "I was thinking, of your Form Three Times which kept you out of mischief."
"What do you mean, sir?" asked Darbishire.
Mr Carter thought for a moment. Then he said:
"Well, during the last weeks I've noticed some strange things: smoke in the dark room, fish in a chimney which happened after you had come back from the harbour with a parcel of fish and I put two and two together and understood what it all meant. Then I remember, also, a sudden interest in Latin textbooks. I'm not quite sure what was behind it all, but I know that when we organized a textbook inspection not all the boys of Form Three were happy."
"Yes, sir... I'm very sorry, sir," said Jennings. "I didn't know you knew all that, sir."
"Don't look so sad, boys," said Mr Carter. "I think the Form Three Times is a very good wall newspaper. And what's more - I think it has kept you out of even worse mischief!"

Comments