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Chapter Thirty-Three. Jennings' masterpiece.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Thirty-Three.  Jennings' masterpiece.

When Jennings' feet were in shoes again, the geography lesson was nearly half over.
"You'll be sorry that you've spent all this time on that nonsense," Mr Wilkins said to the class. "I was going to repeat some important things with you at the end of the lesson for next week's test. But there won't be time for that now - thanks to Jennings."
"Test, sir?" asked Temple in surprise. "What test, sir?"
"The test that I shall give you next week on Australia," said Mr Wilkins. "You must learn the last lesson in your own time because those of you whose work isn't good enough will be - will be..." Mr Wilkins could not think of any punishment. "Well, I'm warning you," he finished.
Jennings decided to do the geography test well. That evening he was going to read the geography textbook for half an hour before bed time. He sat down at a table in the common room and began to read about the climate of Australia, but after ten minutes he turned to Darbishire who was sitting at the other side of the table. ,
"I want to live in Australia," Jennings said to his friend.
"Do you really? Why?"
"You see, when we have winter they have summer. So you can, for example, eat your Christmas dinner in the garden when the sun shines brightly."
"I don't think I'll like it," said Darbishire. "I like snow on my Christmas cards," and he passed Jennings a sheet of paper with a half-finished drawing of a home-made Christmas card. "There aren't many days left before Christmas. So I've already begun to draw some home-made Christmas cards."
Home-made Christmas cards were a popular hobby at the end of the autumn term. Darbishire showed Jennings his first Christmas card which he wanted to send to his grandmother. The people in the card were going round the Christmas tree and singing.
Jennings did not like his friend's drawing.
"Why don't these funny little people eat their Christmas puddings, instead of carrying them on their heads?" he asked.
"You don't understand. These are their hats," explained Darbishire. "Wait till I've coloured the drawing, and then you'll see. I'm going to make a lot of Christmas cards and send them to all my relations."
"But why only Christmas cards?" asked Jennings. "Let's make some decorations and hang them up in the common room before the Christmas party."
The boys usually had their Christmas party on the last day of the term, and Darbishire liked his friend's idea.
"We can make lanterns and very long paper chains," said Darbishire. "We've got twenty days before the Christmas party. So if each of us makes a yard of paper chain every day that will give forty yards."
"That's nothing," said Jennings. "When we tell the boys about the idea and they all will begin to make paper chains... Let's see now. Seventy-nine boys will work and make a yard a day..."
"I don't think everybody will," said Darbishire. "Let's say fifty. It will be easier to count."
"All right, then, fifty. Fifty boys will make twenty yards a day. Oh, a thousand yards!"
"That's wonderful!" exiaimed Darbishire. "The common room with more than half a mile of coloured paper chains will be beautiful."
"More than half a mile! If we put it in a line the chain will go from the school to Linbury village," said Jennings.
"But where can we get all that paper?" asked Darbishire.
"We'll go through all the waste-paper baskets and use the wrapping-paper from boys' parcels," answered Jennings. "And if that isn't enough we'll..." He looked at his geography exercise-book. "Well, what about old exercise-books?"
"I don't think the teachers will like that," 1 said Darbishire.
"I don't see why not. We don't use our old exercise-books, do we?"
"I know, but..."
"Take this old geography exercise-book, for example. I finished it this afternoon, and I'll begin a new exercise-book next lesson. So why can't I use this exercise-book for a paper 1 chain? We throw away a lot of old exercise-books at the end of every term."
When Jennings and Darbishire explained their plan most of the boys of Linbury Boarding School liked it very much. After a long conversation the boys decided to decorate with I paper chains not only the common room, but the corridors, too. They also organized a corn petition to see which dormitory could make more paper chains. Then the boys went to Mr Carter and asked for his permission.
"All right," said Mr Carter. "But here are two things that I want to warn you about. First. You must use only waste paper for your chains. Second. You mustn't begin to hang up your decorations till the day of the party."
The boys agreed, and the next day nearly all the boys were busy making paper chains:
they cut paper into strips, coloured them and gummed the ends together.
Soon they had used all the waste paper that they could find and had to look for some more. They used newspapers, magazines and letters from home.
All the free time that was left from decorations the boys spent on drawing Christmas cards.
Atkinson was drawing a Christmas card for his favourite uncle when Jennings came into Form Three classroom before Mr Wilkins' geography lesson on Friday afternoon. He looked at Atkinson's card.
"What a funny pillar-box you are drawing!" said Jennings.
"It isn't a pillar-box," said Atkinson. "What you call a pillar-box is Father Christmas. See? You don't know anything about art, Jennings."
"Well, I bet I could draw a better man," said Jennings.
"I bet you couldn't!" said Atkinson. "Do your best drawing of a man and we'll ask somebody to say if it's better than my Father Christmas."
Jennings opened his desk and began to look for pencil and paper.
"All right," he agreed. "Wait till I find something to draw on, and I'll show you."
He could not find anything but some brown paper which he wanted to use for the decorations. So he got a pile of exercise-books out of the desk, took one and opened it at a clean page.
"Hey, you can't draw in this, Jen,- not in your geography exercise-book," Atkinson warned him.
"I can rub it out," said Jennings and began to draw the head and shoulders of a middle-aged man. The drawing was very poor: the ears were too large, the eyes were like marbles, the neck was too short.
But when Darbishire saw the drawing he was sure that he knew that man. "I say, Jen, that is a good picture. I've recognized him at once."
Jennings looked up in surprise. It was only a drawing of a man's head. "Recognized whom?" he asked.
"Well, I know who you meant," said Darbishire and began to laugh. He called the boys who were coming into the classroom for afternoon school. "Hey, Venables! Temple! Come here and look at old Jen's drawing. It's wonderful." The boys gathered round Jennings' desk.
"Do you recognize the man?" asked Darbishire.
Like Jennings, Temple and Venables could not recognize the man in the picture.
"Is it a snowman?" asked Temple.
"No, try again," said Darbishire. He was surprised that nobody could recognize the man.
Temple looked at the picture again. No, I he could not recognize the man. It was just a man. That's all. "Old Wilkie," he said for fun.
"Of course!" exclaimed Darbishire. "Who else? Of course it's Old Wilkie!"
There was certainly no resemblance between Jennings' picture and Mr Wilkins. But the boys were only too ready to recognize him in the drawing. Temple was happy with his guess. Venables did not want to say anything against Jennings' drawing because Jennings was expecting a parcel of food from his Aunt Angela. Atkinson did not like Mr Wilkins and was only too happy to see a caricature of him.
"Yes, so it is. I can see it now," said Venables and laughed loudly to show that he liked the picture.
"I can't understand why I couldn't see it before," said Atkinson. "It's a masterpiece, if you ask me."
Jennings was happy.
"Well, it isn't a masterpiece," he said modestly. "But I think it's not a bad picture of Old Wilkie."
Now he decided to make the picture funnier. He drew a balloon coming out of the man's mouth and in it he wrote the words, I-I-I... You, silly little boy!
When the bell for the afternoon school rang the other boys of Form Three came into the classroom. At once Darbishire showed them the masterpiece.
"Come and look at it," he said to Jones and Crosby. "Do you know who it is?"
Jones looked at the exercise-book and smiled. The drawing meant nothing to him, but when he read the words he said, "Yes, of course. It's Old Wilkie."
"You see," cried Darbishire. "If Jones recognizes it, everybody will."
Jennings was happy. Now he himself was Sure that it was Old Wilkie's picture, and he wrote under the drawing L. P. Wilkins.