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Chapter Twenty-Two. A young lady helps Jennings and Darbishire.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Twenty-Two.  A young lady helps Jennings and Darbishire.

The door opened and Jennings and Darbishire jumped to their feet to greet their friend.
But... in the doorway they saw a pleasant young lady of twenty-five or twenty-six years old. She put her suitcase on the floor, smiled and said:
"May I join you at your table? I don't see where else I can sit."
"Oh, yes, please; that'll be all right," said Jennings.
"Not Venables!" whispered Darbishire. "It isn't Venables! What shall we do?"
"Be quiet, Darbi," whispered Jennings. "It's not polite." He turned back to the young lady and took the cat from the chair.
"I see you have enjoyed all this," said the young lady and pointed to the empty plates and bottles.
"Yes," said Jennings, "we couldn't do anything else but to eat and drink all this; if you understand what I mean."
The lady looked at the boys with interest, but the boys looked at her with no interest at all. They wanted to see Venables with his ten-shilling note in her place. They noticed that she was young and beautiful. They also noticed the initials M. W. on her suitcase, but this certainly did not tell them anything, because there was very little resemblance between Margaret Wilkins and her brother Lancelot.
Though Jennings and Darbishire noticed nothing unusual about Miss Wilkins, she could see that something was very much the matter with them. When Mrs Lumly came with another plate of doughnuts Miss Wilkins ordered a cup of tea for herself.
"You don't look very happy," she said to the boys. "Aren't you going to eat these doughnuts she has brought?"
"No, thank you," answered Jennings. "If I see another doughnut I'll burst."
"Something has happened, hasn't it?" she asked.
"Yes," said Darbishire sadly.
"Tell me what the matter is. Maybe I" can help you."
"It's very nice of you," answered Jennings, "but I don't think you can help us. There is only one person who can help us, and he's not here. He invited us to a feast and when. we were finishing the first plate of doughnuts and cakes he had to go and think Gosh!'"
"He had to go and. do what?" asked Miss Wilkins.
"Oh, he didn't really have to go anywhere to think it. He sat there where you are sitting now and thought it. And after he thought 'Gosh!' once or twice, he slowly turned round and said, 'I've left the money in the other pocket.'"
"He didn't really turn round and tell us," said Darbishire, "because he was sitting in front of us all the time."
"Well, you know what I mean," said Jennings.
"Oh, yes, I do," answered Darbishire, "but maybe this lady doesn't. She may think that he looked out of the window and told us."
"I think I understand," said Miss Wilkins.
"Of course, it is not really all Venables' fault," said Jennings. "Because there is a detention class which we had to go to, and if Venables is there we shall have to eat these doughnuts for hours and hours - maybe all night."
"If you can't pay, maybe you'll let me pay for them," said Miss Wilkins.
"Oh, thank you very much," said Jennings. "But we can't take money from you. You are our guest: we invited you to sit at our table."
"When you come back to school and find your friend you can give me back the money," said Miss Wilkins.
"Well, all right, then; thank you very much. And we'll give back the money the minute we see Venables - if he is alive after Old Wilkie's detention class."
"Whose detention class?" asked Miss Wilkins in surprise.
"Old Wilkie's-Mr Wilkins'; he is one of our teachers; and when he is angry he is like a fire-breathing dragon."
"Really?" exclaimed Miss Wilkins.
She understood that the boy did not know that he was speaking with the fire-breathing dragon's sister.
"Yes, really," continued Jennings. "You just sit in one of his algebra lessons and then you'll believe it. I've met some frantic types in my life, but Old Wilkie!..."
Miss Wilkins was surprised. She knew that her brother was sometimes explosive, but a fire-breathing dragon, or a frantic type - no, that was more than she could accept.
She drank her tea quickly and said, "May I walk back to school with you?"
"Certainly! Then we can give you the money," said Darbishire. "But maybe we are taking you out of your way."
"Oh, no. I'm going to Linbury Court, but I wasn't sure of the way and got off the bus in the village, by mistake."
Darbishire looked at her in some surprise. Was she a parent? "Excuse me, but you are very young to be some boy's mother," he said politely.
"No, I'm not. I'm... I'm some boy's sister," said Miss Wilkins.
She called Mrs Lumly.
"Two pence for the tea and ten shillings for the rest," she said.
Miss Wilkins paid the money and said, "Let's take these doughnuts back to school for your friend."
Jennings and Darbishire did not really want to do it, but they did not want to argue with Miss Wilkins either. So they took the doughnuts for Venables, and all three of them went out of the house. Jennings was carrying Miss Wilkins' suitcase and Darbishire was carrying the doughnuts in a paper bag.
They thanked Miss Wilkins many times for her help, but now they were beginning to think about what was going to happen when they got back to school. It was already five o'clock!
Margaret saw that they were worrying and asked them questions about the more pleasant side of school life. They told her about the next issue of the Form Three Times, and they began to talk about Mr Wilkins again.
"I'm sure he is not really such a monster," said Margaret.
"Oh, but he is - he's worse!" exclaimed Darbishire. "He is not like the other teachers. Mr Carter is very decent; Mr Hind is very decent too; and even Mr Pemberton - he's the Headmaster! But Old Wilkie - no!"
"But what really is it that you don't like about him?" asked Margaret.
"Well, he sometimes shouts at us when we've done something wrong; and we don't mind that. But it is the same when we are trying to be decent. Take this, for example: Jennings wanted to write life-stories of famous and unfamous people, like Mr Carter and Mr Wilkins, for this newspaper that we told you about. You know - what they were like when they were young, and what their full names are."
"We know Mr Wilkins' initials are L. P., but what these initials stand for is a secret," said Jennings. "I don't think anybody really knows."
Margaret smiled. So Lancelot did not want to tell anybody about his romantic name!
"Of course, we didn't dare to ask him how old he was," Jennings continued. "He is not the man you can ask questions like this."
"And did Mr Carter tell you how old he was?"
"Well, no, he didn't, but we could work out a problem and find out," said Jennings.
Now they came to the school gates and Jennings said, "Let's say good-bye now. I'll tell Venables to bring that money to you, because I don't think we'll see you again before you go."
Margaret was sorry to hear it.
"But aren't we going to have a talk about your wall newspaper? Maybe I can help you with your life-stories."
The boys did not think that some boy's sister could really help them with their life-stories.
"I don't see how we can have a talk with you," said Jennings sadly. "Then, you see, we've missed the detention class."
"Is that serious?" asked Miss Wilkins.
"Is that serious! Old Wilkie will be so angry, that he'll - well, if you hear a great explosion in five minutes' time, you'll know that we are talking to him."
At that moment Mr Carter came out of the door and hurried to them.
"Good afternoon; my name is Carter," he said. "You must be Miss Wilkins."
"Yes," Margaret smiled.
"I'm happy you've found your way," said Mr Carter. "If you come with me, I'll take you up to your brother's room. I promised to meet you, because he has been busy with a detention class, but he'll be free in a moment."
Now Mr Carter noticed that Jennings and Darbishire were standing with red faces and open mouths. Mr Carter also noticed a strange expression on their faces.
"I think you haven't seen your brother for a long time, and you'll have a lot to talk to him about," Mr Carter said to Margaret.
"Yes, I really want to tell him a lot," said Miss Wilkins loudly.


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