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Chapter Twenty-Three. Visitor for Mr Wilkins.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Twenty-Three.  Visitor for Mr Wilkins.

If you once stepped under an ice-cold shower when thinking that it was hot, you will know something about what Jennings and Darbishire felt when they understood that their guest was Mr Wilkins' sister.
For a minute they didn't speak. When Mr Carter closed the door behind him Darbishire exclaimed:
"I can't believe it! I just cannot believe it! I just can't believe it! Old Wilkie's sister! No, I can't believe it!"
Jennings did not hear him. He was thinking about fire-breathing dragons and frantic types.
"Why didn't she tell us that she was his sister?" he exclaimed.
"If Old Wilkie was my brother I shouldn't be proud of it. What worries me is how we are going to talk to him now, when she's gone and told him all about it."
They went to the changing-room and left their caps and coats there. In the corridors they saw the boys of Form Three who were going to the school yard after the detention
"Where have you been?" Temple asked them. "Old Wilkie was so angry when you didn't - come that he nearly burst."
"Don't talk to me about bursting: I've just had seven doughnuts." Darbishire threw the paper bag into Temple's hands. "Here you are - eat these! We were going to give them to Venables, but I don't want to be decent to him now."
Through the window Jennings saw Venables who was hurrying from the school yard. Jennings shouted to him. Venables was greatly surprised to see his friends at school.
"Oh, there you are!" he shouted. "How did you get back? I was on my way to the village. I've got my ten-shilling note, now, look."
"You are a traitor, Venables," shouted Jennings. "You left us there without any money and we had to eat all those doughnuts and cakes."
"Yes, we had to eat doughnuts and cakes and they cost ten shillings," said Darbishire angrily.
"But I only meant to spend half of that, even when I was with you."
They argued for some time, but at last Jennings decided that it was time for them to go to Mr Wilkins. They left Venables and slowly, very slowly went to Mr Wilkins' room.
"I think she is sitting there, at this very moment, and telling Mr Wilkins what we said about him," said Darbishire.
Yes, at that very moment Miss Margaret Wilkins was sitting in the arm-chair in her brother's room with a cup of tea in her hand.
"It's very pleasant to be here," she said and put the cup on the table in front of her.
"Have another cup of tea, Margaret," said Mr Wilkins.
"No, thank you, Lancelot. I had a cup of tea before I arrived."
"If you don't mind, Margaret, don't call me Lancelot here."
"But why not? You've always been Lancelot at home."
"That was at home," explained Mr Wilkins. "But here, if the boys find it out, I'll never know a moment peace."
"What shall I call you then - Old Wilkie?"
"Y-yes, well, it's better than Lancelot. The boys call me that when they think that I am not listening."
Margaret watched him with interest. Was he really as bad as the boys thought?
"Have another cup of tea!" invited the fire-breathing dragon.
"No, thank you, Lance... er, Old Wilkie. I had a cup of tea in the village with two of your boys. Jennings and Darbishire they said their names were. I think they are very nice boys."
"What!" Mr Wilkins jumped to his feet and looked at his sister in surprise. "You... you mean... you want to tell me... Well, Margaret, they had to be in my detention class - not drinking tea with my sister. So that's where they were. Well, when I see them, I'll.."
"But it wasn't their fault! They were very sorry that they were missing your detention class, but they couldn't leave the place because they had no money."
"The only thing I can tell you, Margaret, is that they must be punished and they will be punished," said Mr Wilkins.
"Can I see them again before I go?" asked Margaret.
"Why do you want to do that?"
"I promised to help them with their wall newspaper," she explained. "You didn't help them when they wanted to write your life-story."
"No, I didn't. My life-story! I've never heard such nonsense. Well, they'll have to think about it again because I didn't tell them anything."
"That's why I want to see them. I can tell them a lot of interesting things," smiled Margaret. "Do you remember that time when you were very small and you had six helpings of Christmas pudding? I remember Father said to you, 'Lancelot, my boy, this is a good lesson to you never to...'"
"Oh, Margaret! You can never tell them a thing like that!" cried Mr Wilkins.
"Or do you remember the time when you fell down from the apple-tree and cried
and..."
"But you know very well, Margaret, that it wasn't my fault. The branch was rotten - it let me down."
"It wasn't the boys'-fault that they didn't come to your detention class. Their friend let them down."
"It isn't the same thing, Margaret. You must understand that."
"But I can't understand that. It's exactly the same thing, one of those things which often happen to people when they are small," she argued. "And if you can't see it now, try to read about it in the life-story of Lancelot Wilkins, when you see it in the next issue of the Form Three Times!"
"I... I... But Margaret, you can't... you won't..." \
"I shall," said Margaret.
Mr Wilkins came up to the window and opened it. It was too much for him. He looked out of the window. The evening was cool and it calmed him. He began to remember the time when he was. a small boy. Maybe he had really behaved in the same idiotic way as Jennings and Darbishire. Maybe their friend really let them down and they could not come to the detention class. Then he thought about Lancelot Wilkins' life-story in the Form Three Times. Oh, no,
not that!
He turned back from the window and said, "I don't want to be unfair, Margaret, so I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll make them do the sums which they missed this afternoon, and I'll not punish them."
"That's fair enough," Margaret answered. "And you won't... Well, what I mean is, you won't say anything about Lancelot and all that apple-tree nonsense, will you?" • "No," said Margaret. "But you must promise that you will be very decent to them when they come to explain why they were absent from your detention class." "I will," said Mr Wilkins.

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