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Chapter Forty. Jennings tries to make Mr Wilkins happy.

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Forty.  Jennings tries to make Mr Wilkins happy.

The bell for the end of school the next morning meant not only that lessons were over for the term, but also that the boys could start hanging up their home-made decorations.
They quickly brought their paper chains, lanterns and other things to the common room, and soon all the walls and the ceiling were covered with decorations.
"It's a pity we are going home tomorrow," Temple said to Atkinson. "The common room looks so nice now - and we only look at it for half an hour before tea."
The news of Jennings' wish to send Mr Wilkins a Christmas card quickly spread among the members of Form Three. They gathered round Jennings to see the Christmas card.
When it was ready Jennings said, "I'm going to send it by air-mail." The boys looked at him in surprise when he crossed the common room, went up to the window and looked out. The staff room was on the ground floor ten yards away, and the wall ran at right angles to where Jennings was standing at the common room window on the first floor.
The window of the staff room was open at the top and Jennings could see Mr Wilkins at the table.
"Come here, boys!" Jennings said to his friends. "You are going to see something interesting."
With these words Jennings took the Christmas card and made a dart out of it. On one of its sides he wrote: To Mr Wilkins from Jennings.
Then he opened the common room window and launched the dart. At first the boys were sure that the dart would hit the wall far from the window, but at the last moment it skimmed through the open window into the staff room.
All the boys were happy.
"Hurray! Hurray!" they shouted.
"Go away from the window," said Jennings. "If he turns and sees us smiling at him it'll spoil the surprise."
The boys went from the window but Jennings stayed and told them what was happening in the staff room.
"He is taking it from the floor," he said in a whisper. "He is looking at it now."
"Is he reading it?" asked Darbishire.
"No, he's looking up at this window. He's guessed where it came from."
"That's fine," said Atkinson. "I expect he'll come up to you during the party and say thank you."
"I'm sure old Sir will be happy," said Darbishire, "and he will certainly give you back your penknife."
"We'll soon know about it," said Jennings. "He's just gone out of the room and I think he's coming up here."
But the boys were wrong. Jennings' dart did not make Mr Wilkins happy. Moreover, it made him angry. "What game are these boys playing throwing pieces of paper into the staff room?" he said to himself.
He took the dart from the floor, looked at it for a moment and did not even notice that it was a Christmas card. But he noticed that the dart was made from a page of a school drawing album. And this made him even angrily.

When he came into the common room the boys understood from his expression that Mr Wilkins was not happy. For a moment he looked at the paper chains which were hanging from wall to wall. Then he said, "Which of you silly little boys is throwing pieces of paper into the staff room?" The boys were surprised. "Oh, but, sir, you don't understand..." Jennings began.
"So it was you, wasn't it? Jennings, as usual," Mr Wilkins interrupted him. "How dare you throw waste-paper into the staff room! Do you think it's a waste-paper basket?"
"That wasn't waste-paper, sir," said Jennings. "It was a sheet of my drawing album that I've done a Christmas card on - specially for you, sir."
"To put you in a good mood, sir," said Darbishire.
"What did you say, Darbishire?" "I mean we wanted to make you happy." Mr Wilkins was surprised. Now he began to see it all in a different light.
"I see. I didn't understand it was a Christmas card," he said in a kind voice. "Thank you very much! But I've told you often enough, Jennings, that exercise-books and drawing albums cost a lot of money to..."
At that moment an unhappy thing happened. Mr Wilkins made a wide sweep with is arm and broke a paper chain above his head. At once paper chains fell on him like a rain of flowers. He began to drop paper chains from his shoulders on to the floor when he saw something that made him stop dropping paper chains on the floor. Like all the homemade decorations, the piece which Mr Wilkins "held in his hand was made from strips of paper and then coloured. But the red and blue colours could not hide the words on the paper. And Mr Wilkins read: "Wool is the chief product of Australia."
Mr Wilkins became angry again. "What does this mean?" he asked angrily. "How dare you silly little boys to use your exercise-books to make these silly decorations?"
"It's not my exercise-book, sir," said Temple.
"It's not mine, either. I only used old newspapers, sir," said Atkinson.
"But it's the exercise-book of some boy in Form Three," said Mr Wilkins. "So whose exercise-book is it?"
"Please, sir, I think that piece is from my exercise-book," said Jennings.
"You silly little boy!"
"But it was my old exercise-book, sir," Jennings explained, "and I didn't need it any more because it was the end of the term, sir."
Mr Wilkins nearly danced with anger. "Of course, you'll need it again," he exclaimed. "If you finished the exercise-book it doesn't mean that you can throw it away. You must keep it and use it all your school life... And here is a term's work on the geography of Australia, and you tear it to make these silly decorations!"
"I'm sorry, sir, I didn't think," said Jennings.
"You never think, Jennings," said Mr Wilkins. "You must be punished for what you have done." Mr Wilkins stopped for a moment and thought of a punishment. "You will stay away from the party this afternoon."
The boys were shocked.
"Oh, sir, please, sir, let him go to the party, sir," asked' Darbishire. "It's Christmas, sir."
"Be quiet, Darbishire!" said Mr Wilkins. "And you, Jennings, can spend the time on something useful. You can tidy the stationery cupboard." Mr Wilkins went to the door, but before he left the common room he turned to Jennings again and said, "Maybe it will teach you not to tear valuable exercise-books another time!"
"It's not fair!" examined Darbishire when Mr Wilkins shut the door.
"Not fair at all," agreed Temple.
"And all this after you had tried to be decent to him," said Venables.
"And sent him a Christmas card," said Atkinson.
"Well, we can't do anything about it," Jennings said in a sad voice and went out of the common room.


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