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Chapter Ten. All's well that ends well, but...

Antony Buckeridge 
Jennings and His Friends

Book Content

Chapter Ten.  All's well that ends well, but...

"I... I... What the..." Mr Wilkins could not say a word. He was very angry. "What are you two silly boys doing up here on the roof? You know very well that you are not to come here."
"Yes, sir."
The boys stood unhappily before him.
"I'm sorry, sir," Jennings said at last, "but we were not sure which was your chimney, sir."
"But you - you silly little boy, why do you want to put things down any chimney? You're not Father Christmas, are you?"
"No, sir, I am not Father Christmas, sir. We wanted to see of your chimney was blocked or not. Because if you decide to light your fire..."
"But why did you think that my chimney was blocked?"
"They sometimes are blocked, sir. And we were quite right, because we found this thing in your chimney, sir." Jennings pointed to the bird's nest.
Mr Wilkins looked at the bird's nest. Of course, it was an unpleasant thing to have in the chimney.
"Hm... hm..." said Mr Wilkins. Maybe the little boys wanted to do something good. But school rules are school rules, and the boys mustn't break them even if they want to do something good.
"You must leave the roof at once," said Mr Wilkins. "And when you've washed your face, Jennings, I'll give you and your friend some work so that you'll have no time to put things down anybody's chimneys."
The boys went back through the attic-window and hurried to the wash-room where Jennings washed his face.
"I still can't understand it, Darbi," he said. "If that hook went down Old Wilkie's chimney, why didn't it hit the parcel?"
"It's one of those things that nobody can explain," said Darbishire, "like flying saucers, for example."
When the boys left the wash-room they met Venables who was going there to wash his hands before tea.
"Where have you been?" asked Venables. "I couldn't find you anywhere, I've done you a great favour."
"Thank you very much; that was very nice of you," said Darbishire. "What was it?"
"Well, Matron didn't let me play football this afternoon because she thought I was ill. So I decided to get that parcel of fish out of Old Wilkie's chimney."
"What!" exclaimed Jennings. "You mean that it was you who took it?"
"Of course it was! Didn't I tell you that it was an easy thing to do? I wanted to tell you about your parcel before, but I couldn't find you. Where have you been?"
"We've been up in the roof," said Darbishire.
"We tried to get the parcel through the chimney from above. We didn't know it had gone. And Old Wilkie caught us up there."
"I'm very sorry," said Venables. "I only wanted to help you."
"Never mind!" said Darbishire. "My father says all's well that ends well."

* * *

The tuck-box room was of course for pupils to keep their tuck-boxes in. It was not very easy to use the tuck-box room for an editorial office. But Jennings and Darbishire put tuck-boxed one on top another and the desk was ready.
On Friday some envelopes arrived, but the big cakes didn't. The two friends sat down at the desk made of tuck-boxes.
"We'll have to give the prizes tomorrow before tea," said Darbishire.
"Yes," said Jennings. "I can't think that is the matter with Aunt Angela. I wrote her a letter a week ago."
"You said she was absent-minded."
"She is. But I think this time she must remember because it is so important."
"I think absent-minded people must do something about it."
There was still half an hour before bedtime. So Jennings took the envelopes from his jacket pocket and passed them to his friend.
"See which are the poems and which are for the handwriting competition," said Jennings. "And we'll disqualify anybody who hasn't written 'Competition' in the top left-hand corner."
"Competition, competition, competition" read Darbishire. "Yes, they've all got it on... Oh, wait a minute; here's one that hasn't."
"Put it in the waste-paper basket," said Jennings. "We can't have boys who forget simple things, or they'll grow up absent-minded like Aunt Angela."
"But this letter is to your Aunt Angela. And what's more, it's in your handwriting."
"Look. Miss Angela Birkinshaw."
Jennings opened the envelope and looked at the letter. He couldn't believe his eyes. It was his handwriting: '... please send two big cakes...'
"Oh, you silly! You forgot to post it."
"Don't be funny. How could you post it, if it's here!"
"No, I mean I can remember I meant to post it. Well, what are we going to do now?"
"I don't think the village shop has big cakes, but if we get permission to go to town, we can get them there," said Darbishire.
"And where can we get the money? I've spent all my money on another film for the camera. How much do you have?"
"One-and-fourpence. We can pay the bus fares but we won't have any money when we get to town."
"We'll think of something!" said Jennings. "Let's look at the poems and best handwriting. Maybe they are so bad that we shan't have to give any prizes."
There were six envelopes. Darbishire took the sheets of paper out of the envelopes and dropped the envelopes in the waste-paper basket. To his surprise all six were poems.
"Nobody has sent in his best handwriting," he said.
"Well, that's a good thing," said Jennings. "It means that we need only one cake."
"But where shall we get this one cake?"
"Let's not think about that now. Let's see whether the poems are good or not."
The boys began to read the poems and did not like them. All the five poems that they had in front of them on their desk were very poor.
"That only leaves one more. And I hope it's poor too," said Jennings.
Darbishire looked at the handwriting on the last sheet of paper and said: "This one is Venables'. Listen!"

'Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me!

O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!'

"That's not bad, is it!" said Jennings. "Who did you say wrote it?"
"Don't be funny. Venables couldn't write that."
"I'm sure it's Venables' handwriting. But wait a minute. It's only half of a poem."
"It's quite enough. His poem is certainly a lot better than others," said Jennings.
"We'll have to give him a prize, if we can't find that something is wrong with it," said Darbishire.
"There must be something wrong with it." Jennings looked at the sheet of paper. "Look, Darbi. I don't think it is very good when he repeats all the time 'O well'. He says, 'O well for the fisherman's boy' and 'O well for the sailor lad.' People don't say that, do they?"
"Maybe he couldn't think of anything better. But we can't disqualify him for it, can we?"
"No, we can't. we must think of something else for a prize. Oh well, let's think.."
"There you are," said Darbishire quickly. "You've said it."
"Said what?"
"'Oh well.' You said people didn't say that."
At that moment the dormitory bell rang and the boys went to bed.