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
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
"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
"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
"Yes, I really want to tell him a lot," said Miss Wilkins loudly.