If hobbies keep the children out of mischief, as Mr Pemberton said, it was riot so with Jennings.
His next hobby (after the wall newspaper) was
home-made telephone. The idea came to him before school one Monday when
he was I looking for his exercise-book in his desk.
"You know what, Darbi," he said to his friend.
"If we had a telephone here I could ring up and ask him if he has got it
in the staff room."
"Who has got what in the staff room?" asked Darbishire. It was not always easy to understand what Jennings meant.
"My English exercise-book: I can't find it
anywhere in my desk. I think Mr Carter took it at the end of the lesson
"I don't see what you are worrying about," said
Darbishire. "If you think Mr Carter has got your English exercise-book,
why don't you go and ask him?"
"That's what I shall have to do. I only said
that if we had a telephone here I could ring Mr Carter up and ask him,
and now I'll have to go there myself."
"You must be crazy, Jen, if you think that the Headmaster could let us have a telephone in the classroom."
"I don't mean a real telephone. I mean a
home-made telephone," explained Jennings. "I read an article in a
magazine last holidays that told you all about it. It's so easy, really.
You need two coffee tins. Then join them together with a long piece of
"And then what?"
"Well, that's all. You talk into one of the tins and somebody else listens with the help of the other tin."
Darbishire did not believe it. "It will never work in a million years," he said.
"It will," answered Jennings. "The article said
so. The sound waves go along the string and make the bottom of the
coffee tin vibrate."
"Still we can't do it."
"We haven't got any coffee tins."
"But they don't have to be coffee tins! We can use any old tins."
"Oh, that's not so bad," agreed Darbishire. "Atkinson has a syrup tin."
"I don't think you will hear much through it,"
said Darbishire. "You see, it's still half-full of syrup. Of course we
can wait till he has eaten it..."
"Well, we can't wait. If I have a good idea, I must begin at once. There must be hundreds of empty tins near the school.
Oh, I know! Mr Carter always has round tobacco
tins. I'm sure he will give us some empty ones. Let's go to the staff
room and ask him."
"It's a pity you haven't got the telephone already," said Darbishire. "Then you could ring Mr Carter from here."
Jennings looked at him. "That's what I said
some moments ago, and you said that I was crazy. Well, now I think you
are crazy, because if we had a telephone here already, we wouldn't need
to ask Mr Carter for tobacco tins."
"No, I didn't mean that. I thought you wanted to ask him about your English exercise-book."
"Oh, that!" said Jennings. He quickly went out
of the classroom and along the corridor. Darbishire followed him. When
they turned a corner they nearly collided with Binns and Blotwell, the
youngest boys in the school.
"Why are you hurrying?" asked Blotwell
"We are going to ask Mr Carter for some empty tins," answered Darbishire.
"Empty tins of what?" asked Binns.
"You are crazy," said Jennings. "What are empty tins usually full of?"
"Well, now you see," said Jennings and hurried to the staff room.
When they came in Mr Carter was preparing his lesson for the afternoon.
"Sir, please, sir, have you any empty tobacco tins that you can give me, please, sir?"
"A lot. What do you want them for?"
"I have a wonderful idea, sir. I'll tell you about it if you like, sir."
Mr Carter listened, and then said, "All right,
Jennings, I'll give you some tins. But I'll tell you that I don't like
your idea very much. I am sure you can spend your free time on something
much more useful."
"But it is useful, sir. It's a new idea," you see..."
"New! It's as old as the hills."
"Well, it's new to us, sir. And I think the
teachers will be very happy, really. You see, we shan't make so much
noise in the common room as we usually do, because we shall whisper into
our tins instead of shouting across the room, sir."
"That's good. But why do you have to whisper?" asked Mr Carter. "Will it not work if you just speak?"
"Oh, yes, sir, it will work, but we shall have
to whisper because the boy to whom we were speaking could hear us
without his earphone, sir."
Mr Carter smiled to himself when he opened the
cupboard door and looked for empty tobacco tins. He was sure that the
whole idea was nonsense. But at the same time he decided not to argue,
because he was sure it was useless to argue with Jennings and Darbishire
now. So he gave them two empty tobacco tins and the boys were happy.
"Very decent of Mr Carter, wasn't it?"
Darbishire said when he followed his friend into the corridor and closed
the staff room door.
There was no time to begin their work, because
the bell for afternoon school rang when the boys came back to their
classroom. But after the lessons that evening they hurried to the common
room and began to work. Some other third form boys gathered round and
Jennings and Darbishire made little holes in the tins, put a piece of string through them and secured each end with a knot.
"The most wonderful thing the world has ever known!" said Jennings loudly.
"I'm sure it doesn't work," said Atkinson. "Where are the batteries? Where is the electricity?"
"It doesn't need anything like batteries or
electricity," said Darbishire. "Jennings says that the sound waves go
along the string and make the tin vibrate."
"Look, I'll show you," said Jennings.
He gave one of the tins to Darbishire and went to the common room door with the other tin in his hand.
"I'll go out of the room. You speak first, Darbi, and I'll answer," said Jennings and hurried out of the room.
He put his ear to the tin. Time passed but he did not hear anything.
The door opened and Temple's head appeared.
"Darbi wants to know if you are ready," I he said.
"Of course, I'm ready," answered Jennings.
After some time he heard some noise in the earphone. "Awah buss oojah barn."
These were the words that Jennings heard. But
what did they mean? After some moments his ear got used to the sounds
and he heard: "...five elevens are fifty-five and five twelves are
sixty..." It was Darbishire's voice! Jennings was happy. "Well, Jen, you
can speak now."
Jennings put his earphone to his mouth and thought for a moment. "What shall I say?
Well, I shall be a space pilot, the first man on the Moon."
"Hallo, Earth!.. Hallo, Earth! Moon calling
Earth. This is Space Pilot Jennings speaking from the Moon. Do you hear
me?.. Do you hear me?" And he put the earphone to his ear again.
"Yes, I hear you," he heard Darbishire's voice...
The teacher on duty that evening was Mr
Wilkins. When he walked along the corridor he saw Jennings at the door
of the common room. Mr Wilkins noticed that the boy was talking to
himself. Of course strange things sometimes happened at Linbury Court
Boarding School; but when he saw Jennings speaking into a tin, he
decided that he must ask for an explanation.
"Why are you talking to yourself, Jennings?"
asked Mr Wilkins. ? "Oh, I am not, sir," the boy answered. "I am talking
to somebody down on the Earth, sir - I mean somebody in the common
Mr Wilkins looked at the closed door.
"I spoke over the space telephone, sir,"
explained Jennings, "from the Moon, sir. You can hear their answer if
you listen through this earphone, sir."
But Mr Wilkins did not want to know 'about the life on the Earth.
"Another of your hobbies!" he said. "I can
never understand why you silly little boys spend your free time on such
silly things. Well, what I mean Jennings, is this. If this hobby leads
you into trouble, as it did last time, I'll - I'll... Well, it had
better not lead to trouble, that's all."
Mr Wilkins left, and Jennings went into the
common room where he and Darbishire repeated their tests. The tests
showed that their home-made telephone could send messages any distance
up to about ten yards. So they went to bed quite happily.