For one minute after Jennings opened his eyes
that morning he could not understand why he had woken up so early. Then
he remembered. It was his birthday! He wanted to jump out of bed and
tell the boys about it. But all the boys in the dormitory of Linbury
Court Boarding School were still sleeping.
Jennings got up and looked at the next bed
along the line where Darbishire was sleeping. Darbishire was his best
friend, though Jennings was a lively boy and his friend was very slow in
all he did.
"Wake up, Darbi, wake up!" said Jennings.
"What's the matter?" Darbishire opened his eyes.
"It's my birthday today!"
"Yes, of course. Many happy returns of the day," said Darbishire. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep again.
"Oh, wake up, Darbi! Let's dress quickly and go and meet the postman. I'm going to get a birthday parcel from my parents."
Jennings went to the washbasin and began to
wash. He cleaned his teeth, washed his face and hands, his neck and ears
- it was his birthday! - and dried them on the towel. Then he turned
from the washbasin and saw that Darbishire was still in bed.
"Get up, quickly, Darbi!"
"I'm coming," said Darbishire.
The bell rang and the boys in the beds near the washbasin, Venables, Temple and Atkinson, got up.
"I say, you don't know what day it is today," said Jennings.
"It's Friday," answered Venables, a tall boy,
too tall for his twelve years. "It's Friday and we are going to have
fish for breakfast. We usually have fish for breakfast on Fridays."
"Yes, but what else?" asked Jennings.
"What else? Tea with milk."
"No, I don't mean that. It's my birthday."
"Many happy returns," said Atkinson
"We are going to have a birthday cake today, aren't we" said Venables.
"Certainly," said Jennings. "My mother is
sending me a wonderful cake. I'm going to the hall to see if the postman
But when Jennings ran up to the door, it opened and the teacher on duty came into the dormitory. It was Mr Wilkins.
Mr Wilkins was a large and strong man. He could
be pleasant when he wanted to, but he was not a patient man and he did
not understand why the boys of twelve could not behave like teachers,
"Why are you making that noise, Jennings?"
asked Mr Wilkins. "And why have you already dressed? You know very well
that pupils must not get up before the bell."
"Yes, of course. But I hurried to the hall to see..."
"You know well," repeated Mr Wilkins, "that you
must stay in bed till the bell rings. Very well, you will stay in class
during football this afternoon and do some work for me"
"Yes, sir," said Jennings, but to himself he said: "Boys who have birthdays in the holidays don't know how happy they are."
"Please, sir! Mr Wilkins, sir!" It was Darbishire with one sock on and the other in his hand.
"What's the matter, Darbishire? Hurry up!" said Mr Wilkins.
"It's Jennings' birthday today, sir, and he wanted to go down to the hall to meet the postman."
"Oh! Well, if it's his birthday... Well, let's forget about it."
Mr Wilkins looked angrily at those boys who were not celebrating a birthday that morning and left the dormitory.
"Thank you, Darbi," said Jennings. "It was very
nice of you to tell Old Wilkie that it was my birthday. I didn't want
to stay in class during football on my birthday."
"All right," said Darbishire. "You can call it my birthday present to you if you like."
"Thank you very much. Now put on your left sock and we'll go down to the hall and see if the postman has come."
Darbishire put on his left sock, then his
spectacles and the boys hurried to the hall where they saw three letters
for Jennings and three parcels
"The big parcel is my birthday cake. But what is in the other two?" said Jennings.
They opened the parcels at once. There was
Jennings' birthday cake in the first parcel, of course. When they opened
the second parcel, from his father, Jennings was very happy.
"A camera! That's what I wanted to have for my birthday! We can do a lot of things with a camera, can't we, Darbi?"
"Yes, we can," answered Darbishire, "but let's not do a lot of things with the camera. Let's take photos with it."
"That's what I meant. I can take a photo of you
when you are standing up, for example, and then you can take a photo of
me when I am sitting down, and then I can take a photo of you when you
are sitting down, and you can take..."
"There's another parcel," said Darbishire
"Oh, yes, of course. From Aunt Angela."