When Venables was going to school from Linbury, Mr Wilkins was gathering Form Three for the detention class. He wanted to begin the lesson at a quarter past four sharp, or better some minutes earlier. "Margaret's letter doesn't say what time she is coming," he thought, "but I think she will arrive at about five o'clock."

Form Three also wanted to begin and finish the lesson as soon as possible.

They sat down at their desks. When Mr Wilkins came into the classroom he was surprised to see that three boys were absent.

"Why aren't all the boys present, when I'm in a hurry," he said.

   "They've gone to the village," said Temple. "But they wanted to come back by a quarter past four."

   "Well, I'm not going to wait for them all afternoon," Mr Wilkins said angrily. "Open your textbooks at page fourteen and read the example it gives." And Mr Wilkins went out of the classroom.

   In the corridor he looked out of the window. He hoped to see the three boys coming from the village. No, they were not coming. But Mr Carter was. He was walking along the corridor, and Mr Wilkins had to stop him.

   "You see, Carter," said Mr Wilkins, "my sister is coming this afternoon, and I want to finish this lesson before she arrives. If she comes before I'm free, will you please, take her to my room? She has not been here before, and she doesn't know where my room is."

   "Certainly," answered Mr Carter. "I will look after your class if she arrives early."

   "No, no. I think I'll finish the lesson at five o'clock... if only I can begin it. You see, three boys are absent from the lesson..."

   Mr Wilkins stopped because he saw Venables who at that moment appeared in the corridor. He was running along the corridor to Matron's room to take his ten-shilling note.

   "Here is one of them. He is in time." And Mr Wilkins called loudly: "Come along, Venables! Hurry up, boy! I'm waiting for you."

   Venables' face was red, sweat dropped from his face, he was out of breath,- he could not speak.

   "I'm glad you are hurrying to my lesson, Venables," said Mr Wilkins with a smile. "Run to the classroom and get your books and exercise-books out of your desk. I'm going to start now."

   In a minute Venables found himself at his desk, and Mr Wilkins began to explain what x's and y's meant. But Mr Wilkins was not very happy when he saw Venables put up his hand.

   "What's the matter, Venables?" asked Mr Wilkins. . . :

   "Please, sir, I can't come into class yet, sir," said Venables.

   "What do you mean - you can't come in? You are here."

   "I have to go to the village, sir."

   "No, you don't have to go to the village again, Venables."

   "But, sir, I must. I've left Jennings and Darbishire there," explained Venables.

   "Well, I have something to tell them when they come," said Mr Wilkins.

   "May I go and fetch them, sir? They'll never come back without me."

   "I... I... Are you trying to be funny, boy? , They know their way back, don't they?"

   "But, sir, you must listen, sir. You see what happened was..."

   "Be quiet, Venables! I don't want to hear another word."

   Mr Wilkins looked at Venables angrily. "I know all your tricks," he thought. "One of you wants to go and fetch the other two; and all the three of you want to miss half the detention class."

   "But, sir! You don't understand. Listen to me, please!"

   "Be quiet, boy!" shouted Mr Wilkins. "Do as I tell you, or it will be worse for all three of you!"

   For the first ten minutes after Venables had gone Jennings and Darbishire continued to eat doughnuts. For the next five minutes they played with Mrs Lumly's cat. At a quarter past four they began to worry about how they could explain it all to Mr Wilkins.

   But at twenty-eight minutes past four they understood that the greater trouble for them was Mrs Lumly: on the table there were a lot of plates and bottles for which they had to pay.

   "Why doesn't Venables come!" exclaimed Darbishire for the fifth time in three minutes.

   "If you ask me, he is a traitor," Jennings said angrily. "Wait till I see him again!"

   They did not speak for some time, but looked at their watches.

   "Have another doughnut, Jen? There's only one left," said Darbishire at last.

   "No, I can't. I'll burst. I've had seven already and two bottles of lemonade."

   "She is beginning to give us those strange looks again, Jen. Let's order some more doughnuts. We mustn't let her suspect anything, must we?"

   "I know, I know!" said Jennings. "But I really will burst if we don't do something."

   Mrs Lumly was really giving them strange looks. She was greatly surprised. "I've never seen boys who could eat so many doughnuts," she thought.

   "Oh, she is coming back again. Try and look hungry!" Jennings whispered, when the kitchen door opened.

   "I'm sorry, Jen, but I can't look hungry," Darbishire said sadly.

   "Well, boys!" exclaimed Mrs Lumly when she saw only one doughnut on the plate. "You, boys, have an appetite! I don't think you must eat any more cakes, or you'll be ill. Let's see now, you've had fourteen cakes and doughnuts and five bottles of lemonade... that'll be nine-and-sixpence, please."

   The time had come to explain and it was not easy.

   "You see," Jennings began, "there was a... a... a mistake - by chance, of course. You see..."

   "No, boys, there's no mistake," said Mrs Lumly. "It'll cost you nine shillings and sixpence, though where you've found room to put it all is more than I can understand..."

   Suddenly Darbishire heard the click of the garden gate and he jumped from the chair. At last! Venables was coming back! Good old Venables! He leaned over the table and whispered the happy news in Jennings' ear. Good old Venables! He must be hungry: he must have something for the last sixpence of his uncle's present. Jennings turned to Mrs Lumly.

   "Will you bring us a last plate of doughnuts for our friend, please?"

   "But he has gone," said Mrs Lumly.

   "Yes, but he has come back."

   "All right," said Mrs Lumly and went to the kitchen.

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