It was seven o'clock when Jennings got out of
bed the next morning and began to wake Darbishire up. But Darbishire did
not want to get up so early. The weather was bad: it was raining, and
his bed was so warm.
"Can't we do it some other time? One day next week, for example," Darbishire said.
"No, we can't. The fish won't keep."
Darbishire got up and began to dress.
The boys dressed and went out of the dormitory.
They went to the tuck-box room for the fish and then to the dark room.
When they went into the dark room Darbishire quickly bolted the door.
"It's good we didn't meet any teacher in the corridor," he said. "What shall we do first -fry the fish or develop the film?"
"I've developed the film already," Jennings
answered to his friend's surprise. "I came here yesterday after supper.
So now we have a lot of time for our wonderful breakfast."
"Are the photos good?" asked Darbishire.
"Y-y-yes," answered Jennings.
That was not the time to talk about the photos.
Jennings took a developing dish and washed it. Then he took the butter
from his pocket and some fish from the parcel, and put them on the
"Shut the window, Darbi. If there is somebody
in the school yard he will know that we are not developing a film if he
sees that the window is open."
The window-panes were black, and when
Darbishire shut the window it was dark in the room. Jennings took a
candle out of the red lamp, and lit it. Then he lit the gas and held the
developing dish over the gas. And then!..
Tongues of flame were licking the sides of the developing dish and leaping towards the ceiling.
Jennings dropped the developing dish on the floor.
"What's the matter?" asked Darbishire.
Jennings did not answer. The developing dish
was burning on the floor. Jennings took the parcel of fish from the
table and dropped it on the burning developing dish. The boys saw a
cloud of smoke but the fire was out.
"What's the matter?" Darbishire repeated his question.
"The developing dish was celluloid," answered Jennings.
"But why did you use a celluloid developing dish, Jen? Every little boy knows that it burns."
"Let's not talk about it. It's all over now."
But it was not all over. The room was full of smoke. The boys began to cough.
"Open the window, quick," said Jennings.
Darbishire ran up to the widow and put his head out into the cool morning.
"You don't know, Jen, what a nice and cool morning it is!" he said and took off his spectacles.
Then he put his spectacles on again, looked through them and quickly shut the window.
"What's the matter?" asked Jennings.
"Mr Wilkins! He is out in the school yard! He saw my head."
"What shall we do?"
The boys stood and listened. The room was still full of smoke. Soon they heard a knock on the glass.
"Open the window! It was Mr Wilkins. He couldn't see through the black window - panes.
"Open the window, at once!" repeated Mr Wilkins.
No answer. What are these silly little boys
doing there, he wondered? Had they hurried out of the room when they saw
him? He went away from the window, turned the corner of the building
and went in the door.
"He's coming," said Darbishire. "What shall we do? He knows we weren't developing: we couldn't do it with the window open."
"Let's open the window," said Jennings. "The
room is still full of smoke. He's be near the dark room in a minute, and
we'll have to open the door."
Darbishire opened the window and the boys began to clean the room.
"Open this door!" It was Mr Wilkins again. Now he was at the door.
"Where shall we put the parcel?" asked Jennings.
There was no place for it, and Jennings decided to hold the parcel behind his back under his coat.
"Will you open the door?" Mr Wilkins was very angry.
Darbishire opened the door and Mr Wilkins came in.
"What are you doing here?"
The boys did not answer. But Mr Wilkins' nose answered the question. "Something is burning."
"Yes, sir. A developing dish caught fire by chance. But now it's all over, sir."
"We'll soon see," said Mr Wilkins and began to walk round the room.
Jennings walked behind him: he couldn't turn his back on Mr Wilkins.
"I don't know much about photography," said Mr
Wilkins. "But if you can burn the building when you develop a film it is
not a hobby that I like. Do you have permission to be in here, boys?"
"Yes, sir, yesterday Mr Hind gave us permission to develop the film, but I don't think that he knows that we are here now."
"So you don't have permission to be here now. And you've got up before the bell! Go to my room and wait for me at the door."
Jennings went out of the room with his back to the door. Darbishire went after him.