“Mr French’ll prob’ly give us an awful report. He always does.”
“I know,” said William. “I think it’s ’cause he can’t spell words like ‘excellent’ an’ ‘satisfactory’. He puts ‘poor’ to everything jus’ ’cause it’s an easy word to spell.”
- Number: 28.3
- Published: 1952 (1950 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Tramp
- Synopsis: William and Ginger obtain some seed capital.
William’s form master, Mr French, institutes an Apprentice-style competition to promote fundraising for the school’s new gymnasium: the boys should start with a little money, and with it try to raise as much as they can within the week.
William enters less out of a desire to improve his school or impress his teacher, and more out of natural competitiveness and bloody-mindedness. In fact, he is positively teeming with business plans:
“Listen,” he said. “I’ve got another idea.”
“Gosh!” said Ginger. “Not another!”
“Please, sir, Ginger an’ me got this given us for stackin’ logs for Miss Thompson,” William said hoarsely.
“Ginger and I,” said Mr French.
William stared at him in indignant surprise. “You weren’t even there,” he said.
His favoured plan (which is not actually a dreadful one) is to wait near Farmer Jenks’s pond, and at an opportune moment fish out of it a brooch and a cigarette case. He is confident that it will, shortly, contain these two items, because Robert has had a bad break-up with Dahlia Macnamara and both vowed to throw each other’s gifts “into the nearest pond”.
“She might not throw it into the pond till tonight,” said Ginger gloomily. “It’s gain’ to be a rotten waste of time hangin’ round all day an’ night…”
“That’s right,” said William bitterly. “Start makin’ objections. Whenever I get a really good plan you always start makin’ objections. Think of that man Bruce that made spiders’ webs an’ all the weeks an’ weeks an’ weeks he mus’ have took doin’ it, an’ you start makin’ a fuss jus’ ’cause you’ve got to wait a few minutes to see a girl throw a brooch into a pond.”
“What did he make spiders’ webs for?” said Ginger, interested despite himself.
“I’ve forgot jus’ for the moment,” said William vaguely, “but it’s in hist’ry, so it mus’ be true…”
The boys eventually get their hands on the desired items, sell them for three shillings and re-invest the three shillings in an accordion, which is promptly confiscated by Miss Milton for disrupting her afternoon’s rest (“It’s like one of those daylight smash an’ grab raids you read about in the newspapers”).
Various other complications occur, including Jumble eating their money, but eventually they strike gold dust.