William decided to practise his tight-rope act. He had never actually practised it yet. He had merely enjoyed glorious mental visions of himself walking with airy nonchalance at a dizzy height with crowds of cheering spectators far below. The only practical step he had taken towards the materialisation of this vision was the appropriation of a length of clothes line from his mother’s washing basket.
The resultant crash brought the entire household out into the hall.
“What on earth are you up to now, William?” said Mr Brown, in a voice that held concern but little tenderness. “Come down here at once.”
“I’ve not hurt myself an’ I’ve not done any harm,” William said, forestalling the inevitable queries and accusations. “Not any real harm, I mean. The handle came off the chest of drawers, but I bet it must’ve been loose to start with. Well, I bet real tight-rope walkers have somethin’ on their feet to make ’em stick. They must have. Glue or somethin’. Well, I’m jolly good at balancin’, but I went right over at once, so…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown, who knew that William’s eloquence, if not checked at its source, could grow to an overwhelming torrent.
- Number: 28.1
- Published: 1952 (1947 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Tramp
- Synopsis: The Outlaws try to juggle a tramp and a visiting lecturer.
Yet again the Outlaws and Violet Elizabeth are trying to come up with a way to smuggle the poor into The Hall as a form of social justice. The fact that every previous attempt at this scheme – most notably Just William’s Luck, 26 – has resulted in total disaster and financial ruin, does not dampen their enthusiasm at all.
The tramp they select is, like most of the other tramps the boys encounter, a talkative and ingenious one who introduces himself as Marmaduke Mehitavel (and Archibald Mortimer, and Horatio Grimble).
The room they select is one which Mrs Bott has destined for a visiting Literary Society lecturer, the celebrated scholar Mr Bumbleby.
Their truly inspired plan to prevent the seemingly inevitable clash is that the tramp should wear a suit of Mr Bott’s and impersonate Mr Bumbleby.
The real Mr Bumbleby’s role in this plan is the glamorous one of being locked in the coal shed…