In the neighbourhood of William’s home there were several mansions – chiefly Elizabethan – that were open to the public on certain days of the week.
William did not see why this system should be confined to the stately homes of England. His own home contained some undeniable points of interest. There was the hole that Jumble had made in the hall carpet, the damp patch in the bathroom wall where a pipe had burst…
He thought that a steady flow of visitors at a penny each, one or two afternoons a week, would prove a pleasant and easy source of income.
- Number: 19.8
- Published: 1937 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William the Showman
- Synopsis: William sets off on a record-breaking adventure.
When William is in his parents’ bad books for opening (of his own initiative) the family home to public visitors, one of whom had helped themselves to some valuable antiques in the process, he is impelled to participate in Miss Milton’s latest hare-brained scheme, the Educational Play Guild for Children. (‘Play’ in the sense of ‘playing’, not drama.)
Having ruined her charming educational games about Flowers and Birds – he insisted on being a vulture – and Famous Men – he wanted to be Guy Fawkes – a rather desperate Miss Milton resorts to the topic of Great Adventurers.
And this energises William, especially when he reads, in one of Robert’s library books, about an adventurer who had travelled across continents with only two ponies’-worth of provisions.
“Mother,” he said suddenly, “what d’you think’s the greatest adventure that’s ever been done?”
“What about the discovery of the North Pole?”
“No, I don’t think much of that. They jus’ went to a place that was there all the time. Anyone could do that.”
William decides to emulate this, by leaving home, walking in a straight line, and continuing until he has circumnavigated the entire globe.
Ignoring gates and fences, he enrages Farmer Jenks and shatters the peace and quiet of a bird sanctuary, but this gives him an even better idea: a boy sanctuary.
A wood entirely devoted to boys: grown-ups not allowed to enter. Tables of chocolate cream and humbugs and lollypops at intervals. Boy-baths of lemonade and orange squash. Cream buns hanging from trees. Instead of nesting-boxes, toys placed against all the trees-motor boats, bows and arrows, electric trains, cricket sets, footballs.