School was at first equally successful. William opened his desk, hastily inflated his balloon, closed his desk, then gazed round with his practised expression of horrified astonishment at what followed. He drove the French master to distraction.
“Step out ’oo makes the noise,” he screamed.
No one stepped out, and the noise continued at intervals.
The mathematics master finally discovered and confiscated the balloon.
“I hope,” said the father at lunch, “that they’ve taken away that infernal machine of yours.”
William replied sadly that they had. He added that some people didn’t seem to think it was stealing to take other people’s things.
“Then we may look forward to a little peace this evening?” said the father politely. “Not that it matters to me, as I’m going out to dinner. The only thing that relieves the tedium of going out to dinner is the fact that for a short time one has a rest from William.”
William acknowledged the compliment by a scowl and a mysterious muttered remark to the effect that some people were always at him.
During preparation in afternoon school he read a story-book kindly lent him by his next-door neighbor. It was not because he had no work to do that William read a story-book in preparation. It was a mark of defiance to the world in general. It was also a very interesting story-book. It opened with the hero as a small boy misunderstood and ill-treated by everyone around him. Then he ran away. He went to sea, and in a few years made an immense fortune in the goldfields. He returned in the last chapter and forgave his family and presented them with a noble mansion and several shiploads of gold. The idea impressed William—all except the end part. He thought he’d prefer to have the noble mansion himself and pay rare visits to his family, during which he would listen to their humble apologies, and perhaps give them a nugget or two, but not very much—certainly not much to Ethel. He wasn’t sure whether he’d ever really forgive them. He’d have rooms full of squeaky balloons and trumpets in his house anyway, and he’d keep caterpillars and white rats all over the place too—things they made such a fuss about in their old house—and he’d always go about in dirty boots, and he’d never brush his hair or wash, and he’d keep dozens of motor-cars, and he wouldn’t let Ethel go out in any of them. He was roused from this enthralling day-dream by the discovery and confiscation of his story-book by the master in charge, and the subsequent fury of its owner. In order adequately to express his annoyance, he dropped a little ball of blotting-paper soaked in ink down William’s back. William, on attempting retaliation, was sentenced to stay in half an hour after school. He returned gloomily to his history book (upside down) and his misanthropic view of life. He compared himself bitterly with the hero of the story-book and decided not to waste another moment of his life in uncongenial surroundings. He made a firm determination to run away as soon as he was released from school.