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The narrator and Grandmamma decide to spend the summer in Norway. To whet their appetites, Grandmamma tells some stories about her childhood summers there: fishing, eating shrimp heads (yummm), and spending time with her brother.
Then Grandmamma falls ill – she has a doctor on call and their housekeeper, Mrs Spring, stays with them, but the narrator has to wait ten whole days before he can see his grandma again.
Even once she is back on her feet, the doctor orders that she not travel to Norway – major bummer.
Instead, they decide to go to the Hotel Magnificent on the south coast of England (which, by the way, is kind of like the Florida of England).
To cheer him up, Grandmamma gives our narrator two white mice, which he names William and Mary, and he takes them along for the ride.
Once they're at the hotel, our narrator tries to teach his pet mice a few tricks. Apparently this is not okay according to fancy hotel rules. The maid sees one and screams, and needless to say, our narrator finds himself in some trouble.
The manager of the hotel, Mr Stringer, is a little peeved. Don't worry, though – clever ol' Grandmamma gets them out of this pickle. She claims to have seen rats in the hotel and threatens to call the health inspectors. So Mr Stringer agrees to let the narrator keep his mice, as long as they stay in their cage. Done and done.
Actually, not so much. This arrangement clearly won't do for our ambitious narrator. He needs to find a secret spot where he can take his mice out for more circus training.
After wandering through a maze of rooms – viola! – he finds The Ballroom. It's full of chairs and a platform, but completely empty of people. There's a sign on the door for a meeting of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (which, by the way, is a real charity), but he figures the meeting is over. If not, who better to run into than a society of child-helpers?
Just in case, our narrator hides behind a screen toward the back of the room. This is where he begins his mice's tight-rope training. Naturally. (There's a how-to in here if you're interested in training your own circus mice.)
In the middle of all this, happy as a clam, he starts to hear voices. Uh-oh. Mr Stringer begins to usher in a huge group of women, all with pretty clothes and hats.