Mr Wonka walked ahead of them, swinging that ubiquitous cane to the left and the right, leading them around corners and between two blocks down what looked like an alleyway which seemed to be sloping downwards. Mrs Bucket tried to approach him to ask what was happening but that infernal cane was still swinging in front of her.
"I don't think he likes people walking in front of him," Charlie whispered.
They were going underground now, down a sort of corridor, then back to the surface up a slope which opened out into a courtyard. Mr Wonka swung around to face them suddenly.
"Welcome to a little place I like to call Wonka Square!" he began flamboyantly, waving his cane ahead of him. "Go on, take a look."
They did. It was the most amazing courtyard they had ever seen. A fountain stood in the middle, with water spurting out into a beautiful, ornate bowl that looked like half a chocolate. Two curved benches were on either side of it, just inviting you to sit. There were pillars at each end, like something from a Greek temple, a small grass area, shrubbery, colourful flowers and statues of graceful swans. The buildings on each side were redbrick, with ornate doors and windows.
"Your new address." their host continued with barely repressed excitement. He began waving his cane at various doors. "I live over there, behind the purple door with the candy cane door knocker. Mr Wilkinson, who you will meet at some point, lives upstairs, at the lattice window. The office and other parts of the factory are accessible through that green door at the end. And on the other side of Wonka Square, just a few hundred yards away, is your new home. Will we take a look?"
"Yes, please," they all murmured, wondering what was ahead of them.
"Well, lead on Macduff!" he called out, before setting out towards a red door across the square. Suddenly he stopped and span around again, alarming them a little. "Hold on, aren't you supposed to say that to me, not vice versa? Oh well, never mind. Let's press on… Oh and the fountain here…it spurts out chocolate for an hour a day, all pumped out by the chocolate river. Yes, Mrs Bucket, we have a chocolate river, maybe you'll get to see that another time. Not today I'm afraid... There was some…contamination earlier on", he explained, glancing at Charlie. "It all has to be drained…Lots of cleaning and repairs going on at the moment, so not a great time for a tour. But…life goes on. Ah, here we are, the red door. Now, where did I put that key?..."
Grandpa Joe was looking back at the purple door. "Hey Charlie, do you reckon he sleeps in half a bed?" he whispered. They both chuckled at the thought but Mrs Bucket looked confused. "We'll explain later," he told her quietly as Mr Wonka took out a large, old fashioned looking key and opened the red door for them.
He ushered them inside with an elaborate gesture and they stepped into the biggest, airiest hallway they had ever seen. All they could see were doors on both sides and a staircase in the middle leading upstairs to even more doors. Mr Wonka stood watching their reactions proudly, allowing them to take in the grand surroundings before cheerfully showing them around, offering suggestions for the possible functions of each room. There was a kitchen and a large sitting room, already partially furnished. There was a bathroom; a proper, spacious bathroom downstairs and two other rooms that could be downstairs bedrooms for the grandparents. Mr Wonka explained that they were formerly a study and a dining room but they all agreed the kitchen would be more than big enough to eat in.
Upstairs had another bathroom and three more bedrooms, one each for Charlie and his mother. "You could have another sitting room," Mr Wonka suggested, "Or you could use it to keep your lifetimes supply of chocolate."
"I'm still getting that?" Charlie asked in amazement.
"Well, maybe not all at once," he replied with a grin. He then led them downstairs pointing out various features and other things that they were too astonished to take in. They'd never seen a house with so much space. Even the better off families in the area lived in houses with no more than three bedrooms. They knew there were much bigger houses than that but had never set foot in one, until today.
"Mrs Bucket, do you know Greenberg's department store in the town?" he asked as they got to the bottom of the stairs.
"Yes of course," she replied, a little intrigued.
"Good, because I don't. Haven't been shopping in years. Still, you go in there and you buy whatever you need for this house. Make a list of what you need and go in there and buy it all, that's an order. We have an account there in the name of Mr Arthur Wilkinson; in fact we have accounts in other places too, remind me to give you the list before you go. They'll transport everything here themselves, don't worry about that."
"What, you want me to go into Greenberg's?" she asked incredulously. She had always been too scared to go into that place in case the staff took one look at her and decided she wasn't good enough to shop there.
"You'll be moving your own furniture too, I'm sure, but you will still be needing new things, to fill this place up a bit," he announced, to no-one in particular, "Fill it up with everything you need. You can even fill it with things you don't need. Especially things you don't need, I insist on it! And decorate, undecorate and re-decorate as you see fit. New carpets for the floor, wallpaper on the walls… or vice versa, why not? I can recommend my own lickable wallpaper by the way, great for a snack."
Mrs Bucket glanced around at Charlie once their host's back was turned. "Is he…" she mouthed, making little circles beside her right temple with her finger.
Charlie grinned. "Yes, but he's great!"
They even had a small garden out the back, with a washing line. "The square is a shared area but this will be your own garden to do with what you will. It might need a bit of work though. Still, it's yours, just like the house. Shall we make our way back outside?"
Outside in the open air of the beautiful courtyard, Mrs Buckets' head was spinning.
"I can't live here!" she protested.
"Why not? Don't you like it?" Mr Wonka asked her in genuine bewilderment.
"Yes, I do, it's lovely, but there's so much space… This is all too much…" Charlie came and stood next to her as Mr Wonka assured her that it was a privilege to give them a new home and that they could move in as soon as possible.
"Everything's going to be fine, Mom," her son assured her, "We'll all have bedrooms of our own and I can do my homework in that other room, maybe, and we can all sit together in the sitting room in the evening. And you can have a nice rest too. And we'll be right beside this amazing factory. I can't wait to show you around." He looked around at Mr Wonka. "I can show my mom around, can't I?"
"Of course. Maybe not today though, I think you all need to go home for something to eat and to discuss all this together. You will also need to write down any questions you have about living here as you will all have plenty, no doubt. I can send a cab for the other grandparents or I'm sure I can persuade Mr Wilkinson to collect them in his car and bring them here to see the house, when they feel up to it of course." He was trotting ahead with that cane swinging when he suddenly turned around again.
"Hold on, I completely forgot – I landed on top of your cabbages today and I can't apologise enough. Allow me to send you home with a little something."
They protested, but Mr Wonka took out his whistle and summoned an Oompa Loompa from yet another doorway, startling Mrs Bucket, who had never seen them before.
"What is…Is that a person?" she asked in bewilderment.
"He's an Oompa Loopa," Charlie replied proudly.
"An Oompa Loompa" Mr Wonka explained cheerfully, "From Loompaland, of course."
"Where on earth is Loompaland?"
"Don't ask…" her father in law muttered to her. But their host was already talking to the strange little man who had appeared in front of them. "He's going to take you to the general larder in their quarters and find you something to replace those cabbages. There should be nice carrots and onions, maybe some mince as well, make it a decent meal for a change? You all need feeding up," he explained to them. "Charlie, Mrs Bucket, would you like to follow him and Grandpa Joe and I will wait here."
Still unable to believe her eyes, Mrs Bucket allowed herself to be led away with her son, through the same door their new friend had emerged from. Thankfully it was high enough to accommodate them. The other two sat on the bench beside the fountain but the older man still looked troubled. Minutes ticked by that seemed to last hours.
"You're happy with the house, Grandpa Joe?" Mr Wonka asked a little warily, trying to fill the awkward silence.
"I am, but I'm still concerned about Charlie and while we're on our own I am going to be straight with you. You can take him on as your apprentice, that's your decision, but you need to respect him, do you hear me?"
Mr Wonka laughed a little and patted him on the shoulder. "Never fear my friend, the night is over and this is the morning…" He got up to walk away. Something about the man's arrogance and flippancy irritated Grandpa Joe deeply. He got up and grabbed his shoulder roughly, forcing him to turn around. For a moment the great showman looked startled.
"I mean it, Wonka, I'm watching you. I don't want to see another outburst like we saw in your office today, got that?" The two stared at each other. Mr Wonka straightened his hat and coat but his gaze never left Grandpa Joe.
"I understand..." he finally replied, slowly and clearly, "That will not be happening again, I promise you."
The older man sighed and hung his head. "Look after him, that's all I ask…" he said quietly, a note of pleading in his voice. Just then the other two returned with their bag of food so thankfully put a stop to their conversation and Mr Wonka became the grand showman once more.
"Everything all right, Joe?" Mrs Bucket asked as they followed him to the secret exit.
"Fine, Esther, let's go home," he replied, but she knew something was up with her father in law. Charlie walked ahead with his new mentor, chatting away happily about the factory and how he couldn't wait to move in. They shook hands with him before they left, Grandpa Joe a little reluctantly, but Charlie insisted on giving him a hug which was happily returned. Mrs Bucket seemed surprised by this; he already seemed to think of it as his world. And now their lives were all about to change. She felt dizzy and bewildered, but she knew they couldn't stay in that little house forever. Maybe this was the right thing to do after all?
The next few weeks were hectic and lots of things seemed to conspire against them. Mrs Bucket went shopping for new things, trying to avoid Greenberg's and keep to the cheaper stores on the list. Thankfully at least one person in each store seemed to understand when she gave her address as "Number 3 Wonka Square, Wonka's Chocolate Factory". She browsed through catalogues, made a list of the things they could bring and with great pleasure, handed in her notice at the laundry. She still had to work there for nearly a month, though, until the owner found someone else. They also had to give notice to leave their current home, which was turning out to be difficult.
Charlie was reluctant to give up his paper round but Mr Jopeck assured him he could find someone else and not to worry about it – this was far too big an opportunity to pass up, after all. In school Mr Turpentine made him stand at the top of the class and tell everyone about his tour. He left a lot of things out, including the fact that he was moving there but it hardly mattered. Once the newspaper reports about the other children came out that was the end of being anonymous. Each day they would see reporters and TV crew driving down the street towards the factory, all looking for more details about this bizarre tour. The family knew they would never get in, not if Mr Wonka didn't want them there, which he almost certainly didn't. Charlie continued to run down to the gates now and again, not to look on wistfully but to relish the fact that this would soon be his home.
A few weeks later he caught chicken pox which kept him out of school for a while anyway. Not knowing how else to contact him, Mrs Bucket wrote Mr Wonka a letter, outlining the various reasons they still couldn't move in. He sent Mr Wilkinson around to the house with a large steaming bowl of soup for Charlie and instructions to get well soon, along with a book of adventure stories for him to read, which he'd ordered from the local bookshop, and, most importantly, a phone number where they could contact him. They'd got rid of their own telephone several years ago but there was a phone box fairly close to the house. Not long after that Mrs Bucket went to her landlords' office to ask if they could pay a little of the two months' rent he had asked for only to find that "some creepy guy with glasses" had already called in and paid it for them. Instantly she felt guilty; she hadn't meant to drop hints but she also knew it was a weight off all their minds.
The other grandparents acquired wheelchairs and walking frames, and Grandma Georgina got herself a hearing aid, all thanks to Mr Wonka of course. Once fully equipped they were transported to the factory by cab for their own tour, but it was all a little overwhelming for them and Mrs Bucket brought them home early. She did make sure she thanked their host for all his help before they left, but he assured her it was a privilege to help and she was not to worry about a single thing. One thing was for sure at the end of that day; they were all glad to be getting out of that house at last.
Another thing was apparent; none of the grandparents wanted the bed to come with them. They had spent so much time in it that they never wanted to see it again once they moved. Even now they were only using it for sleeping and were trying to get themselves moving a little more. Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina were both survivors of polio and knew that they would never be able to run around again or be particularly active but they were determined to make the most of what little mobility they had.
Between one thing and another, it was New Year's Eve when they arrived at 3 Wonka Square. A plain white van arrived for their belongings, driven by one of Mr Wonka's truck drivers. Charlie and his mother were able to squeeze themselves in at the front and then Mr Wilkinson turned up in his car, just behind the van and helped the grandparents inside. They were surprised that they were brought outside the town into what looked like an abandoned railway yard, only to pass a high wall and find that they were going into a tunnel, away from the view of other drivers. It emerged into the daylight in the goods yard of a very familiar factory and they were driven to the corner of Wonka Square, where Mr Wonka was waiting for them along with a couple of Oompa Loompas.
Charlie ran straight towards him and hugged him. "Charlie, my boy! Welcome, welcome!" he exclaimed, getting down to the boy's level so he could hug him properly. Again, Mrs Bucket could only look on in astonishment. He greeted all of them with his usual cheerfulness and kissed the grandmas' hands, telling them how radiant they were looking before leading the group to their new home. He was surprisingly helpful too, pushing Grandma Georgina in her wheelchair and calling it her "chariot".
"I hope you will all be happy here and that we can all be friends," he told them when they were all assembled in the entrance hall. He glanced at Grandpa Joe who was looking at the floor. "Most of your new belongings are here already. By the way, there's a sample of lickable wallpaper in your bedroom, Charlie", he added, winking at him. "My Oompa Loompas will help with everything from the van, please don't worry about a thing. They will need you to direct them though, once they're inside the house. And if there's anything missing or anything else you need, please let me know. I'm very easy to find, just behind the purple door, remember. And there's already a small amount of food in your larder, tins, tea, coffee that sort of thing, along with some vegetables that you can make into soup for later. No more cabbage soup, do you hear?"
Right then Mrs Bucket felt like she never wanted to see another cabbage in her life.
He shook his head. "Cabbage soup? Surely an affront to the taste buds of decent people everywhere. You must never drink another drop of it."
"It kept us going," Grandpa Joe replied quietly, but loudly enough to be heard. Everyone turned to look at him. "But yes, I agree… No more of it. That will be nice."
Maybe it was a good thing they were moving in on New Year's Eve, Mrs Bucket thought to herself. Not only had they time to get used to the idea it was a wonderful symbolism too; a new start, together, at the beginning of a New Year. It looked like this one would be the best yet.