William and the Witch

The facts

Ruthlessly Violet Elizabeth organised the Outlaws’ games. Where before she hadbeen rigorously excluded, she now lorded it as squaw,  exploress, and highwaywoman. She insisted on having the chief part in every game they played. She even forced them to play an outrageous game of her own invention featuring the Outlaws as courtiers and herself as queen. They endured it till the day before the garden party and then William decided that they could endure it no longer.
He summoned a meeting in the old barn. “We jolly well aren’t goin’ to have any more of it,” he pronounced. “The next time she tries to play with us we’ll chase. her off same as we used to an’-an’ she can scream her head off for all I care.”

  • Number: 34.5
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws want to make sure Archie gets the chance to paint Mrs Bott.

Verdict

“We ought to have some ancestors, Botty,” said Mrs Bott.
“We’ve got ’em, dear,” said Mr Bott after a moment’s thought. “We must have. Come to think of it, we shouldn’t be here now if we’d not.”

Mrs Bott is adamant that her family should construct an aristocratic past – with paintings of fictitious ancestors, all modelled on her face.

In fact, this story is full of interesting insights into Mrs Bott’s mind:

“I hope she’ll take to gettin’ ’er picture done.”
“Yes, let’s hope she will,” said Mr Bott.
“If she won’t, I s’pose it’s off.”
“I s’pose so,” said Mr Bott. “She’s that obstinate.”
“It’s character, Botty,” said Mrs Bott reproachfully, “not obstinacy. It’s character the child’s got. An’ you can’t force it. I went to a talk about it at the Women’s Institute. A child’s got to ‘ave self-expression. Have. If you force a child to do what it doesn’t want to it gets exhibitions an’ it’s bad for it.”
“I think you’ve got the wrong word, love,” said Mr Bott. “I think it’s inhibitions, not exhibitions.”
“Well, in or ex, she’d get ’em,” said Mrs Bott, “so it’s no use tryin’ to force her.”
Violet Elizabeth gave another lick to her lolly and the remaining fragment detached itself from the stick and fell on to the parquet floor.
“Pick that up,” said Mr Bott.
“I don’t want to pick it up,” said Violet Elizabeth. “I’ll thquath it.”
She ground the piece · of ice into the parquet with a miniature sandal.
“Now don’t give ‘er exhibitions, Botty,” said Mrs Bott, seeing an expostulation quivering on her husband’s tongue.
“She’s givin’ ’em me,” said Mr Bott.

“We’ll advertise Archie the same way other people do it,” said William a little vaguely.
“How do they?” said Douglas.
“We can’t get posters printed about him,” said Ginger.
“We can’t put him on television,” said Henry.
“We can’t give free samples of him,” said Douglas.
“Oh, shut up,” said William. “It’s Mrs Bott we’ve got to advertise him to, so we’ve jus’ got to do the sort of advertisement she likes. An’ I know she likes Hoskyn’s advertisement on his van so we’ll put one on Archie’s car.”
“How?” said Douglas.
“Easy as easy,” said William. “Hoskyn’s has E HOSKYNS. BUTCHER. FAMILIES WAITED ON DAILY. So we’ll put A MANNISTER. ARTIST. FAMILIES PAINTED DAILY on Archie’s car.”

But in the meantime, a significant art commission is in the offing, and two artists are being considered: loveable but hapless Archie Mannister, and Hubert Lane’s cousin Tarquin.

William and Hubert both believe (quite correctly) that Violet Elizabeth’s influence over her mother is near-absolute, they both engage in a shameless campaign of flattery and bribery towards the girl.

Both backfire, but in the end Archie gets the upper hand with a commission that he really wants…

The facts

“There’s goin’ to be nothin’ left for us to do when we grow up,” said William gloomily.
“How d’you mean?” said Ginger.
“Well, they’ll have done everythin’,” said William. “They’ll have climbed every mountain there is an’ got on to the moon an’ dug down into the middle of the earth an’ come out at the other end. I bet they’ll even have found the Loch Ness monster. There’ll be nothin’ left for us to do.”
“There’s explorin’,” said Douglas after a moment’s thought.
“They’ve explored everywhere,” said William, his gloom deepening. “They’ve explored Egypt an’ Africa an’ India an’ Canada. They’ve not even left us the North Pole or… or the Isle of Man.”

  • Number: 34.4
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: William tries to save his family from a witch who makes voodoo dolls.

Verdict

The Outlaws decide to “go explorin’” close to home, heading down a path they’ve never used before.

“Gosh, we might find anythin’” said William.
“Savages,” suggested Ginger.
“Cannibals,” said Douglas.
“Picts an’ Scots,” said Henry.
“Prehistoric monsters,” said William.
“Flying saucers,” said Ginger.
“We might find ’em all,” said William optimistically.

Miss Tyrral’s face broke into laughter. “So it was you all the time, not an earth spirit.”
“An’ it was you, not a witch,” said William half regretfully.

But what they actually encounter is a witch-like old woman, and, being uncharacteristically gullible, they assume her actually to be one.

They return for another look, notice a cat on the windowsill, and conclude: “Gosh, she’s changed herself into a cat. She’s a witch all right. That proves it.”

But then, genuinely troublingly, they find her making wax images of William’s family (a book Henry takes out from the library observes that this is a common witchy behaviour). When Mrs Brown is taken ill with a cold, that is naturally ascribed to magical causes.

Astonishingly, though, the woman herself feels she’s been being haunted by odd boy-like spirits with ugly faces. Hmm…

The facts

“Gosh!” said William. “What a lot of sausage rolls!”
“Yes, I don’t know why I bought so many,” said Mrs Brown. “They were selling them off.”
“I’ll eat them for you if you like,” said William.
“All right, dear. They’ll do for your supper.”
When she came back William was kneeling on a chair, eating sausage rolls and reading the evening paper. Most of the newsprint was obscured by crumbs, but he cleared them away as he read.
“Gosh!” he said indistinctly. “Nearly a whole page about teachers strikin’.”
“It’s very sad, dear,” said Mrs Brown. “I hope yours won’t.”
“I hope they will,” said William.

Verdict

Archie has been roped in, by the indomitable Mrs Monks, to running the hoop-la stall at the church fair, but he is anxious to attend the (simultaneous) tennis club fête because Ethel will be there and he wants to make himself helpful to Ethel.

William finds this baffling (“Gosh! I’d sooner have a hoop-la stall than Ethel any day!”) but offers to run the hoop-la stall himself so as to free Archie for Ethel-chasing duties. Even though Archie won’t trust him with it, William insists.

William slid neatly down the balusters.
“Mother…”
“Oh, William!” groaned Mrs Brown. “I thought you’d gone to bed.”
“I have,” said William. “I mean, I am going. But I’ve got a smashing idea, Mother. Listen! If they do go on strike an’ we can’t go to school, we ought to get unemployment pay, oughtn’t we?”
“William, what nonsense!”
“Yes, but listen…” began William.

The hoop-la prizes, he is told, are in a brown suitcase. Inevitably William opens the wrong brown suitcase and chaos ensues – but then (and we’ve had this ending before: see eg William the Rat Lover, 17.4) William unexpectedly enters and wins a fancy-dress competition.