“I’ve arsked her regl’ar to marry me, every New Year’s Day for ten year.”
“Well,” said William with a judicial air, “I wun’t have asked the same one for ten years. I’d have tried someone else. I’d have gone on asking other people, if I wanted to get married. You’d be sure to find someone that wouldn’t mind you: with a sweet-shop, too. She must be a softie. Does she know you’ve got a sweet-shop?”
- Number: 1.10
- Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
- Book: Just William
- Synopsis: William, pursuant to a New Year’s Resolution to be “perlite” for a day, agrees to mind the village sweet shop.
This is a bit of a Lord of the Flies tale detailing the inevitable consequences of putting William – William – in charge of a sweet shop.
Because of his extensive snacking in the earlier part of his shift, he has to increase prices to make up for it. This leads to a clash with a slightly odd elderly lady who accuses William of “profiteering” and (very oddly) “blasphemy”; every barbed insult he throws back at her (“You ole thief!”) is, mindful of his determination to be polite, suffixed with the phrase, “If you’ll ’scuse me contradictin’ of you.”
He gives free wares to a nice young girl who takes his fancy, and ends up starting a free-for-all amongst all the boys of the village.
All somewhat unsurprising.
It is a great gift to be able to lie so as to convince other people. It is a still greater gift to be able to lie so as to convince oneself. William was possessed of the latter gift.
A rare breach of the fourth wall to close the story:
“Reader, if you had been left, at the age of eleven, in sole charge of a sweet shop for a whole morning, would it have been all right with you? I trow not. But we will not follow William through the humiliating hours of the afternoon. We will leave him as, pale and unsteady, but as yet master of the situation, he wends his homeward way.”