”Tell you what!” said William at last. “I’ll show ’em round.”
“You?” said Archie, startled.
“Yes, me,” said William. “I’ll meet ’em at the station an’ I’ll bring ’em to look at the cottage an’ I bet I’ll be able to get ’em to take it. I’ll ’splain that that hole in the roof’s made special for vent’lation an’ that it’s healthier not havin’ a lot of paint on the walls…”
Archie has, as usual, a problem. He has a prospective tenant booked to view his cottage at the very moment that he needs to go to London to humour a wealthy aunt whose favour he is keen to win. He can’t delegate the work of humouring his aunt. But he can, reluctantly, appoint William as his estate agent.
And like estate agents double or triple his age, William quickly realises that, if a property is in no condition to show to prospective tenants, a little creativity is called for. The precise form of creativity on which he fixes is to show the visitors not Archie’s cottage, but the much pleasanter Miss Radbury’s cottage.
William was now counting on the arrangement to fill the void of a Gingerless day.
He walked homeward, upheld by a pleasurable feeling of self-importance. He was going to meet Archie’s tenants, escort them to Archie’s cottage and feed them on Archie’s bread and cheese… It would be a new experience and he was ready for a new experience. He began to rehearse his new role, flinging out his arms in eloquent gestures.
“It’s artistic an’ delightful an’ d’sirable an’ all those things the newspapers said it was.”
To be fair, William is not bad at promoting the village: “There’s places here that people’ve axshally painted an’ put in frames. It’s a jolly nice place.”
And astonishingly, he does succeed in letting Archie’s cottage, though not in quite the way he intended…
“You know Miss Evesham?”
“That stupid woman who comes here for her cat? Yes.”
“Well, I think she’d give you a lot of money for the Society in Aid of Vivisection.”
“Anti-vivisection, William dear.”
- Number: 27.4
- Published: 1950 (1947 in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Witch
- Book: William the Bold
- Synopsis: William needs to drive a distasteful woman out of the village.
Irksomely punny name aside (the original title of William and the Witch presumably having been changed to avoid clashing with the later book, 34, of the same name), this story is basically a much better and more fun version of William and the Black Cat, 4.9.
Entreatied by Joan to drive out Miss Evesham, the unpleasant sitting tenant living in Joan’s house, William starts by accidentally killing her cat and then weaves a cunning – although rather cruel – plan to do the deed.
“Well, there’s one other thing,” said William, with a burst of inspiration. “My father’s got a book with ‘Laws of Banking’ on the outside, but I think there’s something quite different inside. Once I got hold of it an’ he shouted ‘Leave that alone’.”
“Can you get the book, William, and bring it to me?”
“’Fraid I can’t. He’d miss it at once an’ he’s a very savage man.”
It helps, of course, that there is a slightly witchy-looking writer staying in Honeysuckle Cottage, and that Miss Evesham has a mortal fear of witches.
“I once got eight out of ten for hist’ry. At least,” added Ginger, with a burst of honesty, “it looked like eight.”
“It turned out to be three,” Douglas reminded him.
“I once had to write out the date of the battle of Waterloo a hundred times,” said William, “so I ought to know a bit of hist’ry.”
“What was the date of the battle of Waterloo?” Henry challenged him.
- Number: 27.1
- Published: 1950 (1949 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Bold
- Synopsis: The Outlaws need to borrow some ‘hist’ry clothes’.
About time Violet Elizabeth got her name into the title of a story!
This story also marks the appearance of Archie Mannister. He was technically first seen in William and the Twins, 12.10, as a kooky paranormalist painter sharing Honeysuckle Cottage with his kooky twin sister, but from this point on a slightly different version of him becomes a recurring character, admirer of Ethel and victim of William’s generosity.
“We’ll come into your studio an’ sit down a bit if you like, Archie,” said William, realising that, in Archie’s present mood, it devolved upon him , William, to play the parts of both host and guest.
This time, the Outlaws need to work their way into his good books so that he will lend them his “hist’ry clothes” for a play they’re putting on, and they conclude that the best way to do this is for them to find a tramp to model for a painting he’s working on; meanwhile, Violet Elizabeth decides to help out by ‘cleaning’ Archie’s kitchen. When a rich aunt comes to visit events take an interesting turn…