mr and mrs bott

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

“What sort of games will you have?” said William.
“Gameth like Pothtman’th Knock,” replied Violet Elizabeth.
“Gosh! What’s that?” said William.
“It’th a nithe game,” said Violet Elizabeth. “Thomeone goeth out into the hall and then knockth at the door and thayth ‘A letter for thomeone’ and the perthon who’th name they thay hath got to go out into the hall and kith them. And if theythay ‘two letterth’ they’ve got to give them two kitheth, and if they thay ‘three letterth’ they’ve got to give them three kitheth and if they thay ‘ten letterth’…”
“Shut up!” said William. His face had blanched with horror. “Gosh! It you think we’re going to a party withsickenin’ games like that, we’d… we’d…”
“We’d rather die a thousand deaths,” supplied Henry, who had a large range of dramatic expressions.

  • Number: 34.2
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: William is determined to evade Violet Elizabeth’s birthday party.

Verdict

Martin Jarvis masterfully turned this story into a five-part audio book: Violet Elizabeth Takes Control, William the Dear Little Boysie, William’s Brilliant Plan, The Outlaws and Aunt Jo, and Violet Elizabeth’s Party. But it’s still excellent in single-story form.

The Outlaws can’t think of anything worse than attending a special old-fashioned birthday party (featuring games such as kiss-in-the-ring, shudder shudder) being held jointly for Violet Elizabeth and for her mother’s godmother, Aunt Jo. And strangely enough, Aunt Jo can’t think of anything worse either.

Still, Mrs Bott is determined to make a success of it – a reporter from the Hadley Times is going to be observing the whole affair (“a mention in the ‘Hadley Times’ represented the height of her ambition”) and is equally determined that William and his friends will attend.

“Oh, there you are, William, love,” said Mrs Bott. “I’ve just been telling your mother about a nice little treat I’ve got for you.”
“I’d rather die a thous…” began William.
“Say ‘how d’you do’, dear,” said Mrs Brown hastily.

“I wonder what they’ll do when they find we’re not comin’ to it,” said William.
“They’ll ring the p’lice,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said Douglas, with mingled apprehension and pride. “Real p’licemen lookin’ for us!”
“We might pretend we’d lost our memories,” said Henry.
“I’ve tried that,” said William. “It didn’t work.”
“We could pretend we’d met a hypnotiser an’ got hypnotised,” said Ginger after a moment’s silence. “We could act as if we’d been hypnotised. We could keep shuttin’ our eyes an then openin’ them an’ sayin’ ‘Where am I?’”

The Outlaws are outraged and astonished when their mothers all insist that they go. “More like hyenas than yuman parents” is Ginger’s bitter observation. So they decide simply to run away on the afternoon of the party and thereby evade it.

While they’re loose in the woods, they happen to come across Aunt Jo – also a fugitive from the party! Despite her advanced age, she is a woman of great energy and ingenuity, and leads the group to safety from Mrs Bott’s search party (and they just happen to take advantage of the situation and drop some rotten apples on the heads of their pursuers).

Mrs Bott is in paroxysms of horror when she realises that the Hadley Times has been monitoring the entire farce… at least, until she hears what the reporter has actually written.

The facts

William joined Mrs Bott and began to walk by her side. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” he said pleasantly.
He had noticed that among grown-ups a discussion of the weather was a necessary preliminary to any conversation.
She made no response.
“Nicer than it was yesterday,” said William.
She plodded on in silence.
“I bet it’s goin’ to be nice tomorrow,” said William. “It was jolly nice all last week, wasn’t it? I forget what it was like the week before, but I bet it was all right then, too.”
Mrs Bott gave a snort that discouraged further pleasantries.
“I bet it’s goin’ to be all right next week, too,” said William, undaunted, then, considering that the weather had been adequately dealt with, turned on her the glassy smile that was wont to accompany his efforts at social intercourse with the adult world and plunged abruptly into the heart of the mystery. “Where are you going?”

  • Number: 32.7
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: The Hall is being filmed by a dubious new piece of TV technology.

Verdict

When Mrs Bott is sounding off to a random man in the street about her domestic woes (chiefly, the featuring of one of her local rivals on a TV programme about “gracious hostesses”, to the exclusion of herself), it turns out that he is “someone on television” and can get her featured in a future episode! The only condition is, she has to have the filming take place that very afternoon – and it will be conducted by one cameraman with no equipment at all, using a valuable and cutting-edge new television invention.

William is so excited to hear about this that he is only bribed to silence by the promise of appearing on a cowboy show at some point in the future; nevertheless, he does insert himself into the centre of the afternoon’s activity.

And it’s just as well he does so, because, of course, while Mrs Bott is being interviewed downstairs, the ‘cameraman’ (liberated from his camera by the eponymous invention) is upstairs collecting all her valuables, jewellery, fur coats etc into suitacases and loading them into his van.

And while, had they been a genuine TV crew, William would undoubtedly have ruined their activities, so too did he ruin these ones.