The housemade assumed her air of hauteur. “What name shall I say?”
William eyed her suspiciously. “It’s William Brown, if you don’t know,” he said, “an’ I bet you do.”
“I’d be deaf and blind in this here village if I didn’t,” agreed the housemaid.
Robert is “bats on” Roxana Lytton, and Roxana and her family are desirous of buying a patch of wasteland from the Botts to turn into a tennis court. Mrs Bott, being Mrs Bott, won’t hear of it, so Roxana turns her desperate eyes to Robert for help and Robert is powerless to resist (especially because she’s also turned her desperate eyes to Osbert Sanderstead and Robert is very keen to save the day before Osbert does).
Mrs Bott is partly in such a tetchy mood because she feels left out of the local gentry; they are all taken with a sudden craze for flower-arranging and budgies that speak, and she can’t do one and hasn’t got the other.
William had paid the toy shop another visit and made the shopman a sporting offer to weed his garden, polish his car, clean his windows and wash down his front doorstep in exchange for the aeroplane – only to be summarily ejected from the shop before he had had time to add the further offer, which had just occurred to him, of cleaning his chimneys.
She so breaks Robert’s spirit that he absent-mindedly gives William an extraordinary amount of money, and William is so struck with gratitude that he feels he must repay his brother in kind.
But the natural chaos he causes on his way out of The Hall somehow results in a wonderfully ‘natural-looking’ arrangement of flowers, and a budgie that appears to do a cat impression…
Although very strongly in the vein of previous stories in which William accidentally helps Mrs Bott out of social jams and is richly rewarded (William Goes Fruit-Picking, 25.12, et al), this is quite a fun one.
William decided to practise his tight-rope act. He had never actually practised it yet. He had merely enjoyed glorious mental visions of himself walking with airy nonchalance at a dizzy height with crowds of cheering spectators far below. The only practical step he had taken towards the materialisation of this vision was the appropriation of a length of clothes line from his mother’s washing basket.
The resultant crash brought the entire household out into the hall.
“What on earth are you up to now, William?” said Mr Brown, in a voice that held concern but little tenderness. “Come down here at once.”
“I’ve not hurt myself an’ I’ve not done any harm,” William said, forestalling the inevitable queries and accusations. “Not any real harm, I mean. The handle came off the chest of drawers, but I bet it must’ve been loose to start with. Well, I bet real tight-rope walkers have somethin’ on their feet to make ’em stick. They must have. Glue or somethin’. Well, I’m jolly good at balancin’, but I went right over at once, so…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown, who knew that William’s eloquence, if not checked at its source, could grow to an overwhelming torrent.
- Number: 28.1
- Published: 1952 (1947 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Tramp
- Synopsis: The Outlaws try to juggle a tramp and a visiting lecturer.
Yet again the Outlaws and Violet Elizabeth are trying to come up with a way to smuggle the poor into The Hall as a form of social justice. The fact that every previous attempt at this scheme – most notably Just William’s Luck, 26 – has resulted in total disaster and financial ruin, does not dampen their enthusiasm at all.
The tramp they select is, like most of the other tramps the boys encounter, a talkative and ingenious one who introduces himself as Marmaduke Mehitavel (and Archibald Mortimer, and Horatio Grimble).
The room they select is one which Mrs Bott has destined for a visiting Literary Society lecturer, the celebrated scholar Mr Bumbleby.
Their truly inspired plan to prevent the seemingly inevitable clash is that the tramp should wear a suit of Mr Bott’s and impersonate Mr Bumbleby.
The real Mr Bumbleby’s role in this plan is the glamorous one of being locked in the coal shed…
William turned to VioletElizabeth. “Would you like to be Germany? It’s a jolly good part.”
“What thould I wear?” said Violet Elizabeth. “It dependth on what I’d wear.”
They considered the question. “Swashtikas,” suggested Henry.
“No,” said Violet Elizabeth firmly . “I don’t like thwathtikath!”
“Sackcloth,” said Ginger.
“No,” said Violet Elizabeth, still more firmly. “I don’t like thackcloth.” Suddenly her small face beamed. ” Tell you what! I’ve got a fanthy dreth at home I could wear. Ith a fanthy dreth of a rothe. I wouldn’t mind being Germany if I could wear that.”
“Well, you can’t,” said William shortly. “An’ if you’re goin’ to be Germany at all, you’ve gotter be sorry for all the wrong you’ve done.”
“Well, I’m not,” said Violet Elizabeth with spirit, “and I haven’t done any wrong.”
“You started the war.”
“I didn’t,” snapped Violet Elizabeth. “I wath in bed with a biliouth attack the day the war thtarted. Athk the doctor if you don’t believe me.”
“You’re bats,” said William. “It’s no good talking to you.”
- Number: 27.5
- Published: 1950 (1946 in magazine form) – originally titled The Pageant
- Book: William the Bold
- Synopsis: The Outlaws plan to celebrate Victory.
The Outlaws are getting up a Victory Pageant.
The Hubert Laneites are also getting up a Victory Pageant – which they only think to do after Violet Elizabeth, spurned by the Outlaws, leaks the idea to them (“I bet even Hitler wouldn’t have done a thing like that” rages William).
But which group of warriors will end up with the ignominy of playing the captured German soldiers in the other group’s production?
Somehow the zest had gone out of it. It was the absence of Violet Elizabeth. They had resented her presence among them and heartily wished her away but, now that she had gone, they missed her – missed her dynamic personality, her unreasonableness, her contrariness, her varying moods, her uncertain temper, even her lisp… Joan failed to provide the stimulus that Violet Elizabeth had always provided. And, though they would not have admitted it, they felt wounded and betrayed. That Violet Elizabeth, their most troublesome but most loyal follower, should have joined the Hubert Laneites was almost too monstrous for belief.
Reeling from Violet Elizabeth’s perfidy, the Outlaws sullenly drill their Victory ‘soldiers’ and resign themselves to a pageant without the lavish refreshments being provided by Mrs Bott to the Laneite show.
But then two unexpected twists occur in quick succession…