“It’s a beautiful book, William,” Aunt Ellen said. “It might prove the turning-point in your life. I’m sure you’ll wish you knew Peter and his dear mother.”
William, after reading a few pages, began, as she had predicted, to wish he knew Peter. He wished he knew Peter in order to take the curl out of that butter-coloured hair and the fatuous smile from the complacent little mouth that stared at him from every illustration. Driven at last to fury, he dropped Peter down the well, and began to look for more congenial occupations.
- Number: 3.9
- Published: 1923 (1922 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1948 William novel of the same name
- Book: William Again
- Synopsis: An author persuades William to impersonate one of their creations.
Another interesting variation on the ‘insufferably virtuous child’ theme.
In this coincidence-packed story, William accompanies his mother to Aunt Ellen’s house where Aunt Ellen insists he read the true story of a lovely little boy called Peter, written by Peter’s own mother.
But, roaming round the neighbourhood, William comes across the author of Peter, a childless man who considers Peter’s non-existence to be his deepest secret. Terrified that it is about to emerge because a fan is on her way to visit him, he bribes William to be Peter for the afternoon.
“He must have taken a fancy to William,” said William’s mother. “SOME people do…”
William does not, it must be admitted, put much (or any) effort into his role, at first. “That curly hair wot I had,” he explains to the visitor, “all came off – got clawed off by a monkey, at the Zoo.”
But then, when he gets into it, he goes at the drama of the situation with a crusader’s zeal. His mother, he explains, is upstairs dying. The real author, hiding under a table in the living room, is a burglar.
Somehow William manages to come out on top of the situation even though literally nobody else does…