“Be quiet,” interrupted Mrs. Lane severely. “If you tell any more of these wicked lies I shall come round and tell your father this evening. Of course I believe Hubert rather than you. Hubert’s a most truthful little boy, aren’t you, Hubert?”
“Yes, Mother,” agreed Hubert smugly.
- Number: 21.2
- Published: 1939 (1938 in magazine form)
- Book: William and Air Raid Precautions
- Synopsis: Hubert abstracts a present from William; William abstracts it back.
At last, a relative of Hubert’s who is genuinely pleasant. In fact, Uncle Paul from Australia is so closely attuned to the Outlaws’ rough-and-tumble way of life that he much prefers them to his own nephew.
“Well,” said William, lowering his voice confidentially. “When we came here this morning we saw an ole woman in the field with a cloak an’ a big pointed hat an’ a broomstick.”
The superior sneer fell from Hubert’s face. “It was a witch,” he said excitedly. “It was a witch, of course. What was she doin’?”
“She was jus’ goin’ about an’ wavin’ her broomstick an’ sayin’ things.”
“Spells!” said Hubert, his round, credulous face pink with eagerness. “She was makin’ spells. I say” – his eyes glinted greedily – “did she say anythin’ about findin’ treasure or anythin’ like that?”
When he returns to Australia, he gives Hubert a pistol as a goodbye present (!) and also buys a pen-knife for William, to be delivered by Hubert.
Hubert, though, doesn’t deliver it. He claims it as his own, and with no witness to Uncle Paul’s intentions, Mrs Lane sends William away when he calls round to ask for it.
But the Outlaws play on Hubert’s fear of the supernatural – and specifically, his fear of having his family turned into hens – to convince him to return what is rightfully theirs (and also the pistol…)