Day 335: Mrs Bott and the Portrait

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…