Day 94: William and the Chinese God

The facts

“I’ve hurt my legs,” said William with a flash of inspiration. “I can’t bend my knees. I gotta stand.” He scowled at her more ferociously than ever as he spoke.
“My poor little boy,” said the old lady sympathetically. “But there’s hope of your being cured, I suppose, dear?”
“Oh, yes,” William reassured her.
“When do they say you’ll be all right?” went on the lady earnestly.
“Oh, any time after today,” said William unthinkingly.
“You can lie down, I suppose?” said the old lady, evidently much distressed by William’s mysterious complaint.
“Oh yes,” said William, who by this time had almost convinced himself of the reality of his disease.

  • Number: 8.3
  • Published: 1927 (1926 in magazine form)
  • Book: William in Trouble
  • Synopsis: Ginger dares William to steal something from the headmaster’s house.

Verdict

Persuaded to sneak into Mr Markson’s house and steal (borrow) something, anything, as an act of bravado, William’s random choice inevitably leads him to purloin an extremely valuable, and totally unique, figurine of a Chinese god.

The rest of the story revolves around his desperate attempts to avoid Mr Markson discovering the theft, which is not easy because Mr Markson happens, by complete coincidence, to be dogging William’s footsteps that day.

In the safe refuge of his bedroom William took the Chinese figure out of his pocket and looked at it distastefully. He didn’t know how to get the beastly thing back, and he was sure there’d be a fuss if he didn’t get the beastly thing back, and he wished he’d never taken the beastly thing, and he blamed Douglas and Ginger and Henry for the whole affair.

First, he attends a tea party hosted by William’s mother (fancy having your headmaster come to tea!), so William has to stand stolidly in front of the table in his living room so as to obscure the stolen item.

Then, when William has to take a message from a neighbour, Mr Markson ends up there too.

He seems a bit guileless, though, especially for a headteacher, because, seeing his unique Chinese artefact in all these different locations in the same small rural village, his assumption is not that William is up to no good, but that the artefact is in fact far from unique.

The end of the story doesn’t quite feature the exposure of the whole scheme, but it comes quite near…