“He can’t talk English, you know,” said Miss Cliff.
“I know,” replied Miss Milton. “But he talks French beautifully. He and I had quite a long conversation in French today, n’est-ce pas, Hassan?”
She proceeded to pour out a flood of fluent French upon the unhappy William, at the end of which she obviously asked some question. William was seized with a sudden violent paroxysm of coughing.
- Number: 17.9
- Published: 1935 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William the Detective
- Synopsis: William impersonates a Persian boy.
William’s friend Miss Cliff has very little in her life, so she is passionately excited to have the opportunity to host a Persian boy – brought to the village by the Vicar as a somewhat orientalist cultural spectacle – for tea one day. She was thrilled at having something to do. She spent days cooking and preparing the house (“Ought the tea-table to face the east?”). The prospect of the visit “bounded her whole horizon”.
But then, at the last minute, the Vicar asks William to pass on the message that Hassan has been delayed and will not be able to make it that afternoon.
Feeling desperately sorry for Miss Cliff, a very kind-hearted William decides to put on a veil and be the Persian boy himself.
He really was awfully sweet in this story.