Day 219: Agnes Matilda Comes to Stay

 The facts

Yes, of course he’d be polite to her. Wasn’t he polite to everyone always? Well, nearly everyone an’ nearly always. He would be to her, anyway.
Well, was he goin’ to get anythin’ for it? It’d be jolly hard work bein’ polite to a silly ole girl for a whole fortnight. Mrs Brown offered threepence. William said that threepence was all right for a week, but that a fortnight was worth a jolly sight more than threepence.

  • Number: 20.3
  • Published: 1938 (1937 in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Awful Child.
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: An objectionable girl comes to stay with the Browns.

Verdict

Agnes Matilda isn’t so much ‘insufferably virtuous’ as just plain insufferable, as this story’s original title (William and the Awful Child) attests.

It’s also an interesting role reversal, because so often William is being foisted on unsuspecting and/ or unwilling hosts to recuperate – see eg A Spot of Heroism, 18.10 – but now his parents are the hosts, and the patient, daughter of one of Mr Brown’s business partners, is interfering in his life.

“Have you bad anything to do with Agnes Matilda today, William?” Mr Brown asked.
“Well,” William temporised, “mother promised me sixpence for leavin’ her alone.”

She and William cordially ignore each other for the first thirteen days of her fortnight’s visit. But then she suddenly decides to follow William to his meeting with the Outlaws.

And proves herself to be a formidable warrior, both against the Outlaws and against the Hubert Laneites. She is, in fact, such an unpredictable and uncontrollable attack dog that the Outlaws just ‘have’ to lock her in a shed and let consequences take their own course…