“Get the money now, dear,” said Mrs Brown, “and go as quietly as you can.”
William tiptoed across to the dressing-table, but his tiptoeing was always of a somewhat elephantine nature. He banged into a chair, and knocked over a bottle of hair lotion on the dressing-table, before he finally found the purse. He took a ten-shilling note and a sixpence, put them carefully into his pocket, and made his way, still tiptoeing, to the door.
“Don’t bang it, dear,” pleaded Mrs. Brown faintly.
William gave his whole attention to not banging the door. He closed it by infinitesimal inches, and took so long that his mother’s nerves were strained to breaking-point before it finally reached its objective. The effect was somewhat marred by his immediately slipping on the top step and falling all the way downstairs.
- Number: 20.7
- Published: 1938 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s Christmas Shopping
- Book: William the Dictator
- Synopsis: William thinks Aunt Louie deserves a better present than Mrs Brown does.
Louie is a friend of Mrs Brown who lives in South Africa. She is also a friend of William’s, so he graces her with the title ‘Aunt’. And it is her birthday, so Mrs Brown sends William into town to collect a present for her – a tea-towel – so it can be posted to the south.
The Outlaws collectively decide, though, that Aunt Louie is so nice that she deserves something better than a tea-towel.
“Pity not to send her somethin’ reely useful…”
They had reached Hadley now, and stood looking into the window of a toy-shop that always attracted them.
“Now, that pistol’d be jolly useful to her,” said
Douglas. “I bet you want no end of pistols in a country like South Africa, with all those lions an’ savidges.”
“It’s not a real one,” Henry reminded him.
“I know, but it’d sort of give ’em a scare.”
They spend all of the money earmarked by Mrs Brown on various items which they consider would be of service to Aunt Louie in her foreign home: a pistol with which to pretend to shoot lions; a compass for finding her way through the veldt; a drum “to call people to help when the savidges are attacking”. And a tortoise.
A quite ridiculous twist of fate saves William’s neck. And he is left, at the end, with a tortoise.