“Well, it began with Aunt Belle’s father.”
“Gosh!” said William, thinking of Aunt Belle’s venerable figure. “As far back as that?”
“He was a colonel in the army.”
“What did he fight in?” asked William with interest. “‘The Wars of the Roses?”
- Number: 20.9
- Published: 1938 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William the Collector
- Book: William the Dictator
- Synopsis: William intervenes in a probate dispute.
Aunt Louie (she of Aunt Louie’s Birthday Present, 20.7, fame) has invited William to spend a week with her and her Aunt Belle.
William had gingered up the collection to the best of his ability. No longer did the bottles contain merely colourless river water. One had been filled with red ink and beneath it was a notice in William’s uneven handwriting: “Water from the Red Sea.” One was a bright blue and beneath it William (with vague memories of popular songs), had.written: “Water from the Danube.” In another there floated a selection of dead insects and several dead minnows. This was labelled: “Water from the Dead Sea.” The collection of pressed flowers had been swept away and in its place stood specimens freely adapted by William. There was a tulip with a daffodil’s head wired on just below the tulip’s head, there were primroses painted green and black, there was a fern decorated with gold and silver paint; and grape hyacinths grew, surprisingly, from an apple-tree branch.”
And in doing so, he walks right into the middle of an Agatha Christie-style mystery: Aunt Belle’s father had owned a valuable figure of a Chinese god, which he had planned to bequeath to the town museum when he died. But when it went missing on his death, Aunt Belle dedicated her life to travelling the world, collecting things, to try to make it up to the museum.
Sadly, the museum is not especially interested in Aunt Belle’s collection (personally I think she had a pretty cool idea: bottles of water from different famous rivers around the world, pebbles from famous beaches, and so on).
So William tries to help make her exhibition more interesting.