Day 226: William and the Old Man in the Fog

 The facts

“P’raps I oughn’t to’ve told you,” said William, his apprehension growing as he remembered one or two of his wilder flights of fancy. “P’raps you’d better not tell anyone else.”

  • Number: 20.10
  • Published: 1938 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Phantom Legacy
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: William nearly makes Robert popular.

Verdict

William overhears a fortune-teller telling Robert that he will receive a hefty legacy, and excitedly tells the entire town – adding in a rather confused story that the bequestor is an elderly man who Robert once rescued from a foggy doom.

“You know, dear boy,” said Miss Milton, “The possession of wealth is a great responsibility.”
Robert agreed absently and. assured himself that
Inexhaustible Power Surged within him.
“It’s so important,” said Miss Milton, “that it should be used for the public good and not for private pleasure.”
Robert agreed, remembering suddenly to Hold up his Head and Look the World in the Face. Miss Milton, a little startled by the sudden glare he turned on her, continued:
“My little Society for Providing Comforts for Sick Pets is sadly in need of funds. You won’t forget that, will you?”

Robert is not especially surprised by his newfound popularity among the village’s young ladies, because he ascribes it to the success of his reading matter How to be Popular, which encourages its students to recite mantras such as “nothing and no-one can withstand me” and “inexhaustible power surges within me”.

I’m very fond of this story as it has several hilarious moments (Robert buying his partner a mock-diamond brooch, and her assuming it to be a real-diamond brooch, for instance) – but the joke is definitely around Robert rather than William, whose role in the story is, essentially, confined to instigating the trouble and then taking a seat.