Day 50: William the Showman

The facts

William was indignant at the suggestion that he had failed to pay the shopkeeper. “Well,” he said, “well – you talk ’s if that was my fault – ’s if I knew my people was going to decide sudden not to give me any money that week simply because one of their cucumber frames got broke by my ball.”

  • Number: 4.10
  • Published: 1924 (1923 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1929 story, 10.5, or the 1937 book, 19, of the same name
  • Book: William the Fourth
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws organise a (broadly-defined) exhibition of insects.

Verdict

This is another story in which William, quite unintentionally, exposes the grown-up world as vacuous and hypocritical.

Specifically, his invention of the nonsense-word “Omshafu” (which he christens his pet rat in order to pretend that it is, actually, a rare species of insect, and thus eligible to be exhibited in his “c’lection of insecks”) exposes the grown-up world.

“As is the case with most of the unfortunate occurrences in this village,” said Miss Euphemia, “the direct cause is that terrible boy, William Brown.”

Because his pal Miss Fairlow, a published author who spurns the intellectual pretensions of the local Society for Higher Thought, tells the members of that esteemed society all about her experiences with Omshafu. The members of that esteemed society pretend to be familiar with Omshafu: “some sort of Eastern philosophy, of course”.

When the real Omshafu emerges – fortunately enough from beneath the very sofa on which the chief Higher Thinker was sitting – they are exposed.

William, totally oblivious, continues with his exhibition.