WILLIAM and the other Outlaws sat in the old barn discussing the latest tragedy that had befallen them. Tragedies, of course, fell thick and fast upon the Outlaws’ path through life. They waged ceaseless warfare upon the grown-up world around them and, as was natural, they frequently came off second best.
- Number: 9.8
- Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William the Good
- Synopsis: William has offended the Headmaster’s cousin; now he must make amends.
The Headmaster of William’s school would, once a year, invite a cousin of his – “a Great Man”, the text tells us – to speak. The Great Man would bore the pants off the pupils, but, if they sat and listened politely, would always request that they be given a half-holiday the following day.
But this year, something goes wrong. The Great Man turns up wearing a hat several sizes too small. This amuses the Outlaws enormously (“Looks like as if he was carryin’ an apple on his head”) and William bets that he could shoot the offending bowler off, with a peashooter, from a considerable distance.
The half-holiday is cancelled.
William performed an imperious and very lengthy tattoo on the knocker.
“We’re not deaf,” the maid said haughtily.
“Aren’t you?” said William with polite interest. “I’m not either. But I’ve gotter naunt what’s so deaf that…”
“What do you want?” she snapped.
William does genuinely strive to make amends. “Tell him he can shoot a catapult at me!” was a particularly endearing olive-branch. (“Tell him that it was all because of his hat,” admittedly less so.)
Denied access to the Great Man by his maid, they follow him to a dinner-party and, led by William, creep into the garden because they “might get a chance to whisper to him through the window or somethin’”.
Then something happened. In The Leopard Hunter, 6.3, William pretended that his garden was inhabited by a leopard escaped from a circus. Now, a lion actually has escaped from a circus in the field next to the dinner-party, and the guests react predictably (“Don’t be alarmed, dearest. It can’t be the lion knocking at the door. The lion couldn’t reach up to the knocker”).
The outcome is much the same though…
Unfortunate double entendre: “The Outlaws drew deep breaths and ejaculated simultaneously.”