“And you, William,” Robert had said imperiously, “will fetch the balls for us.”
“Oh, will I?” said William.
“Yes, you will,” said Robert firmly, thinking he might as well give the high-handed manner a good chance before he was driven to abandon it.
“All right,” said William. “You make me then.”
Robert was, of course, aware that it is difficult, if not impossible, to play an impressive game of tennis and at the same time force an unwilling younger brother to search for missing balls. Reluctantly he abandoned the high-handed manner.
“Now look here,” he said, in a man-to-man tone of voice. “You wouldn’t like to sit by and watch us looking for our own tennis balls, would you?”
“Yes, I would,” said William, unmoved by the pathos of this picture.
- Number: 14.7
- Published: 1932 (1931 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Pirate
- Synopsis: William falls in love with a pantomime actress.
In the summer, Robert offers to take William to a Christmas pantomime in exchange for his services as a ball-boy. In the winter, William holds him to it.
And, not knowing the difference between fiction and reality, he falls in love with Princess Goldilocks and determines to spend the rest of his life with her. His determination is only strengthened when he discovers that the actress who played her (despite her being real and all that) is staying in a hotel in a neighbouring town.
It’s a fairly silly premise but the real highlight of the story is William’s antics in the hotel. When the doorman demands to know his business there, William gives a name at random – “Mr Medway” – and is slightly horrified to be led towards a guest who happens to rejoice under that name (“I… I din’ mean that Mr. Medway,” he said hastily, but neither of them took any notice of him).
“Be quiet,” said Mr Medway testily. “And come into the lounge. If there’s one thing I detest it’s being the centre of a scene.”
“Well, you weren’t,” said Williain, annoyed at being
deprived of whatever limelight there was in the affair. “I don’t see how you could have been, considering that it was me that was in the door.”
After abandoning an escape attempt that goes badly wrong in a revolving door, William discovers that Mr Medway was expecting a visit from his nephew Trevor. So William has to be his nephew Trevor.
“How’s your mother?”
“Very well, thank you,” said William.
“Very well?” said Mr Medway in surprise. “She told me in her last letter that she was no better at all.”
“Yes, that’s what I meant,” said William hastily.
“You seem to me to be half-witted,” said Mr Medway sternly.
“Yes, I am,” said William, thankfully accepting this explanation of his mistake. “The doctor says I may get better some day, but just at present I am a bit half-witted.”
“She’s very well in a sort of a way,” said William guardedly.
He does manage to get at his beloved Princess Goldilocks in the end. And learns an important life lesson in the process.