“You have a little boy, I believe?” said the visitor.
“Yes,” said Mrs Brown.
“I love little boys. I’d love to meet him.”
“I’m afraid he’s out,” said Mrs Brown, aware that William was not the sort of little boy that people are thinking of when they say that they love little boys.
“Perhaps he’ll come home before we go.”
“I h… I mean I think not,” said Mrs Brown.
- Number: 15.11
- Published: 1933 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s Bad Bargain
- Book: William the Rebel
- Synopsis: William is interviewed about how he got to the ripe old age of 78.
When William meets an older boy who has spent the morning causing chaos of a sort that William could only dream of – baiting farmers, swapping their animals etc – William has a new idol. William excitedly adopts the idol’s exploits as his own. And, therefore, ends up getting the blame for them. Farmer Jenks locks him in his shed while he goes to fetch a policeman.
Escaping by the simple but humiliating method of swapping clothes with a little girl, and topping this outfit with a charwoman’s outfit he comes across. Once at a safe distance from captivity, he offers to swap back, but the little girl apparently likes being a little boy, and decides to keep William’s suit.
“How many children have you had?” said the
“I’ve forgotten jus’ how many,” he croaked, “a good
“B… but,” protested her surprised interviewer,
“surely, dear Mrs Hobbin, you remember how many children you have.”
“I’m always meanin’ to count ’em,” croaked William, “but I keep on forgettin’.”
Of course, this now means that William must ‘be’ Mrs Hobbin, since he is cloaked in her clothes and she is well-known around the village.
Unfortunately, Mrs Hobbins was due to be interviewed that afternoon by a journalist producing a piece on Nature’s Ladies and Gentlemen. The journalist is somewhat taken aback by Mrs Hobbins’ appearance and manner:
“To what,” she said, “do you attribute your longevity?”
“Uh?” said William.
“I mean how do you think it is that you’ve lived so much longer than… er… than some other people?”
“Jus’ ’cause I’ve not died, I suppose,” croaked William after deep thought.