William was aware when his father promised to take him to the pantomime for a Christmas treat that he would have to tread very carefully between the promise and its fulfilment if he wished the fulfilment to materialise.
“If I was you,” said Douglas earnestly, “I’d jus’ do nothin’ between now and then ‘cept eat at meal times an’ go to bed at night.”
- Number: 10.10
- Published: 1929 (1928 in magazine form)
- Book: William
- Synopsis: The Outlaws ride a prize pig, and so need to blackmail its owner.
In many ways this is a completely classic William story. It has all the key features: William, with no ill intent, absently gets himself into a situation in which he causes chaos, and tries to get out of it by doing an act of public service which is, it turns out, based on a misunderstanding, but miraculously gets out of it anyway.
To put some flesh on the bones of that outline: the Outlaws go to look at Eglantine, a local pig well-known for being repulsively/ prize-winningly fat. For the Outlaws, it is but a short step from looking at Eglantine to riding Eglantine “as if she was an elephant”.
The life of quiet virtue that he had led for nearly a day was getting on William’s nerves.
When Eglantine’s enraged owner vows to complain to William’s father, it is clear that desperate measures are necessary: “We’ll find out somethin’ he’s done wrong in his past an’ hold it over him that if he goes an’ tells about the pig we’ll set the police on him.”
They don’t consider it necessary actually to discover any facts, but instead write Eglantine’s owner, Mr Ballater, a generic note reading: “All is nown fle.”
But then things all get rather confusing when they decide to ‘return’ to the Vicar a teapot which they are convinced was stolen by Mr Ballater. And, astonishingly, in the process of extricating themselves from the situation they actually manage to catch a real thief.
So all in all, a typical day for William!