“And what place in London did your uncle take you to, Algernon?” said Miss Murgatroyd.
“The Tower,” said William at random.
“And did you like the beefeaters?”
“It was the Tower I said we went to,” said William, “not the Zoo.”
- Number: 10.3
- Published: 1929 (1928 in magazine form)
- Book: William
- Synopsis: William decides to be his well-mannered twin brother, Algernon.
This is a really excellent story, not only because it shows that William is able to be well-dressed and well-mannered, without any external impetus, when it serves his own ends.
On this occasion, having been caught (in his normal guide of ‘ruffian’) stealing fish from a neighbour’s pond, he intercepts the neighbour on her way to complain to his parents (dressed in a smart suit) claiming to be his rather mournful twin brother Algernon – and pleading for mercy on behalf of his errant sibling.
“But don’t you think,” said Miss Murgatroyd earnestly, “that it would do William good to be punished?”
“No,” said William with considerable emphasis, “I don’t think so. I reely don’t think so. I think it does him far more good to be pled with.”
This dance goes on for some time, and several more fish-stealing encounter. Poor Miss Murgatroyd is so taken in by William’s ‘Algernon’ shtick that she begins to imagine things, such as noticing that Algernon has a longer nose than William ‘now that he mentions it’. It simply never dawns on her that William would have the audacity (or, indeed, the ability) to pull such a ludicrous deception.
He gets caught in the end, of course, when Miss Murgatroyd tries to gather ‘both’ twins in the same room. But by this time, he has purloined enough of her fish to satisfy himself that he is the master of an aquarium – and he has a great story to tell as well.