Wednesday, 9th April 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

A short character sketch, adapted from William the Bad (1930) by Richmal Crompton:

The Outlaws walked down into the village, and in the village they met Anthony Grayling. They did not know that he was Anthony Grayling, of course. They saw a little man of about sixty, picturesquely attired, wearing a complacent expression and hair that was just too long. He was a stranger to the locality.
‘Who are you?’ said William.
‘Don’t you know?’ said the little man, with a self-conscious smile. ‘I’m Anthony Grayling.’ William’s face remained blank. The little man seemed disappointed by their reception of the information. ‘Don’t you know Anthony Grayling?’ he said.
‘No, never heard of him,’ said Ginger. A shade of contempt came into the little man’s face.
‘Good heavens,’ he said, ‘I shouldn’t have thought there was anyone. Haven’t you read any of the Anthony Grayling books?’
‘No,’ said William, unimpressed. ‘Did you write ’em? I’ve written books myself.’
‘No, my mother writes them but they’re about me. Poems and stories all about me. Nearly half a million copies have been sold and they’ve been translated into fourteen different languages. I’ve had my photograph in literally hundreds of papers. Have you really never heard of me?’
‘No, never,’ said William. ‘Why’ve you come here?’
‘My mother’s coming for a rest,’ said Anthony Grayling. ‘She’s been overworking and people have been rushing her so. We’re going to spend a very quiet fortnight down here at Honeysuckle Cottage. I’m not going to give any interviews, except perhaps one. The editor of the New Humanist wants to send someone down and I half-promised to be photographed on her knee. Well, I must go home to lunch now. Come round for tea tomorrow, if you like. And tell your people you’ve seen me, they’ll be interested. Good morning.’
The Outlaws stood open-mouthed and watched Anthony Grayling’s dapper figure as it strolled nonchalantly away.

*

The next day the Outlaws presented themselves, clean and tidy, at Honeysuckle Cottage. Upstairs, Anthony Grayling had a suite all to himself, presided over by a crushed-looking creature in a cap and apron whom Anthony Grayling addressed as Nurse and treated with the hauteur of an oriental despot.
‘I want you to hear my latest record first,’ he said to his guests. ‘Mother’s having records made of the Anthony Grayling poems, recited by me. They’re not being issued to the public yet. This one’s called “Homework”. Every verse ends with “Anthony Grayling is doing his sums”.’ He put on the record and the Outlaws listened to it in a dejected silence.

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