WILLIAM'S DOUBLE LIFE 67
his appearance with a cry of horror: " William, what a sight you are ! What have you been doing ? "
He murmured " Fishin' " rather distantly and sat down to his soup.
" Why didn't you wash and tidy your hair before you came in to lunch ? " continued his mother sternly.
" I did," said William simply, and not only received apparently unmoved his elder brother's snort of derision, but also pretended not to notice his further challenge of the gesture of a cat perfunctorily washing its face with its paw. This was no moment for reprisals. Robert could wait. At any minute the woman with the hair and the pince-nez might come to report his morning's activities, and the less he embroiled himself with Authority in the meantime the better.
" You won't forget where you're going out to tea this afternoon, William, will you ? " said his mother.
" No," said William, sinking into yet deeper gloom.
He was going out to tea with the Vicar. Occasionally the Vicar, who disliked children intensely, but suffered from an over-active conscience, invited his more youthful parishioners to tea. He was a precise and tidy man and liked peace and quiet, and he hardly slept at all the night before such a party took place, but he felt that was part of his priestly duty and went through with it in the spirit of the early Christian martyrs. His youthful guests generally enjoyed their visits, partly because his wife made a peculiarly delicious brand of treacle cake, and partly because the Vicar was entirely at a loss how to deal with the very young, and, given the right blending of guests, the affair could be trusted to develop into a very enjoyable riot. The only drawback of it in William's eyes was the long and painful process of cleansing and tidying to which he was subjected before he was declared fit to present himself at the Vicarage. On this occasion, despite William's own heroic efforts before lunch, the process