More William

The facts

It was Christmas. William had thoughtfully presented each of his friends and relations with a list of his immediate requirements:
1. a Bicycle.
2. a grammerfone.
3. a pony.
4. a snake.
5. a monkey.
6. a Bugal.
7. a trumpit
8. a red Injun uniform
9. a sw lot of sweets
10. a lot of books.
He had a vague and not unfounded misgiving that his family would begin at the bottom of the list instead of the top.

  • Number: 2.14
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1934 story, 16.10, of the same name
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William and Joan plan a Christmas party for the local poor.

Verdict

So anxious to avoid being given only books for Christmas is William that he finds and rifles through the stack his father intends for him, then casually announces at breakfast the next morning, “I only hope no one gives me The Great Chief, or The Pirate Ship, or The Land of Danger for Christmas. Jus’ ’cause I’ve read them, that’s all.”

Back to the bookshop Mr Brown went!

But William has other things on his mind. He comes across a poor girl in the neighbourhood whose father is about to be released from prison. He and Joan resolve to escape from their own Christmas party, and go to bring some joy to the girl and her family.

“Now let’s see whom we’ll have for your party, William,” she said, taking out pencil and paper. “You say whom you’d like and I’ll make a list.”
“Ginger an’ Douglas an’ Henry and Joan,” said William promptly.
“Yes? Who else?”
“I’d like the milkman.”

It turns out (not entirely surprisingly) that William is more enlightened than his family. In this story, he does a genuine good turn – yes, it wasn’t his own food that he gave away, but he and Joan brought so much light to the poor family’s lives – and all he gets from Mrs Brown is, “And he was just a common man straight from prison. It’s dreadful. I do hope you haven’t picked up any awful language.”

Christmas cheer from Richmal Crompton.

The facts

“Do you know any Latin, William?”
“Jus’ a bit,” said William, guardedly. “I’ve learnt a lot, but I don’t know much.”

  • Number: 2.13
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: The President of the Society of Ancient Souls, a staunch believer in reincarnation, moves in next door to the Browns.

Verdict

When even someone as sophisticated as Robert refers to the new neigbour as “the old luny”, you know they must be dreadful.

And Miss Gregoria Mush, who convenes a group of other old lunies who are in touch with their previous existences, is not only a thorn in William’s side (“She objected to his singing, she objected to his shouting, she objected to his watching her over the wall, and she objected to his throwing sticks at her cat. She objected both verbally and in writing”) but quite predatory, and she has set her sights on his other neighbour, Mr Gregorius Lambkin, who, as his name suggests, is far too mild to tell her to shove off.

So keen is William to help extricate Mr Lambkin – a friend and supporer of William’s – from his predicament that he sacrifices his April Fools Day (almost) to his task.

Particularly full of bizarre characters, this one.

The facts

William’s family had no real faith in the Sunday-school as a corrective to William’s inherent wickedness, but they knew that no Sabbath peace or calm was humanly possible while William was in the house. So they brushed and cleaned and tidied him at 2:45 and sent him, pained and protesting, down the road every Sunday afternoon. Their only regret was that Sunday-school did not begin earlier and end later.

  • Number: 2.12
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William plans one last day of naughtiness before he reforms for good.

Verdict

As a (Jewish) Sunday- (Saturday-) school headteacher of many years’ experience, I’m well aware of how some parents may be more interested in shedding custody of their children for a few hours than in having their children religiously educated.

But how could any family bear to part with a child as characterful as William?

William had sometimes idly imagined the impact of a pea sent violently from a pea-shooter with the gardener’s bald head. Before there had been a lifetime of experiment before him, and he had put off this one idly in favour of something more pressing. Now there was only one day. He took up his pea-shooter and aimed carefully.

A “pink-checked girl” in his class, Deborah, convinces him to change his ways, but he insists on one final day of lawlessness before the start of his new life.

He attacks the gardener, bunks off school (“The precious hours of such a day as this could not be wasted in school”), hijacks a gypsy caravan and its attendant donkey, and carries out many more acts of mischief.

Even though, as dusk falls, he has to face up to what he’s done – since we’re on a Jewish Sunday school theme, echoes of Yom Kippur here – I’ve categoried this story as William comes out on top because the delight he gets from his day of misrule far outweighs the downsides of his father’s anger (“Mr Brown’s rhetoric had been rather lost on William, because its pearls of sarcasm had been so far above his head”).