William and the Evacuees

The facts

“I don’t want girls,” said William scornfully. “Rotten ole cissies, that’s what they are.They’re cowardy custards an’ they’ve got no sense an’ they spoil everythin’ they join in at. I’d sooner not have a gang at all than have a rotten ole girl in it.”
Queenie’s usually putty-coloured face turned a bright red. Hubert looked helplessly from one to the other. “You’re a rotten ole cowardy custard yourself,” said Queenie, advancing her face to an inch or two of William’s, “an’ you’re the ugliest boy I ever saw an’ I hate you an’…”

  • Number: 22.8
  • Published: 1940 (1939 in magazine form, not to be confused with the 1929 story, 11.4, of the same name)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: The village is beset by gang warfare when various visitors arrive.

Verdict

A gang of inner-city yobs has set up camp on Farmer Jenks’s meadow, and Hubert Lane’s mean cousin Queenie is staying with the Lanes… fights galore ensue.

But William has a strategic mind and quickly works out that a one-off Laneite-Outlaw alliance could defeat the interlopers once and for all. He has just one condition: no girls.

“Well, what’re we goin’ to do with him?” demanded
Ginger.
William had a sudden inspiration. “We’ll question him,” he said. “That’s what they do with prisoners. They question ’em.”
“What about?” demanded Hubert.
“About their mil’tary secrets, of course,” said William impatiently.
“S’pose they’ve not got any?”
“Of course they’ve got mil’tary secrets,” said William. “All enemies’ve got mil’tary secrets.”
“We oughter torcher him,” said Queenie, who had suddenly appeared in their midst.

Sadly, though, I find this story quite tedious. There are no real entertaining moments from William, no elaborate schemes; just a succession of betrayals and double-agents and turncoats that seem strangely unsuited to the William world.

And then, just at the end, a touch of insurance fraud for no apparent reason.

Very odd story, this one.

hyThe facts

William’s pocket money was mortgaged for a month to pay for the crockery he had broken while training to be a juggler. “Well, they’ve all gotter learn , haven’t they?” he had protested, when sentence was passed on him. “Gosh! D’you think jugglers can throw up plates like that without practisin’? D’you think they’re born throwin’ up plates like that? They’ve gotter break a few plates an’ things practisin’. Stands to reason… Well , how’m I goin’ to earn my livin’ bein’ a juggler when I’m grown up if you won’t let me practise? Anyone ’d think you didn’t want me to earn my livin’ when I’m grown up. It’s gain’ to be jolly expensive to you keepin’ me all my life , just ’cause you won’t ever let me start practisin’ to earn my livin’ jugglin’…”

  • Number: 22.7
  • Published: 1940 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William wants a tin hat; and Robert has a competitor.

Verdict

William, envious of the tin hats that every other boy in the village seems to own, tries to gain permission to borrow Robert’s.

But Robert has other problems on his hands, because his relationship with the delightful Philippa Pomeroy (William and the Begging Letter, 21.8) is under pressure from an airy newcomer called Claude – who would, as a child, undoubtly have fallen into the ‘insufferably virtuous’ category.

For while Robert plays at soldiers with only slightly more realism than has William – his duties in the ARP seem to revolve around “battles won on
the darts board and tense moments at draughts” – Claude abounds with stories of bravery and pluck, and says he intends to ‘join up’ to the Royal Air Force as soon as possible. Philippa is enchanted (or should I say ‘fooled’).

William sat down hopefully. It was about tea time, and you generally got a jolly decent tea in other people’s houses, much better than you ever got at home. He looked from one to the other cheerfully, ready to play his social part and take his share in any conversation that might be going.
“I’m sure your friends are missing you,” said Claude.
“Yes, I ‘spect they are,” agreed William pleasantly.
There was a short silence, then Claude said: “I can’t tell you how much we enjoy having you here, but I don’t think we ought to deprive your friends any longer of the pleasure of your company.”
There was nothing subtle about William. He took
things at their face value. “Oh, no, that’s all right,” he said, flattered by the compliment. “I c’n stay here as long as you want me. I c’n stay,” hopefully, “anyway till after tea.”

This leads William to a brilliant fundraising idea, hopefully brilliant enough to net him a new tin hat: he offers to concoct some stories of bravery and pluck for Robert to tell Philippa. Robert, fairly sensibly, declines.

But then William witnesses Claude walking home in the black-out and acting in an unplucky and disbrave way; and, without for a moment losing his faith in Claude’s genuineness, accidentally and unintentionally blackmails him.

The facts

“He’s from Africa,” said William proudly. “I bet he’s shot no end of lions.”
“That aunt of yours what came from Africa,” Ginger reminded him, “hadn’t even seen one.”
“I know,” said William, “but she came from a tamed part. It’s called Cape Town, is the tamed part, but this cousin of my father’s comes from the wild part. The wild part’s called Rhodesia, an’ he comes from that. It’s full of lions an’ elephants an’ buffaloes an’ things, an’ I bet this cousin of my father’s has shot ever so manany. He’s prob’ly an explorer as well…”

  • Number: 22.6
  • Published: 1940 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William is underwhelmed by an African visitor who doesn’t kill lions.

Verdict

William is excited to hear that Mr Tice will be visiting the Browns from Rhodesia. Assuming Mr Ticehurst to be a hard-fisted and indomitable bushman (he pictured “a sort of Goliath whose path through life was littered with the dead bodies of wild beasts and even of his enemies”), William fully expects to enlist his help in vanquishing the Hubert Laneites once and for all.

The Outlaws blamed William for their downfall.
“Him!” said Ginger scornfully for the hundredth
time. “I bet those elephants never saw him at all. I bet
they thought he was a rabbit.”

“It was, therefore, a distinct shock, when the long expected guest arrived, to find that he was a small insignificant-looking man, wearing spectacles.”

All-in-all, an interesting twist on the adults who William supposes to be friends subgenre.