William and the Moon Rocket

 The facts

“My mother was mad on Thursday,” said William.
On Thursday William, bent on perfecting himself in his chosen career as a diver, had donned a home-made diving suit, consisting chiefly of trays and saucepans from his mother’s kitchen, with the addition of a few empty tins from the dustbin and a length of garden hose from the tool-shed, and dropped from the tree that overhung the pond into its murky depths.
He had been rescued by a passer-by and taken home, sodden with pond water and encrusted with slime, having left a good part of Mrs Brown’s kitchen equipment behind him. “No,” he continued regretfully, “I’ll have to wait till she’s forgotten about Thursday before I start practisin’ bein’ a diver again.”

  • Number: 29.5
  • Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s New Friend
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: William and Hubert end up impersonating the same French exchange student.

Verdict

The eponymous “Little  Yubear” is none other than Hubert Lane, who (by an odd chain of events precipitated, naturally, by William) ends up being mistaken for a French exchange student.

Hubert, who is not aware that he is a French exchange student and believes himself to have been invited into the host family’s house to eat as many buns as he likes, acts in a way that the daughter believes to be very odd but that the mother blithely dismises as “probably a French custom”. His search through their drawers for cream buns was explained away as, “The French are a nation full of intellectual curiosity. It’s a well-known fact.”

“I did that jolly well, didn’t I? I’ve got a jolly lot of tact. I’ve a good mind to be one of those men in the government called dip-something.”
“Dipsomaniacs?” suggested Ginger vaguely.
“I ’spect so…”

William ends up swapping places with Yubear, but when Mrs Brown offers to host him, things take a turn for the awkward…

 The facts

William entered, panting and breathless, a loaf under his arm.
“Sorry, if I’ve been a long time,” he said. “I met Ginger.”
“Didn’t they give you a bag or paper for the loaf, William?” said Mrs Brown.
“Yes, but it sort of came off.”
“It’s filthy!” said Ethel as she took the loaf from him. “You might have been playing football with it.”
William tried to look as if he had not been playing football with it.

  • Number: 29.4
  • Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William in Charge
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws help Archie to escape from an indifferent Justice.

Verdict

Ethel is hosting a party-and-drama evening (the play having been written by Robert’s friend Oswald Franks, who rather optimistically “hopes that it will go to the West End” after its debut at the Browns’). Her latest admirer, Lionel, is to take the starring role – though rather unusually, Mrs Brown has strong views that he is unsuitable.

Archie is bitterly disappointed not to have been cast, and goes on hopefully practising the starring role’s most momentous speech: “I am a criminal, a common criminal, and the net is closing round me. Unless I can flee the country before tonight, I am doomed!”

“What are those?” said William, turning his frowning gaze on to the pastry cases.
“Pastry cases, dear. They’re going to be filled with mushroom and white sauce mixture and things like that.”
“If I eat this one it’ll save you the trouble of fillin’ it, won’t it?” said William virtuously.

The Outlaws hear this. And, as in William and the Returned Traveller, 28.4, they make it their duty to rescue Archie from the clutches of the police.

Fortunately, their bizarre attempt to smuggle him into a van to Portsmouth backfires to the advantage of everyone concerned (except Lionel).

 The facts

“Well, what’ll we do now?” said Ginger. “We’ve done about everything you can do in a garden.”
“An’ some of the things you can’t,” said William with a certain modest pride.

Verdict

Roxana has presented Robert with a hideous American tie “with men playing baseball all over it”, which he feels bound to wear in order to secure her affections, and yet horrified of wearing because of its garishness.

William thinks it is the most exciting item of clothing he’s ever seen, and takes the first opportunitiy to borrow it. At school, he uses the tie to cultivate for himself a reputation as an expert on all things American – only to see the tie confiscated by Mr Vastop, a supply teacher and adversary imaginatively nicknamed “Ole Fathead”.

William’s face was now so expressionless that his homely features might have been hacked out of wood. He stared glassily in front of him.
“I’ve got a very bad mem’ry,” he said. “It’s a funny thing but I’ve got a sort of feeling that if you gave me back that tie of Robert’s I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else. It’d drive everything else clean out of my head.”
Mr Vastop’s face darkened. “I told you…” he began severely, then stopped. “It’s in my bedroom,” he went on. “I’ll get it.”
He went from the room. William turned his expressionless face to Ginger and slowly lowered one eyelid.

Breaking into Mr Vastop’s house to recover it (of course), the boys find various interesting things – including “copies of Mr Vastop’s testimonials, which William read with incredulous surprise” – but no sign of the tie.

Fortunately, Mr Vastop slightly overreacts to William and Ginger’s presence in his home, and they are able to turn that overreaction to his advantage…