William and the Space Animal

 The facts

“I was thinkin’ it’s time they came back. Civil wars, I mean. Can’t think why they stopped havin’ them. They’re much better than all these abroad wars. Cheaper, too, ’cause you’ve not got to waste money on tickets goin’ out abroad to ’em, an’ you could come home to dinner when you wanted to. Why, it’d save money, havin’ a civil war. An’ there wouldn’t be all this messin’ about with foreign langwidges. Everyone’d understand what everyone else said. There’s no sense in foreign langwidges, anyway. They had civil wars in hist’ry an’ it’s a pity they ever stopped.”

Verdict

Excited by a history lesson about the War of the Roses, William affixes the following sign to the Old Barn:

a sivil war will brake out this afternun at three oklock
fre to ennyone bring weppons.
cined William Brown.

William did not notice an old gentleman in formal morning suit coming down the path till a hand descended on his shoulder and a voice said, “What are you doing there, my boy?”
William looked up at his captor then bared his teeth in an ingratiating smile. “Me no spick English,” he said.

By good fortune, the Hall has been let for the summer to the Young Conservatives so a ready-made target for the civil war is available.

Discovered creeping about the grounds of the Hall, William pretends to be a miscellaneous foreigner, but to no avail…

 The facts

“Yesterday my mother was talkin’ to me about givin’ people a helpin’ hand an’ not always thinkin’ about yourself an’ it started me wonderin’
who to give a helpin’ hand to an’ I sort of fixed on Ethel,” said William.
The Outlaws’ expressions showed disapproval. “If you want someone to give a helpin’ hand to,” said Henry, “there’s me. I’ve always wanted that water-pistol of yours.”
“Well, I’m jolly well not goin’ to give it to you,” said William with spirit. “I’m only givin’ a helpin’ hand an’ a helpin’ hand’s different from a water-pistol.”

Verdict

Overcome with gratitude for Ethel’s gift of an old fountain pen, William decides to give her a helping hand. They go through a heap of newspapers looking for job adverts (after discounting Poultry World) and eventually set their sights on a position vacant for a cat-carer.

There then ensues a wonderful scene:

“Look! Here’s an advert,” said Ginger. “‘Gentlewoman wanted as companion-help to elderly lady. No rough work. Every comfort.’”
“Yes, that sounds all right,” said William, interested. “She’s jolly good at havin’ every comfort… No, it won’t do. Look! It says ‘Pleasant disposition essential’ an’ she’s jolly well not got one. I bet she’d snap this elderly lady’s head off the minute she started crackin’ nuts or chewin’ gum or borrowing her things…”

“I’ll put on my p’lite manner,” said William, “an’ we’ll make a bit of p’lite conversation then we’ll ask for this job for Ethel. I’ve got it all organised im my mind. I’m a jolly good organist.”
“She can only say ‘no’, anyway,” said Ginger.
“I’ve known people do more than that,” said Douglas darkly.
Suddenly the door opened and a middle-aged woman with grey hair and a thin vague-looking face stood looking at them. “Are you trying to break the house down?” she said sternly.
“No,” William reassured her. “No, we’re not tryin’ to break the house down.” He assumed the wooden expression and glassy smile of his ‘polite manner’ and added, “Good afternoon.”
“It’s a mercy every piece of glass in the place isn’t broken,” she said. “Is that the way you generally knock at people’s doors?”
“Yes,” said William simply, then, intensifying the glassiness of his smile, added, “How are you?”
“What do you mean, how am I?” said the woman. “I’ve not been ill.”
“I’m glad you haven’t been ill,” said William, baring his teeth with a further effort. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”
The woman stared at him and he abandoned his smile to give his followers a scowl that urged them to second his efforts. “The days are drawing in,” said Henry hastily, repeating a remark that he had overheard in the post-office the day before.
“An’ the nights are drawing out,” said Ginger after a moment’s thought.
They looked at Douglas. who turned purple with mental effort as he strove to find some suitable contribution. “The evenings,” he said at last, “seem pretty much the same,” then, with a burst of inspiration, repeated a remark that he had heard his father make at breakfast, “an’ our foreign affairs seem to have reached a deadlock.”
William realised suddenly that their hostess was keeping them standing on her doorstep and a note of severity crept into his voice. “We’II come in an’ sit down if you like.”

But when William hears that a “film man” is staying in the village, he knows that his one mission in life is to have Ethel made a film star. He tries to organise an audition (and rather makes a rod for his own back by notifying neither Ethel nor the film man that the chain of events he is setting in place are an audition) – but he feels satisfied at the end of the story nonetheless.

 The facts

“This is the old barn, I presume?” asked Mr Marks.
“Yes, but it’s our place,” said William a little indignantly. “We always play here.”
“Doubtless, my boy. Doubtless. But when you in your turn are a prosperous city gentleman or an ornament to some learned profession…”
“I’m going to be a diver, sir.”
“Yes, yes… well, the particular sphere on which you shed lustre by your presence does not affect the situation. Other boys will still play here and regard it as their property.”
“Yes, I suppose so, sir,” said William, surprised and a little outraged by the idea.

Verdict

This is yet another occasion when William saves his school from a self-important and disruptive influence: see also William Holds the Stage, 14.2. Mr Marks is intensely frustrated by the enforced presence of James Aloysius Worfield, who is holding the prospect of a large donation for a cricket pavilion over the headmaster’s head as a token with which to interfere, generally, in the running of the school.

As such, hostilities between Mr Marks and William (which were always fairly good-natured) are temporarily suspended.

Mr Marks took the cheque from his pocket and contemplated it with satisfaction. “Well, we got it,” he said.
“We got it,” said Mr French, “in spite of young Brown.”
“In spite of young Brown,” agreed Mr Marks. Then a thoughtful look came over his face. “Or could it be – we shall never know, of course – could it possibly be because of young Brown?”

But old boys, apparently, come in twos. Because the Outlaws bump into a friendly hiker who turns out also to have attended their school – a contemporary of Worfield, in fact. He has some stories to tell. Stories that prove very useful to William and the headmaster in getting rid of the unwelcome presence in their midst.