William the Bold

 The facts

“William, must you drink like that?” groaned Ethel.
“I only drink same as other people,” said William with spirit. “I put water in my mouth an’ swallow it. It’s news to me there’s any other way of drinkin’. If you’ll kin’ly tell me any other way of drinkin’…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown.
“William, don’t play with your food,” said Mrs Brown.
“I’m not axshully playin’ with it,” explained William. “I’m workin’ out what’d happen if this carrot was a glacier an’…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown.
“Don’t slouch like that, William,” said Mrs Brown, “You’ll be growing up round-shouldered if you aren’t careful, and then what will you do?”
“I could be a jockey,” said William, after giving the matter a moment’s deep thought. “A jockey’s got to be round-shouldered . I bet jockeys practise bein’ round-shouldered an’…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown.

  • Number: 27.7
  • Published: 1950 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to deliver a cat to Archie.

Verdict

For some reason the Browns decide to let William collect a cat for them again; although the last two times ended in disaster (William and the White Cat, 3.5; and William and the Black Cat, 4.9), this time, Mrs Brown has faith.

The cat is Ethel’s birthday present to Archie – although she doesn’t especially admire Archie, Archie ardently admires her.

“I’m fetchin’ a cat,” William said.
“Why?” said Ginger.
“Where from?” said Douglas.
“Where to?” said Henry.
Their interest was flattering, and the facts of the case were suddenly too tame to suit William’s exalted mood. “It’s a specially savage cat,” he said airily, “an’ Ethel wanted me to fetch it ’cause she knows I’m good with wild animals.”
The Outlaws were sufficiently accustomed to William to discount something of his grandiloquence. Still – it was probably true that he was going to fetch a cat, and the situation might turn out to be interesting.

The Outlaws’ collective trip to the pet shop somewhat strains the owner’s nerves:

“Gosh! It’s woke up,” said William.
“I should think so!” said Douglas. “Anyone’d wake up bein’ swung about like you’ve been doin’.”
“Well, a cat oughtn’t to mind a bit of swingin’,” said William, adding, with a modest air of knowledge, “They swing cats to see if there’s room enough in places.”

…but that’s nothing to the disaster that occurs when they open the basket on the public highway.

They ‘find’ him another present, a valuable silver pepper-pot of Miss Milton’s, then things all become classically confusing – albeit following a fairly standard pattern.

 The facts

“Hi!” panted Ginger. “Don’t run so fast. I can’t keep up with you.”
“Well, don’t talk so much,” said William. “You oughter save your breath for runnin’ same as me. I’m not talkin’ all the time. I’m savin’ my breath
for runnin’.”
“You’ve never stopped talkin’ since we started,” Ginger reminded him. “I say! Let’s pretend there’s a herd of wolves after us. That oughter make us run quicker.”
“I’m not scared of wolves,” said William. “I bet if wolves were after us I’d jus’ turn round an’ kill ’em one after the other.”
“You’ve got nothin’ to kill ’em with.”
“I’d strangle ’em. I’ve got jolly strong hands. I can unscrew tops of tins an’ things what my mother can’t.”
“You’d find a wolf jolly diff’rent from the top of a tin.”

  • Number: 27.7
  • Published: 1950 (1948 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger accidentally stop a train, and fall victim to Hubert the master blackmailer.

Verdict

William and Ginger buy a magnificent pen-knife, whose most magnificent feature is “a thing for takin’ stones out of a horse’s hoof” (“You never know when you’ll get a horse”) – although their first act on receiving it is to test said tool on a horse which neither needs nor wants a stone taken out of its hoof. They get kicked across the road and then chased by an irate horseman (the description of whom as a “black-faced giant” is, I suspect/ hope, more a reference to their class and trade than to their ethnicity).

Hubert also wanted the knife, for no reason other than spite, and the Outlaws hand him the perfect leverage when they (from the best of intentions) stop a train – the 4:40 – unnecessarily and imagine that they must thenceforth be fugitives for the rest of their lives. In fact, Hubert blackmails William for many posssessions; again, for no reason other than spite.

“I’m feeling jolly ill. I’ve got an awful pain in my backand in my stomach an’…” – he paused for a moment, decided that it would be foolish to risk omitting any convincing illness by understatement, and went on – “an’ in my legs an’ in both my arms an’… an’ in my head.” He paused again and added simply, “I’ve got toothache too.”
William!” said Mrs Brown incredulously.

Affairs come to a head when Hubert and William are both invited to the same tea party as Robert and his crush of the moment:

“Hubert Lane!” said William in disgust. “Fancy anyone askin’ Hubert Lane to tea!”
“I’d a darn sight sooner have Hubert Lane to tea than you,” said Robert. “He doesn’t eat like something out of the zoo.”
“No, he eats like something in it,” said William, and was so delighted at his own wit that a bland smile overspread his countenance and the heavy weight lifted itself for a moment from his spirit.

But the hostess is indebted to William for reasons of her own…

 The facts

William was finding life rather interesting. His home was in the hands of “the decorators”, and William was enjoying the experience.
“Look!” he said proudly to the Outlaws. “There’s no staircarpet, an’ I bet none of you can make as much noise as what I can, goin’ upstairs. Come on. Let’s try it.”

  • Number: 27.6
  • Published: 1950 (1949 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws haunt Hubert.

Verdict

Hubert Lane has humiliated the Outlaws by scaring them with a bearskin rug, so they need to hatch some revenge.

But Hubert is not only crowing over his antics with the rug. He is also proud to be going to tea at a posh mansion with a friend of his mother’s, a famous author. The only downside is, the mansion is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a woman who died of a broken heart after her beloved left to Jamaica (no, he wanted to go) – and as we know from long experience, Hubert is a believer in the paranormal.

“I write stories myself,” said William, “an’ I bet mine are a jolly sight better than that friend of your mother’s.”
“I bet they’re not,” said Hubert.
“I bet they are,” said William. “I bet she’s never had four murders an’ three burglaries an’ a train accident an’ an aeroplane crash an’ a man havin’ his head pulled off by a gorilla all in one story, has she?”
“I dunno,” said Hubert, somewhat deflated by this wealth of invention.”

So naturally, the Outlaws plan to make sure that Hubert has a ghostly experience, creating a shadowy figurine so that “he’ll think it was that woman that died of eatin’ pineapples” (“She didn’t die of eatin’ pineapples,” said Henry. “She pined away”).

And then it is that Ethel’s dress-making dummy, affectionately known as Esmerelda, gets involved.

It doesn’t work very well – and as William ends up remarking, “Gosh! Five! Five of ’em! I don’t think anyone’s ever got in five sep’rate rows at the same time before since the world began.”