William the Conqueror

The facts

“You look very nice, my cherub, Hubert darling. Quite a little man.”
The Outlaws were listening with silent rapture to this. William, with frowning concentration, was storing up every word of the conversation to his mind for future use.

  • Number: 6.13
  • Published: 1926 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws take over Hubert Lane’s Christmas party.

Verdict

The third in a trilogy of Christmas party stories, and a direct sequel to The Wrong Party, 6.11, the Outlaws plan the best way to destroy Hubert Lane’s Yuletide festivities.

They enter the Lane house via a perilous pear tree and an open attic window; this is serious business (“We’re not here to play,” William hissed fiercely).

“Coming!” yelled Hubert Lane from downstairs.
“Don’t shout so, darling,” said Aunt Emmy’s flute-like voice. “Say it quietly. Little gentlemen never raise their voices.”

Things were already going badly without their input, as it happens, because Hubert’s Aunt Emmy was in charge, and she was not a lady after the Hubert Laneites’ own hearts (“Now, what shall we play at first?” said Aunt Emmy, with overdone brightness. “Puss in the Corner?” This suggestion was met with chilly silence. “Postman’s Knock?” went on Aunt Emmy, her brightness becoming almost hysterical).

But the Outlaws manage to take things up a notch further still, locking the entire party out on the Lanes’ roof and taking their places at the sumptuous dining table downstairs, Aunt Emmy being too short-sighted to tell that the boys who returned from the game of Hide and Seek were different from the boys who had set out to it.

I’ve labelled this one William comes out on top because, despite the severity of the parental punishments doled out to the Outlaws – as Richmal Crompton observes, this story’s naughtiness went far beyond the normal taunts and occasional scuffles between the two gangs – the utter joy the Outlaws feel at the success of their (reasonably justified) revenge completely eclipses it.

The facts

“You… you wouldn’t like to do a little quiet school work, would you, William dear, so as to keep your hand in for next term?”
“I don’t think so, mother,” William said. “I don’t think it fair on the other boys to go on workin’ in the holidays.”

  • Number: 6.12
  • Published: 1926 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: William makes his presence felt at Robert and Ethel’s Christmas party.

Verdict

William starts the story on bad terms with his family when – innocently following his mother’s advice that Christmas presents needn’t be expensive if he makes them – he turns Ethel’s best hat into a plant-pot.

“What’s the fun of findin’ a burglar an’ lettin’ someone else catch him”

But it only gets worse when he smuggles the Outlaws into his siblings’ party (they hide under a table and eat mountains of food passed down by William).

And then it gets still worse when they apprehend a ‘buglar’ in the drawing-room and lock him in the greenhouse.

A nicely compact tale of how William can bring three total, and totally different, chaoses to the events of a single day.

The facts

William kept an anxious and rather distrustful eye on the invitations. He had a deep suspicion that his mother would sacrifice his pride on the altar of the social code by inviting some of his deadly enemies to his party just because their mothers had asked her to lunch of Ethel knew their elder sister, or some equally futile reason.

  • Number: 6.11
  • Published: 1926 (1925 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: Hubert Lane ruins William’s Christmas party, so, obviously, William has to ruin Hubert’s.

Verdict

Finally, some proper warfare between the Outlaws and the “Hubert Laneites”.

“But I don’t wanter do anything dignified,” persisted William. “I wanter fight ’em.”

Unusually, this story ends on a definite cliffhanger: the Outlaws are determined to wreak their revenge on Hubert for ruining their Christmas party, but Hubert shrouds his party in such impenetrable secrecy that they don’t find out its date until the very end of the story. Fortunately, they do obtain the vital datum, hence my labelling this one as William comes out on top, but I was sorely tempted to categorise it differently because, in the course of their investigations, William is forced to sit through a lecture on Spinoza, which he finds unbearable.

Still, the stage is set for two stories hence: Revenge is Sweet, 6.13.

Geeky note: there’s an interesting continuity error (?) in this story. At one point, Robert has the following exchange with William:
“It’s a pity if someone messes up your party, but, when all’s said and done, you messed up ours.”
“Yes, but I thought he was a burglar!”

Those events don’t happen until William Starts the Holidays, 6.12, the next story, which not only comes after this one in the book but was in fact published a month later in real life…