William the Detective

The facts

“We’ll find out if there’s any special sort of stuff for stuffin’ cats, an’ if there is we’ll buy it with the shillin’. An’ p’raps we’ll have a bit left over for presents for our mothers.”

  • Number: 17.11
  • Published: 1935 (1934 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Detective
  • Synopsis: William destroys a treasured stuffed cat.

Verdict

Ginger’s elderly cousin comes to stay, and the Outlaws take a great shine to her. She gives them sweets, is generally friendly, but best of all she possesses a stuffed cat (or ‘pussesses’ maybe), a legacy from an even-more-elderly uncle.

William set to work. By the time he had finished, the cat seemed to have lost all semblance to his former self. His head dangled limply, his paws dangled limply, his body was completely shapeless. Even the sinister leer seemed to have left his eyes.
“It isn’t like anything,” said Ginger faintly.
“It’s a bit like a tea-cosy,” said Douglas.
“Let’s say we’ve made it into a tea-cosy for her Christmas present,” suggested Henry.

Unfortunately, William’s first inclination on meeting a stuffed cat with a piercing, glassy stare is to “introduce” it to Jumble. The predictable happens (“It was jolly brave of him,” argues William half-heartedly), but shamed by the cousin’s understanding kindness, the boys decide to re-stuff the cat.

But they find something surprising inside…

The facts

“Well, you see,” said Ginger, “this monster’s in this lake, and no one can catch it.”
“I bet I’d jolly well catch it if I was there,” said William.
“Oh, you can do everything, can’t you!” retorted Ginger.
“I can do pretty nearly everything,” admitted William modestly.

  • Number: 17.10
  • Published: 1935 (1934 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Detective
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws attempt to capture a prehistoric monster.

Verdict

This was a very topical story when published. That very month, the so-called “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster had caused a public stir, and the news even reached the ears of the Outlaws.

And so it came to pass that Ginger, Henry and Douglas dare William to find and capture his own lake monster.

Even William’s fertile imagination could not conceive that a pond on whose surface ducks and geese swam unmolested in large numbers, and in whose deepest places cows stood and ruminated at their leisure, could conceal a prehistoric monster.

William really gets on his high horse in this story:

“Worms are prehistoric,” said Henry, who was disconcertingly well informed. “I read about it in a book. Once everything was worms. There was nothing but worms. We were all worms.”
“Oh, shut up talking nonsense!” said William impatiently. “I bet you were a worm all right, but I jolly well wasn’t.”

But rather to William’s surprise, they do actually discover a monster in a local lake – the very lake on whose shores Robert is attempting to wow his new lady-love Melissa by feeding her interest in ghosts.

These two threads of story come together to Robert’s disadvantage.

The facts

“He can’t talk English, you know,” said Miss Cliff.
“I know,” replied Miss Milton. “But he talks French beautifully. He and I had quite a long conversation in French today, n’est-ce pas, Hassan?”
She proceeded to pour out a flood of fluent French upon the unhappy William, at the end of which she obviously asked some question. William was seized with a sudden violent paroxysm of coughing.

  • Number: 17.9
  • Published: 1935 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Detective
  • Synopsis: William impersonates a Persian boy.

Verdict

William’s friend Miss Cliff has very little in her life, so she is passionately excited to have the opportunity to host a Persian boy – brought to the village by the Vicar as a somewhat orientalist cultural spectacle – for tea one day. She was thrilled at having something to do. She spent days cooking and preparing the house (“Ought the tea-table to face the east?”). The prospect of the visit “bounded her whole horizon”.

But then, at the last minute, the Vicar asks William to pass on the message that Hassan has been delayed and will not be able to make it that afternoon.

Feeling desperately sorry for Miss Cliff, a very kind-hearted William decides to put on a veil and be the Persian boy himself.

He really was awfully sweet in this story.