William the Good

The facts

Miss Bellairs was Robert’s latest inamorata. William knew this only because it was impossible to live in the same house as Robert and not know it.
“Can’t make out what makes ’em act like that about her,” William said with fierce exasperation in his voice. “I’ve seen her an’ she looks perfectly orn’ery to me.”

  • Number: 9.9
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William on the Trail which, confusingly enough, was the name of the only uncollected story, 18.0, from 1935)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger lose Ginger’s aunt’s parrot.

Verdict

In the second parrot story in this book, Ginger and William sneak into Ginger’s aunt’s house to get a look at her parrot (whose cry of “Oh, shut up!” is particularly entertaining to an 11-year-old boy).

Ginger’s aunt was what is known as ‘houseproud’ and Ginger – leaver of muddy boot marks and sticky finger marks, breaker of nearly everything he touched – knew that he was not a welcome visitor to her house. He was not at all sensitive to shades of manner, but she had left him in no doubt at all on that subject.

It inevitably flies off into the distance, and the boys chase it from place to place in the village.

First, it lands in a room set out for a public meeting. William creeps in:

She turned to William. “Are you interested in Total Abstinence?”
“Yes,” said William without a second’s hesitation and looking blanker than ever.
Both ladies stared at him and looked very much perplexed.

He actually behaved perfectly creditably during the lecture, but unfortunately the parrot didn’t (“Get out, you old fool!”), and William took the blame and was ejected.

While all this is going on, Robert is determined to catch a band of burglars who have been operating in the village (because he will thereby impress his latest squeeze, for whose affections he is a rival of Ginger’s brother Hector’s). Once again, he proves himself basically to be an unreconstructed William when he plans to overpower the criminals by balancing a bucket of water on top of a door so as to drench them.

This plan goes very wrong, but luckily the parrot comes back of its own accord though.

Awkward moment: “It was at this point that the parrot behind the cabinet suddenly ejaculated.”

The facts

WILLIAM and the other Outlaws sat in the old barn discussing the latest tragedy that had befallen them. Tragedies, of course, fell thick and fast upon the Outlaws’ path through life. They waged ceaseless warfare upon the grown-up world around them and, as was natural, they frequently came off second best.

  • Number: 9.8
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: William has offended the Headmaster’s cousin; now he must make amends.

Verdict

The Headmaster of William’s school would, once a year, invite a cousin of his – “a Great Man”, the text tells us – to speak. The Great Man would bore the pants off the pupils, but, if they sat and listened politely, would always request that they be given a half-holiday the following day.

But this year, something goes wrong. The Great Man turns up wearing a hat several sizes too small. This amuses the Outlaws enormously (“Looks like as if he was carryin’ an apple on his head”) and William bets that he could shoot the offending bowler off, with a peashooter, from a considerable distance.

He can’t.

The half-holiday is cancelled.

William performed an imperious and very lengthy tattoo on the knocker.
“We’re not deaf,” the maid said haughtily.
“Aren’t you?” said William with polite interest. “I’m not either. But I’ve gotter naunt what’s so deaf that…”
“What do you want?” she snapped.

William does genuinely strive to make amends. “Tell him he can shoot a catapult at me!” was a particularly endearing olive-branch. (“Tell him that it was all because of his hat,” admittedly less so.)

Denied access to the Great Man by his maid, they follow him to a dinner-party and, led by William, creep into the garden because they “might get a chance to whisper to him through the window or somethin’”.

Then something happened. In The Leopard Hunter, 6.3, William pretended that his garden was inhabited by a leopard escaped from a circus. Now, a lion actually has escaped from a circus in the field next to the dinner-party, and the guests react predictably (“Don’t be alarmed, dearest. It can’t be the lion knocking at the door. The lion couldn’t reach up to the knocker”).

The outcome is much the same though…

Unfortunate double entendre: “The Outlaws drew deep breaths and ejaculated simultaneously.”

The facts

“Did I tell you about the man I met who’d had a very rare complete set of Italian stamps taken out of his pocketbook during a journey without feeling anything?”
“Yes,” said Robert viciously.
Uncle Frederick threw him a suspicious glance. He was almost sure he’d never told Robert that story.

  • Number: 9.7
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William’s Good Turn)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: Robert wants rid of a relative obsessed with philately.

Verdict

Richmal Crompton must have known a philatelist (or ‘stamp bore’) because because she is able to come up with a particularly caricatured depiction of one in Uncle Frederick: “Sometimes in the evening he read aloud to them from a book called The Joy of Stamp Collecting.”

This would be irksome at the best of times, but Robert has the added problem that Uncle Frederick has attached himself, and his philatelic pratter, to himself and Cousin Flavia like a limpet. And Robert is rather anxious to spend some one-on-one time with Cousin Flavia (despite her being particularly dopey, even by the low standards set by Robert’s lady-friends: Flavia’s main mode of being seems to be “sitting by, as usual, serenely conscious of her beauty”).

It is probable that very mixed motives had prompted Robert’s gift. It is possible that he felt some compunction of heart at his impulsive destruction of William’s treasured head-dress. It is more than possible that he felt apprehensive as to the results. He had been as a matter of fact nervously awaiting some counter-move on William’s part ever since he committed the outrage.

William resolves to eject Uncle Frederick from the family home, and does this with hilarious ingenuity:

It emerges that Uncle Frederick has never before listened to the radio, so William invites him to sample the Browns’ set.

So he sits down comfortably next to the receiver, while William hastily excuses himself from the room.

A deep bass voice (which those who knew William better might have recognised as one of his ‘disguised’ voices) began to speak. It said: “London callin’ the British Isles. There is a ridge of high pressure movin’ eastwards over England, together with a secondary anticyclone deepenin’ over Scandinavia. There is one SOS: will Mr Frederick Brown kindly go home at once as his stamp collection has been stolen.”
Uncle Frederick leapt from his seat, flew up to his bedroom, hastily packed a bag and, hurling an incoherent message at William, rushed forth into the night.