William’s Treasure Trove

The facts

“We’re goin’ to have a jolly good bonfire,” said Frankie. “My mother’s given us a whole cupboard that’s got worm in an’ all the bits of the old fence that’s got dry rot.”
“We never have any luck with worm or dry rot,” said William wistfully. “I once tried puttin’ a worm into one of our chairs ’cause I thought they’d give it me for the bonfire if it’d got worm in it, but I mus’ have put in the wrong sort of worm ’cause I only got into a row an’ the worm got out of the chair.”

Verdict

William’s friend Frankie Parsons has a little girl staying with him. Serena is horrified at the idea of the Parsons’ Guy [Fawkes] being burnt, because “he’s got such a nice face and I know he wouldn’t try to blow up the House of Commons”. So she hides it in a suitcase in William’s box room.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Ginger. “Jus’ look at your coat, William. It’s covered with green stuff.”
“So’s yours,” said William. “It’s only that green mud that grows on trees. I ‘spect it’ll brush off all right.”
“Well, I’ll go home and have a bash at it,” said Ginger.
“G’bye.”
“G’bye,” said William. “I’ll go an’ have a bash at mine, too.”
He darted to the foot of the stairs, but Mrs Brown laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“What on earth have you got on your coat, William?” she said.
“Tree stuff,” said Wiiliam, giving an ineffectual wriggle. “Stuff off trees. There’s nothing’ wrong with it. It’s part of nature.”

William, with his sense of fair play and sportsmanship, sets out to return it – but a little too late, because Archie has just collected the suitcase, which he was expecting to contain items for sale at a bring-and-buy.

A huge chase across the countryside follows, until the Guy encounters a ventriloquist…

The facts

“A new girl’s only got to come to this place,” said William, “an’ Robert starts bein’ keen on her. He was nuts on Biddy Needham till they went on this caravan holiday, then they sort of got fed up with each other and he started on this new one. He might be someone on the films, the way he carries on. Bluebeard or Henry the Eighth or someone.”

Verdict

This is a seriously weird story.

Robert is enamoured by Celia Green, a newcomer to the village. And, unusually, William is a little enamoured by her younger sister Anthea.

Anthea, Celia, Robert and, as it happens, Henry have all been at a meeting of the Literary Society where they heard from a ‘detective journalist’ about here work:

“She pretended to be somebody she wasn’t jus’ to see how other people sort of acted an’ then she wrote an article about it an’ got money. Once she went out as a charwoman, jus’ one day each to diff’rent people an’ she told them all the same yams about her husband knockin’ her about (she hasn’t got a husband really an’ I bet he’d make off pretty quick if she had) an’ her little girl havin’ some terrible disease an’ her son stealin’ valu’bles an’ havin’ the p’lice after him.”
“She was tellin’ lies,” said Douglas sternly.
“No, it’s not lies if it’s detective joum ‘lism,” said Henry. “If it’s detective joum’lism, it’s… well, it’s jus’ detective journ’lism.”

Robert had noticed something cold and distant in Celia’s manner. “I haven’t done anything to offend you, have I, Celia?” he said humbly at last.
“You never do anything at all,” said Celia. ”That’s the trouble. You’re so hopelessly ineffectual.”
Robert thought of his triumphs on the tennis courts and rugger field but wisely forebore to mention them.

Celia and Anthea are both enthusiastic about the whole idea – not enthusiastic to follow it themselves, but they happily shanghai their men into having a go.

William had performed upon the back door of The Briars the loud and lengthy tattoo with which he was wont to announce his presence.
Miss Devon opened the door. William fixed his most ferocious scowl on her.
“I’m lost,” he said.
“Oh dear! Poor little boy!” said Miss Devon. Her face beamed with compassionate kindness.
“Lost out of a car,” said William.
“Oh dear!” said Miss Devon again. “I suppose your parents stopped for a little halt and you wandered off.”
“Yes,” said William, regretfully abandoning kidnappers and deciding to follow whatever lead she gave him. He’d probably be able to make something of it.
“Where were they going, dear?”
“I forget,” said William.
“Where is your home?”
“Outer Hebrides,” said William.

Although Robert also decides to play this rather aimless prank on Miss Devon, the story as a whole doesn’t really go anywhere. Which is a shame, because it’s bookended by a rather fun sub-plot about William turning his house’s water tank into an aquarium.

The facts

“I’ll get you a job,” said William. The words were out of his mouth almost before he knew that he was going to say them. A flicker of doubt passed through his mind, a vague memory of other similar tasks that he had undertaken with disastrous results; but he stifled the doubts, dispelled the memories and repeated, “Yes, I bet I can get you a job all right.”
There was a hopeful gleam in the old man’s eyes as he turned to look at William.
“Well, of course, you’re only a boy, but you’ve prob’ly got local influence.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve got local infl’ence,” said William airily.
“People know you…?”
“Oh, yes. People know me all right,” said William.

Verdict

William makes the acquaintance of a 78-year-old occupant of an old-age home who is still full of joie de vie and wants an escape from the dullness of his life. (In 1961, the average life expectance of a man was 68 so he was doing very well to be as fit as he was!)

Enchanted by Mr Mason’s friendliness, William determines to get him a job. He starts the search at home:

“I say, Dad,” began William.
Mr Brown grunted.
“Didn’t you say you were short-handed at the office?”
“I did, my boy. Very short-handed.”
“Well, would you like an old man?”
“A what?” said Mr Brown, startled. “A what, did you say?”
“An old man,” repeated William patiently. “I can let you have one. An old man in the prime of life with the strength of ten young men. He’s felled trees over a hundred feet high. I bethe’d be jolly useful to you in the office.”
 “In the event of our needing a tree felled in the office,” said Mr Brown, “I will certainly get in touch with your friend.”

“Can this man play the organ?” the Vicar asked sternly.
“Well,” temporised William, “I don’t know that he can axshully play it ’cause I don’t think he’s ever tried, but I bet he could if someone jus’ showed him how to. He’s in the prime of life an’ he’s got the strength of…”
Suddenly and inexplicably, as it seemed to William, he found himself, at this point, outside the closed front door of the Vicarage.

Both this avenue of investigation, and all his other ones, come to nought. Especially hopeless was his application – on Mr Mason’s behalf – for the post of church organist.

But then the two of them run into General Moult (and are briefly arrested by him for housebreaking) and everything turns out for the best.