Day 204: Uncle Charlie and the Outlaws

 The facts

William had had started a Punishment Insurance Society at school. The members were to pay him a penny a week and to receive twopence for a detention and threepence for a caning. He had thought it all out, and it had seemed an excellent scheme, but it had been unfortunately discovered by Authority, and all its members punished, so that it was now bankrupt and discredited.

  • Number: 18.8
  • Published: 1936 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William and the Good Uncle)
  • Book: Sweet William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws are determined to humiliate Hubert Lane’s odious Uncle Charlie.

Verdict

Hubert Lane’s Uncle Charlie provides a clear and frightening illustration of what Hubert himself will, plainly, grow up to be like. Plump, smug, convinced of his own superiority and consumed by a worryingly juvenile desire to play pranks on William, Uncle Charlie makes his presence very much felt during his stay in the village.

“Now I’ll show you a native of Lapland dressed exactly like the people I myself saw there.” Uncle Charlie rang his little bell. He couldn’t know, of course, that Ginger had appeared in the aperture dressed in Ethel’s bathing dress, his nose reddened, a wicker plant-pot on his head.

Mrs Lane is wont to excuse her brother’s childishness by remarking gaily that he has “the heart of a boy”, but can that really explain the spectacle of a grown man hiding in a tree so as to drop fireworks on boys with whom he has no real connection? Or posting a box of chocolates to William, having first filled every one with chilli powder? Mrs Lane is quick enough to condemn William’s pranks against her Hubert, but no doubt this is very different.

But then comes the day of Uncle Charlie’s smug lecture to William’s school about his (in fact, entirely fictional) travels. The Outlaws make some small adjustments to his props.