animals

The facts

“What’s that thing he said we hadn’t got any of?” said William.
“Initiative,” said Henry.
“Oh…” said William. “What is it?”
“Doin’ things without bein’ told to,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said William in surprise. “Seems to me we’re always doin’ that.

  • Number: 37.5
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William founds a new society bent on finding adventure.

Verdict

The headmaster has given the entire school a motivational talk, and, although William rather missed its point (“I thought he was talkin’ about takin’ an interest in world affairs an’ not jumpin’ over his tulip bed”), Henry was paying close attention. He heard the suggestion that the boys get together and create some extra-curricular societies to promote responsibility, industry and other desirable qualities.

William is well up for this.

“We’ll have an Adventure Society,” he said.
“What’ll we do in it?” said Douglas.
“Adventures,” said William simply.

“Now we’ve got to take an oath,” said William. “They always take oaths in secret societies. You can make up the oath, Henry. You’re better at long words than us.”
“All right,” said Henry. He cleared his throat impressively then raised his right hand. “I swear never to betray the secrets of the Adventure Society an’… an’ to carry out all its adventures” – he paused, at a loss momentarily for words, then remembered the heading on one of his mother’s tradesmen’s bills – and ended, “promptly and efficiently.”

There is some concern that Mr French, the form-master, may not be a fan of this plan, but William isn’t worried. “Ole Frenchie can’t stop us if the headmaster says we ought to. It would be mutiny.”

After agreeing a constitution for the Society (“Deadly weapons may be used but axshul murder not allowed”) they proceed to appoint Officers:

“We ought to elect a President, an’ Secretary an’ Treasurer,” said Henry.
“Well, there’s no time for that,” said William, “so I’ll be all of ’em.”

And the Adventure Society is open for business, with its first mission being the slightly vague one of fighting crime. Naturally, the person who falls most under their suspicion, after his cruel refusal to permit the Society to exist at all, is Mr French.

They cause a fair bit of chaos, but Mr French – and his new fiancée – isn’t too peeved.

The facts

“We know something about art,” said William.
“We learn it at school,” said Douglas. “We have lessons in it.”
“I drew a picture of a volcano last week,” said Ginger, “an’ my mother said it was abs’lutely realistic.”
“She thought it was meant to be a pineapple,” said William.

Verdict

When the secretaryship of the local Art Club becomes vacant, the Outlaws are determined to give Archie Mannister the career boost he deserves – in Douglas’s words, they want “to get him hung in the British Museum”.

“But what’s happened?” said Miss Golightly, rubbing her eye.
“It’s William Brown that’s happened,” said Miss Milton.

Archie’s first task is to organise a field trip to a local stately home filled with Old Masters. On a preparatory visit, the house’s highly eccentric mistress presents him with a puppy as a gift – for which she later bills him 30 guineas. He is desperate to return the dog, but has, unfortunately, lost it.

The lady’s small god-daughter holds the key to the mystery; and William unlocks it.

The facts

“Is he the man?” whispered Henry to William.
“Yes, he is,” said William.
“He looks pretty strong,” said Douglas. “I don’t think it’d be any good tryin’ to kidnap him.”
“’Course it wouldn’t” said William. “We’ve got to think out somethin’ better than that.”
“Somethin’ subtle,” said Henry, pronouncing the word as spelt.

Verdict

Serious business in this story, in which Henry warns:

Anyone might wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses goin’ up all over the place an’, once they’ve started, it’s too late to stop ’em ’cause of these plans.”
“What plans?” said William.
“They make plans for buildin’ houses” said Henry. “Sort of drawings of them, you know, an’ they take them to a meeting of the mayor an’ corporation an’ they pass them an’, once these plans have been passed, no one can stop ’em building them.”
“Can’t people go to this meetin’ an’ stop the mayor an’ corporation passin’ them?” said William.
“Yes, they could, but ordin’ry people don’t go to meetings ’cause they’ve not got time, so the nex’ thing they know is they wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses all round ’em and all the fields an’ woods gone.”

The visiting lecturer from whom Henry learnt about the evils of developers used the Outlaws’ beloved Old Barn as an example of a picturesque structure vulnerable to the ravages of housebuilding.

But the boys are having none of this. “The first thing to do is to keep a look-out,” William determines.

“You tell him about the hauntin’, Henry, an’ Ginger about the tomb an’ I’ll do the black magic, an’ I bet we get him so scared that he’ll never make any more plans for the rest of his life.”
“I bet he won’t listen,” said Douglas.
“Yes, he will,” said William. “I’ll be specially polite so he’ll have to.”

So imagine their horror when they see a man sketching the building and measuring it up with a tape measure!

They immediately begin a campaign to scare him away, loosely based on the curse of Tutenkhamen’s tomb, and, in parallel, bribe his granddaughter to tell him where he keeps his plans, so that they can destroy them. (The bribe is a donkey which gets them into all sorts of complications.)

Fortunately, the Old Barn is safe.