The facts

“The Society believes that cows and sheep and all other animals should be allowed to lead long happy lives with freedom from want and fear and that they should be allowed to attain the peace and dignity of old age and die of simple natural diseases like human beings.”
“Dogs are all right,” said William, “an’ so are some insects. An’ I’ve met guinea-pigs an’ goldfish that were quite decent. I shouldn’t mind any of them dyin’ of natural diseases if they want to.”


Definite echoes of Our Man in Havana in this story, with William’s friend Miss Thompson setting up a fictitious network of animal rights activists to save herself the embarassment of disappointing the nice officer from the national charity who has so much faith in her. “The odd thing is that I still half believe in them, you know – Mr Coleman, Mr Flower, Mr Beauchamp, Miss Poppins, Mrs Belmont and the rest.”

William took a formal farewell of his hostess, fixing her with the glassy smile that accompanied any exhibition of “manners” on his part and enunciating the words “Thank you for having me” in a loud and husky voice.

But that all comes later… first, William takes pity on a shy market researcher sitting by the side of the road and decides to help her out by finding people to complete her survey. (The whole episode has a very modern feel to it.)

Fortunately, William espies a student protest marching from ‘Newlick University’ (with a pig), and manages to solve both strands…

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.”


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

Anything might happen at the seaside. William saw himself rescuing a drowning man (it would be someone important – perhaps the Prime Minister)… carelessly netting a sea serpent… unmasking a villainous plot to steal naval secrets along the coast. He would become world famous
for all these exploits. A grateful country would reward him handsomely. He would shower gifts on his family: an American kitchen for his mother, a golf course for his father, a sports car for Robert, a mink and diamond head scarf for Ethel.
For himself he would buy a lion cub and a lighthouse.


When William sets his mind to find some hidden treasure, he literally means, to find some hidden treasure; not to look for some, but to find some.

This proves a helpful distraction for him from troubles at home, namely the extended stay of a depressed Aunt Florence who refuses to leave the house. But he eventually gets drawn in when he hears of her yearning for “a lead from Providence”, some sort of heavenly sign that she can carry on living. He resolves to find her such a sign – or, in default of finding one, to produce one.

“Did you tell Hubert Lane that we were goin’ to look for smugglers’ treasure in that cave?” said William, his voice sinking so deep that it was almost a growl.
The radiance of Violet Elizabeth’s smile remained undimmed. “Yeth, I did, William,” she said. “I did. I met him yethterday and he thaid you were a nathty horrid boy and I thaid you weren’t. I thaid you were a brave boy and I told him you were going to climb up the rock and find the thmugglerth treathure and I thaid that he couldn’t do that ‘cauthe he wathn’t brave enough.”
“Oh,” said William, touched and a little disconcerted.

Hubert Lane humiliates them over the matter of the treasure, but in the end things turn out alright…