arabella simpkin

 The facts

“Do stop messing about with your food, William,” said Mrs Brown.
“I’m not messin’,” said William. “This spoon’s a jet bomber swoopin’ down on the fortress.” He emitted a nerve-shattering sound, then looked earnestly at his mother. “Did that sound like a jet-bomber?”
“I don’t know,” said Mrs Brown faintly, “but don’t do it again.”

  • Number: 29.7
  • Published: 1954 (1953 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: William is outraged at discrimination in favour of the over-60s.

Verdict

Somewhat of a reprise of Pensions for Boys, 18.9, William is irked by all the preferential treatment that over-60s receive: trips, lunches and more:

“People naturally want to do all they can to cheer up the old.”
“Well, why don’t they want to do all they can to cheer up the young?’

“If everyone was like you,” said William severely, “no-one’d ever have discovered anythin’ – not America nor… nor fountain pens nor anythin’.”

And so the village’s Over-Ten club is born, as a counterpart to the Over-Sixties club:

Nottis Ergunt
overtenn klub
Their will, be a meating tomorrough aftemun of peeple over, tenn to gett up an overtenn, klub ennyone, overtenn kan kum not, annimuls William Brown prezidant will maik a speach peeple, that interrupp him will, be chuckd out
cined William Brown

The children of the locale are not entirely united in support:

“Why not wait till we get to be over sixty?” suggested a placid-looking child who was licking a toffee apple. “Everyone gets to be over sixty if they wait long enough. It only wants a bit of patience.”
“I’d like to see William Brown sixty,” jeered Arabella. “Gosh! He’ll be worth lookin’ at. He’s a sight to start with.”

William has some difficulty persuading the adults as well; in particular, the commissaire at the cinema refuses to let them in for free. They do discover a banquet which is available for them to eat (not entirely legitimately), but inevitably:

Overtenn klub
The overtenn klub will be klozed til furthur nottis.
cined William Brown.

 The facts

Ginger had brought an old diary that his mother (who was an indifferent cook) had thrown away, in the empty spaces of which he meant to enrol the names of the pets and the owners who joined the club.
Arabella Simpkin arrived pushing a pram.
“What’s your pet?” said William coldly.
“’Im,” said Arabella, pointing to the pram’s occupant.
William looked down at the features of Arabella’s baby brother – repulsive even in sleep. “You can’t have him,” he said, outraged. “He’s not an animal.”
“That’s right!” shrilled Arabella. “Insult a pore kid wot can’t stand up for itself… ’E’s as good as an animal, isn’t ’e?”
William enrolled the repulsive baby among the pets: “Baby George Tommus Simpkin”.
Arabella watched him suspiciously. “’Ere! What’s this?” she said, reading the entry that was written just beneath the name. “’Baby pancakes. Flat and sodden.’ Startin’ insultin’ of ’im again, are you?”
“Oh, shut up!” said William. “That’s what Ginger’s mother wrote years an’ years ago.”

  • Number: 28.6
  • Published: 1952 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William accidentally wins a fancy dress competition.

Verdict

This story – or at least the printed version I have – contains the unique feature of an asterisk, in relation to Robert’s collection of birds’ eggs, sternly warning readers, “It is now against the law to collect the eggs of any British wild bird.” I have to say, given the amount of serious criminal offences William and the Outlaws have committed, it’s surprising this is considered the only one worth warning of. But there we go.

The birds’ eggs form an important part of the story, because Robert wants to give them as a present to the ridiculously-named Peregrine Forrester – Peregrine being the favoured younger brother of Dolores, who Robert particularly wants to impress.

“But your egg c’lection!” said William. “That ole
Pelican havin’ your egg c’lection! He’s no right. It’s
not fair. It’s – it’s the same as stealin’.”
“Don’t be absurd,” said Robert, “and his name’s Peregrin.”
“It can be Kangaroo for all I care,” said William heatedly. “It’s the meanest thing anyone’s done to anyone since the world began. It’s worse than Cain or Dr Crippen or – or Guy Fawkes or – or that man called Squeers that kept a school in Shakespeare or – or…”

Because the rest of the Browns are united that Robert should not give away such a treasured possession to anyone outside the family, he comes up with the clever technique of offering them as a prize for a local fancy dress competition, which he is sure will be won by the insufferably virtuous Peregrine.

But he reckons without William, who – his own clothes having been destroyed by an over-enthusiastic member of the Pets’ Club he has just founded – makes a surprise appearance…

The facts

William optimistically knocked at the door. A very old woman opened it. She smiled at him pleasantly and said: “Yes dear? What do you want?”
“Mr Chamb’lain’s sent me to ask if you’ve got any rooms vacant for ’vacuees.”
She looked at him pityingly.

  • Number: 22.1
  • Published: 1940 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William Takes Charge
  • Book: the eponymous William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: The children of the village are jealous of evacuees.

Verdict

So warmly do the women of William’s village (led by the indomitable Vicar’s wife) welcome evacuee children – with presents, parties and above all food – that their native counterparts start getting jealous and demand that William, their natural leader, arrange for them to be evacuated too.

“I been ’vacuated,” said a small child proudly. “It made my arm come up somethink orful.”
“Shut up, Georgie Parker,” said Arabella. “It’s a diff’rent sort of ’vacuated you have done on your arm. It’s to stop you turnin’ into a cow you have it done on your arm.”
“Thought it was to stop you gettin’ chicken pox,” said Frankie, wrinkling up his snub nose in perplexity.
“It’s nothin’ to do with chickens,” snapped Arabella. “It’s cows. Everyone what’s not ’vacuated on their arms turns into cows. Half the cows you see in fields is people what weren’t ‘vacuated on their arms.”

“You saucy little hound!” said one indignant householder.
“You cheeky little rapscallion!” said an enraged housemaid as she slammed the door in his face.
“Bet they never did that to him,” William muttered indignantly to himself as he walked on down the road. “Bet they never did that to ole Mr Chamb’lain when he went round gettin’ places for ’em. Bet they treated him a bit different…”

William’s plan is to impersonate Mr Chamberlain, in person and in writing, and appeal to local householders’ patriotism in order to persuade them to take in some neighbourhood evacuees.

Astonishingly, he pulls it off… at least until the local committee for the care of evacuees arrives.