The facts

“My aunt kept on an’ on about doin’ service to the community,” said Ginger.
“What’s the community?” said William.
“It’s people,” said Ginger earnestly. “It’s anyone. Helpin’ the community means helpin’ people. Anyone. An’ this aunt of mine promised me ten shillings if I did somethin’ to help the community.”
“Oh,” said William. “That’d be jolly useful. We could do a lot with ten shillin’s… What sort of things did she mean?”
“Well, she kept talkin’ about things that people had done for the community, like puttin’ a stop to slavery an’ settin’ up the Health Service an’ stoppin’ people gettin’ executed in public.”
“It’s too late to do any of those,” said William after a moment’s thought. “They’ve been done.”


Ginger’s aunt has offered ten shillings to the boys on condition that they do something altruistic, and Ginger has an idea:

“She’s got a friend that works at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”
“What’s that?” said William.
“It’s… well, it’s sort of advisin’ citizens,” said Ginger uncertainly.
“Sounds easy enough,” said William. There was a new note of interest in his voice. “Gosh, I could do that all right. I bet I could advise anyone about anythin’.”
“They might ask us things we don’t know about,” said Ginger.
“Oh, I know about most things,” said William airily, “an’ I can make ’em up if I don’t.”

So they set up shop in the Old Barn, and their first customer is another local child, Anthea Green, who needs support in obtaining a new fancy dress costume. (I can’t help feel that Richmal Crompton rather slipped up in imagining that William was familiar with French plurals though: “’Course we can’t get you a new fancy dress costume. Citizens’ Advice Bureaux aren’t there to get people new fancy dress costumes.”)

“You’re a story-teller,” said Douglas sternly.
“I know I am,” said Violet Elizabeth with an air of modest pride. “I’m a very good thtory-teller.”

Goaded into promising to help, the boys quickly start trying to raise four shillings and sixpence so they can buy a Gretl costume they’ve seen on sale at the village fair.

This backfires.

The facts

“It’s not jus’ an ordin’ry Western,” said William. “It’s bloodcurdlin’ an’ nerve-shatterin’. It says so outside the cinema.”
“William, it sounds horrible,” said Mrs Brown with a shudder.
“But that’s what it’s meant to be,” said William in exasperation. “Victor Jameson’s seen it in London an’ he says it’s fab. It curdled his blood an’ shattered his nerves.”


This is a really excellent story: William is desperate to see the latest, highly popular, Western at the local cinema, but a visit from his Aunt Felicia is in the way.

“It’s a prior engagement, William,” said Mrs Brown.
“I don’t care what it is,” said William. “I think it’s jus’ tyrrany.”

William turned to another of his favourite day-dreams. Suddenly (by what means he never could determine) he leapt to the loftiest pinnacle of fame, acclaimed and honoured by the highest in the land. His parents stood humbly in awe of him, but he was gracious and affable. He forgave them for their harsh treatment. “It’s all right,” he said when they apologised abjectly for not allowing him to see ‘The Masked Ranger’. “Don’t give it another thought. It was a little hard on me but don’t worry about it. any more.” He threw out his arms in an expansive gesture. “I’ll take you both to a party at Buckingham Palace tomorrow an’ I’ll take you for a voyage round the world nex’ summer holidays.”

So bitter is he that, on hearing from Henry about the Piltdown Man hoax, the Outlaws decide, out of sheer malice, to prank a local historian. Miss Radbury specialises in documentary research, so William resolves to create some fake historical letters to fool her.

“How could you forge old letters?” said Ginger.
“Write letters with bits of hist’ry in ’em an’ put old dates at the top, like January the third 1500 or somethin’ like that.”

They are just pondering the question of how to make the paper look old, when their friend Miss Thompson is about to throw away a load of old letters from her family’s recent past. They intercept them – but, of course, need to make some adjustments…

“Tell you what!” The light of an Idea gleamed in William’s face “If there isn’t any hist’ry in ’em let’s put a bit of hist’ry in ’em.”
He opened an envelope, took out the letter and scrawled across the bottom of the last sheet: “P.S. Someone told me ithere’s a battle going on at Trafalgar. I wonder whose going to win. Nelson’s got a wound in bis eye and can’t see signals.”
They set to work with energy.
An account of a Church Bazaar ended with the words: “P.S. Christopher Colombus has jus’ set off to discover America. I hope he gets there all right.”
An account of a local fair ended with the words: “P.S. I saw in the paper this morning that Charles the First has been executed. We’ll have to wait till 1660 for the Restoration.”
Henry, whose energies were chiefly taken up in supervising the spelling of the other three, tried to confine his historical references within certain roughly defined limits. “The Black Hole of Calcutta took place yesterday and tomorrow the six hundred are going to ride into the Valley of Death.”
William’s references spanned the whole field of history with wild abandon. “Henry VIII got married to the third of his six wives this morning.” … “I went to Lendon in a horse-coach last week. It took hours and hours. I shall be jolly glad when someone  invents railways.” … “I was helping to put out the· fire of London all yesterday. I feel rotten this morning. I think I must have caught the plague.”
Douglas confined himself to the only historical film he had seen: “Someone told me this morning that Richard the Third was thinking of getting the princes murdered in the Tower if he could find a good murderer. He’s swopped his kingdom for a horse and got into a muddle.”
Ginger who had recently read a book called ‘Scenes from English History’, gave a brief account of his experiences in the Crusades (which included the Battle of Agincourt).

As it turns out though, Miss Radbury is delighted with the letters… because one of them has a Penny Black on it!

Oh – and William rather takes to Aunt Felicia after all.

The facts

Mr French, the form master, did not approve of holiday tasks; he considered that they imposed an undue strain on both master and pupil. He had occasionally been tempted to set his pupils the task of committing to memory ‘The Ancient Mariner’ or ‘John Gilpin’ – poems that, he considered, every educated person should know by heart – but had always been restrained by the sobering thought that be would have to hear them say it.


A supply teacher with an eccentric educational philosophy (see also William and the Temporary History Master, 13.5) has set William’s class the holiday homework of assembling a ‘museum’ consisting of local ‘finds’.

There was a faraway look in William’s eyes, a jaunty swagger in his walk. He was being feted and acclaimed as the discoverer of the most sensational archaeological find of the century. Scholars and professors of the highest standing showered congratulations on him. Fantastic offers flowed in to him from America, but he refused them and presented the head to the British Museum. The British Museum was ecstatically grateful and held a banquet in his honour, giving three cheers for him at the end. He was knighted and his photograph – Sir William Brown – appeared in all the papers. Reporters flocked to interview him. A modest smile curved his lips as he kicked a stone across the road. “Well, it was sort of luck in a way,” he was saying. “I mean, I’ve got a sort of instinct. I jus’ looked at that hole an’ I knew it had got a heathen god’s statue’s head in it.”

Chiefly out of a sense of rivalry with Hubert, they throw themselves into it body-and-soul, albeit at the last minute.

Their plan of action is pure genius:

“There was somethin’ in the newspaper once,” said Henry thoughtfully. “It was dug up in London. It was a head.”
“What sort of a head?” said Ginger.
“It was a heathen god that people used to worship,” said Henry, “an’ it was jolly important. There were pictures of it in the newspapers. It was hundreds of years old.”
William’s interest was quickening. “Where did they find it?” he said.
“They found it when they were diggin’ a hole in the road in London near the Post Office. There was a picture of that, too.”
“But… gosh!” said William excitedly. “They’re diggin’ a hole in the road near the Post Office here. Come on! Let’s go an’ have a look!”

Astonishingly, they do find a statue’s head, but unfortunately it turns out not to be an ancient one, but rather Archie Mannister’s latest artwork of Ethel (“she’s more my girl friend than I’m her boy friend, if you know what I mean”) which he’d hidden in the hole as a surprise.

Before the Outlaws figure this out, though, they sincerely believe themselves to be in possession of an artefact that is both valuable and cursed: a suspicious incident in William’s home in which a shelf collapsed is naturally ascribed to the head (“Use a bit of sense. It couldn’t have been anythin’ but the curse. What else could it have been?” “Gravity,” suggested Henry tentatively after a moment’s thought).

What a fun story!