crime

The facts

“I b’lieve I can see a bomb in his pocket,” said Henry. “It looks to me ’xactly like a bomb.”
“You ever seen a bomb?” said William.
“I may’ve done,” said Henry. “I may quite possibly have done. Anyway, it looked to me like a bomb. That’s all I say. I can only say how it looks to me. I don’t know how bombs look to other folks.”

  • Number: 6.7
  • Published: 1926 (1925 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws suspect a newcomer to the village of being an agent of The Reds.

Verdict

This is one of those stories in which the Outlaws’ determination to fight one (non-existent) crime leads to their, accidentally, aiding and abetting another (existent) one..

Douglas was kept in half an hour by the French master and William an hour. William was kept in half an hour longer than Douglas because his ignorance of French verbs was half-an-hour deeper than Douglas’ ignorance of French verbs.

Its best feature, though, is the scene in which they try to investigate the house of “Dmitritch”, who they suspect of being a Bolshevik assassin. Henry comes up with the idea of going up to the front door and innocently asking, “Does Mr Brown live here?” and using the opportunity to peer inside.

The Outlaws, who all leave school at different times, each summon up the courage to perpetrate this ruse separately. William happens to come up with the idea last and incurs the final, pent-up wrath of the householder.

The facts

To a casual observer William looked only a small boy walking slowly down a road, frowning, with his hands in his pockets. He was really an intrepid mariner sailing across an uncharted sea.

  • Number: 3.14
  • Published: 1923 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William, playing at Robinson Crusoe, manages to lose his clothes.

Verdict

A tramp, who William persuades to act as Man Friday for the purposes of his shipwreck game, in turn persuades William to swap his clothes for a tablecloth (‘sail’) all the better to impersonate a deserted sailor.

William laid aside ‘Robinson Crusoe’ with a sigh. His dreams of pirate-king and robber-chief vanished. The desire of his heart now was to be shipwrecked on a desert island.

Joan, the mate upon William’s doomed ship, purloins him another suit of clothes but her father demands them back.

So William ends up looking “ridic’l’us” by walking home in his tablecloth.

Seems overbrief as a story but a fairly entertaining scenario nonetheless.

The facts

William began quietly to remodel his life. He would not be an explorer, after all, nor an engine-driver nor chimney-sweep. He would be a man of mystery, a murderer, fighter, forger. He glanced with utter contempt at his father who had just come in. His father’s life of blameless respectability seemed to him at that minute utterly despicable.

  • Number: 2.3
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William befriends “Mr Blank”, who claims to be a war veteran but may, actually, have slightly different professional interests.

Verdict

This story consists of a number of William tropes – his attachment to anyone looking curious, unkempt or tramp-like; and his deep generosity (albeit with other people’s property).

William expressed his surprise. “Oh, ‘ell!” he ejaculated, with a slightly self-conscious air.
Mr. Brown turned round and looked at his son. “May I ask,” he said politely, “where you picked up that expression?”
“I got it off one of my fren’s,” said William with quiet pride.
“Then I’d take it as a personal favour,” went on Mr. Brown, “if you’d kindly refrain from airing your friends’ vocabularies in this house.”
“He means you’re never to say it again, William,” translated Mrs. Brown sternly. “Never.”
“All right,” said William. “I won’t. See? Strike me pink. See?”

Also a welcome cameo return by Mrs de Vere Carter (“Willie! Dear child! Sweet little soul!”): see William Joins the Band of Hope, 1.7.

She was at the Browns’ for tea and desperate showing-off to Robert’s (purportedly) celebrity friend Mr Lewes, “editor of Fiddle Strings: Mrs de Vere Carter’s greatest ambition was to see her name in print”.

Of course, one more William trope came to the forefront in this story. For how many other 11-year-old boys could invite a burglar into their family home, allow said burglar to help themselves to all sorts of objects from all sorts of rooms, then finish the day by, unintentionally, publicly recovering the loot and getting all the credit?

William has a knack for accidentally foiling crimes, hence this story’s categorisation as William comes out on top. As Ralph Stewart has written, “An important part of his appeal seems to be that he can combine misunderstandings, which all children experience, with a high success rate.”