farmer jenks

The facts

William tried the handle of the back door. It opened. “Good!” he said. “We can have a look inside now. Come on!”
“There’s laws…” said Douglas.
“Rubbish!” said William. “Ole Frenchie always says that if a thing’s worth doin’ it’s worth doin’ well, so we’re only doin’ what he tells us to.”

  • Number: 38.3
  • Published: 1970
  • Book: William the Lawless
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to find their teacher the best wedding present money can (not) buy.


This is a really fun story, and it’s driven by William’s soft-hearted and well-concealed affection for his form master, Mr French. Following his engagement in William’s Adventure Society, 37.5, the time has now come for the boys to buy Mr French a wedding present. As Henry confesses, “After all, he’s had a lot to put up with from us.”

One of the boys remembers his parents’ tactic for choosing a wedding present: they waited until invited to dinner by the recipient, and took advantage of the opportunity to look around and see what items were missing. Of course, the Outlaws realise that they are unlikely to be invited to dinner by Mr French, so instead they wait until he goes out for the day “to readsomethin’ up in the British Museum for an article he’s writin’ on middle-aged gardens” before breaking in to his house.

“We’ve done a good -bit of damage,” said Douglas.
“He’ll forgive us,” said William, “when he finds out that we’ve rescued him from the clutches of a blackmailer.”
“Maybe,” said Douglas doubtfully.

While they’re in there – specifically, while William is looking for one of Ginger’s exercise books to compare one of the answers against one of his own – a letter comes through the front door, and the boys inevitably misread it and believe it to be a blackmail threat, signed “M”.

They split up and investigate four prominent Ms in the village. A series of misunderstandings with each suspect only strengthen’s their investigator’s suspicions: William hears Miss Milton lamenting her “killer” dog and assumes his teacher to be a murderer; Henry interprets General Moult’s concern about plagiarism of his biography as the teacher being a “spy”; Douglas gets nowhere at all with Archie Mannister; and Ginger gets particularly confused when Reverend Monks refers to a trendy church organist as “drug pushing his wretched wares among the young and innocent”.

Fortunately, the Outlaws are able to salvage the situation because the damage they caused to Mr French’s house uncovers something rather interesting…

The facts

“Haven’t you thought of thomething yet?” Violet Elizabeth would ask him sternly.
“Gosh, no! Why should I?” William would retort indignantly.
“Well, why thouldn’t you?” retorted Violet Elizabeth with equal indignation.
So persistent was she that William, to his own annoyance, began to feel a certain responsibility for Mrs Bott’s birthday present.

  • Number: 25.2
  • Published: 1945 (1942 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Brains Trust
  • Synopsis: William and Violet Elizabeth decide to give Mrs Bott a living birthday present.


Overhearing Mrs Bott in one of her characteristic whinges about the difficulties of life in blitzed Britain, William learns that she can no longer obtain horses to pull her carriage, and that, in fact, she “wouldn’t even mind a nanny goat”.

So he knows, now, what to get her as a birthday present.

She doesn’t entirely appreciate it, but the whole operation manages to kill two other birds with the goat-stone.

The facts

“Dunno if I remember it right,” said William, “but on Midsummer Eve, scarecrows are s’posed to come alive jus’ after dark an’ come to anyone what’s stole anythin’ out of their fields durin’ the year an’ get it back off them.”
Hubert paled. “G-g-get it back off them?” he stammered.
“Yes,” said William carelessly. “They leave the person what stole it in a jolly nasty mess, too. They’ve got the strength of ten men when they come alive, scarecrows have. Well , I know I wouldn’t like to be knocked about by a scarecrow come alive with the strength of ten men.”
“The s-s-s-s-strength of ten men?”
“Yes, or it might’ve been twenty.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Hubert, but looking like a boy in the grip of a nightmare.

  • Number: 24.3
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws and the Hubert Laneites compare shrapnel collections.


Owing largely to Mrs Lane’s overindulgent wallet, Hubert’s collection of wartime memorabilia far outshines William’s. But then fortune strikes and they acquire a much-prized ‘German bomb stick’ (whatever that is)… only to have it confiscated by Farmer Jenks, on whose land they are trespassing!

And to make matters worse, Hubert steals a garden fork from one of Farmer Jenks’s land girls – who is a great friend of the Outlaws – so that she will have to pay him back for it out of her wages.

They manage to resolve the situation, but in a manner sadly reminiscent of William’s Goodbye Present, 21.2.