“Gosh!” said William. “What a lot of sausage rolls!”
“Yes, I don’t know why I bought so many,” said Mrs Brown. “They were selling them off.”
“I’ll eat them for you if you like,” said William.
“All right, dear. They’ll do for your supper.”
When she came back William was kneeling on a chair, eating sausage rolls and reading the evening paper. Most of the newsprint was obscured by crumbs, but he cleared them away as he read.
“Gosh!” he said indistinctly. “Nearly a whole page about teachers strikin’.”
“It’s very sad, dear,” said Mrs Brown. “I hope yours won’t.”
“I hope they will,” said William.
Archie has been roped in, by the indomitable Mrs Monks, to running the hoop-la stall at the church fair, but he is anxious to attend the (simultaneous) tennis club fête because Ethel will be there and he wants to make himself helpful to Ethel.
William finds this baffling (“Gosh! I’d sooner have a hoop-la stall than Ethel any day!”) but offers to run the hoop-la stall himself so as to free Archie for Ethel-chasing duties. Even though Archie won’t trust him with it, William insists.
William slid neatly down the balusters.
“Oh, William!” groaned Mrs Brown. “I thought you’d gone to bed.”
“I have,” said William. “I mean, I am going. But I’ve got a smashing idea, Mother. Listen! If they do go on strike an’ we can’t go to school, we ought to get unemployment pay, oughtn’t we?”
“William, what nonsense!”
“Yes, but listen…” began William.
The hoop-la prizes, he is told, are in a brown suitcase. Inevitably William opens the wrong brown suitcase and chaos ensues – but then (and we’ve had this ending before: see eg William the Rat Lover, 17.4) William unexpectedly enters and wins a fancy-dress competition.
“We’re goin’ to have a jolly good bonfire,” said Frankie. “My mother’s given us a whole cupboard that’s got worm in an’ all the bits of the old fence that’s got dry rot.”
“We never have any luck with worm or dry rot,” said William wistfully. “I once tried puttin’ a worm into one of our chairs ’cause I thought they’d give it me for the bonfire if it’d got worm in it, but I mus’ have put in the wrong sort of worm ’cause I only got into a row an’ the worm got out of the chair.”
William’s friend Frankie Parsons has a little girl staying with him. Serena is horrified at the idea of the Parsons’ Guy [Fawkes] being burnt, because “he’s got such a nice face and I know he wouldn’t try to blow up the House of Commons”. So she hides it in a suitcase in William’s box room.
“Gosh!” exclaimed Ginger. “Jus’ look at your coat, William. It’s covered with green stuff.”
“So’s yours,” said William. “It’s only that green mud that grows on trees. I ‘spect it’ll brush off all right.”
“Well, I’ll go home and have a bash at it,” said Ginger.
“G’bye,” said William. “I’ll go an’ have a bash at mine, too.”
He darted to the foot of the stairs, but Mrs Brown laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“What on earth have you got on your coat, William?” she said.
“Tree stuff,” said Wiiliam, giving an ineffectual wriggle. “Stuff off trees. There’s nothing’ wrong with it. It’s part of nature.”
William, with his sense of fair play and sportsmanship, sets out to return it – but a little too late, because Archie has just collected the suitcase, which he was expecting to contain items for sale at a bring-and-buy.
A huge chase across the countryside follows, until the Guy encounters a ventriloquist…
“The archaeologist got the idea that there must be a Roman villa somewhere on the estate and he’s been turning the place upside down to find it,” said Robert.
“Gosh! I wouldn’t take all that trouble over any ole Romans,” said William, adding with disgust, “They talked in Latin. They must have been dotty. I’d sooner bury them than dig ’em up any day.
‘Mensa’ an’ ‘dominus’ an’ all that rubbish!”
When William fails to persuade his family to give him any money to spend at the fair, despite the use of his famous ‘shame’ technique (“It might be the last fair I ever get the chance of goin’ to: lots of people in hist’ry died young. Well, the little princes in the Tower did”), he morosely gives up and goes to spy on Robert volunteering at a local archaeological dig. Robert’s main motivation is not the discovery of Roman remains, but the discovery of Hermione Monson, the archaeologist’s daughter. Anyway, very few Roman remains seem to be turning up.
“It’s fantastic,” said Hermione. “It’s too fantastic for words. He’s the most frightful-looking boy I’ve ever seen in my life and he springs up from nowhere with his pockets full of the most fantastic Roman finds and he just stands there chewing currants!”
When William tires of spying, he goes for a wander and comes across a friendly old man building a new garden path. In the course of their labour, they come across a few obstacles: old, worn coins; fragments of pot; bits of old mouldy jewellery…
William gets his sixpence.