A boy was emerging from behind one of the rocks that lay at the foot of the cliff. He was about William’s age, slender and wiry-looking, with coffee-coloured skin and bright dark eyes.
“Man Friday!” gasped Ginger again.
”He can’t be Man Friday,” said William, “’cause he’s not a man an’ it’s not Friday. It’s Wednesday.”
“Boy Wednesday, then,” said Ginger.
William and Ginger heartily resent being dragged away from home by their parents:
“It’s nice, boys, isn’t it?” said Mrs Brown cheerfully.
“It’s a house in a place,” said William gloomily. “I jus’ don’t know why people want to go jus’ from one house in one place to another in another.”
“It’s the summer holidays, dear,” explained Mrs Brown. “People do. Now take the suitcases up to the bedrooms. Then we’ll unpack.”
“Packin’ things jus’ to unpack ’em,” said Ginger with a careful imitation of William’s gloom.
They walked on, past the shops, down a road that was skirted by a high brick wall, and stopped at an imposing-looking pair of gates, which bore a notice “Highlands School. Headmaster: Arnold J. Mercer, M.A.”.
“Gosh, a school!” said William in a tone of disgust. “Let’s get away from it quick.”
But their spirits soon brighten when they find themselves on what they fondly imagine to be a desert island (quite how they managed to reach it without crossing a sea is unclear) inhabited by a foreign savage…
“I was thinkin’ it’s time they came back. Civil wars, I mean. Can’t think why they stopped havin’ them. They’re much better than all these abroad wars. Cheaper, too, ’cause you’ve not got to waste money on tickets goin’ out abroad to ’em, an’ you could come home to dinner when you wanted to. Why, it’d save money, havin’ a civil war. An’ there wouldn’t be all this messin’ about with foreign langwidges. Everyone’d understand what everyone else said. There’s no sense in foreign langwidges, anyway. They had civil wars in hist’ry an’ it’s a pity they ever stopped.”
Excited by a history lesson about the War of the Roses, William affixes the following sign to the Old Barn:
a sivil war will brake out this afternun at three oklock
fre to ennyone bring weppons.
cined William Brown.
William did not notice an old gentleman in formal morning suit coming down the path till a hand descended on his shoulder and a voice said, “What are you doing there, my boy?”
William looked up at his captor then bared his teeth in an ingratiating smile. “Me no spick English,” he said.
By good fortune, the Hall has been let for the summer to the Young Conservatives so a ready-made target for the civil war is available.
Discovered creeping about the grounds of the Hall, William pretends to be a miscellaneous foreigner, but to no avail…
“My mother was mad on Thursday,” said William.
On Thursday William, bent on perfecting himself in his chosen career as a diver, had donned a home-made diving suit, consisting chiefly of trays and saucepans from his mother’s kitchen, with the addition of a few empty tins from the dustbin and a length of garden hose from the tool-shed, and dropped from the tree that overhung the pond into its murky depths.
He had been rescued by a passer-by and taken home, sodden with pond water and encrusted with slime, having left a good part of Mrs Brown’s kitchen equipment behind him. “No,” he continued regretfully, “I’ll have to wait till she’s forgotten about Thursday before I start practisin’ bein’ a diver again.”
- Number: 29.5
- Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s New Friend
- Book: William and the Moon Rocket
- Synopsis: William and Hubert end up impersonating the same French exchange student.
The eponymous “Little Yubear” is none other than Hubert Lane, who (by an odd chain of events precipitated, naturally, by William) ends up being mistaken for a French exchange student.
Hubert, who is not aware that he is a French exchange student and believes himself to have been invited into the host family’s house to eat as many buns as he likes, acts in a way that the daughter believes to be very odd but that the mother blithely dismises as “probably a French custom”. His search through their drawers for cream buns was explained away as, “The French are a nation full of intellectual curiosity. It’s a well-known fact.”
“I did that jolly well, didn’t I? I’ve got a jolly lot of tact. I’ve a good mind to be one of those men in the government called dip-something.”
“Dipsomaniacs?” suggested Ginger vaguely.
“I ’spect so…”
William ends up swapping places with Yubear, but when Mrs Brown offers to host him, things take a turn for the awkward…