girls

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.”

Verdict

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

“We know something about art,” said William.
“We learn it at school,” said Douglas. “We have lessons in it.”
“I drew a picture of a volcano last week,” said Ginger, “an’ my mother said it was abs’lutely realistic.”
“She thought it was meant to be a pineapple,” said William.

Verdict

When the secretaryship of the local Art Club becomes vacant, the Outlaws are determined to give Archie Mannister the career boost he deserves – in Douglas’s words, they want “to get him hung in the British Museum”.

“But what’s happened?” said Miss Golightly, rubbing her eye.
“It’s William Brown that’s happened,” said Miss Milton.

Archie’s first task is to organise a field trip to a local stately home filled with Old Masters. On a preparatory visit, the house’s highly eccentric mistress presents him with a puppy as a gift – for which she later bills him 30 guineas. He is desperate to return the dog, but has, unfortunately, lost it.

The lady’s small god-daughter holds the key to the mystery; and William unlocks it.

The facts

“He’s been playin’ ‘Mothers an’ Fathers’ with her,” said Henry, disgustedly.
“It makes you sick,” said Ginger.
“He’s not been out with us for days,” said Henry.
“An’ Douglas!” said William. “Douglas, that never knew what to do without us till now!”

Note: today is the anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s death in 1969; zichrona livracha.

Verdict

Douglas has the rare honour of being the only Outlaw, besides William, to have a story named after him. And, indeed, the only Outlaw besides William to have the ‘great experience’ of infatuation with a girl of the female persuasion.

In equal parts disgusted and pitying, the others resolve to win Douglas back – before any real danger should befall him:

“It happened to Anthony an’ Cleopatra. She got him right down same as Patsy’s got Douglas an’ that was the end of him.”
“What was the end?” said William.
“He killed himself an’ she got stung by a snake.”
“That’s jolly serious,” said William. “We don’t want that sort of thing to happen to ole Douglas.”

“You’re really rather glad it’s over, aren’t you,
Douglas?” said Henry.
“Well, it was a bit of a tie,” admitted Douglas. “but…” he sighed deeply, “it was a great experience.”

Their intervention takes the form of trying to make the girl’s father appear to be a criminal. Douglas, being a very law-abiding soul, would then naturally break off the relationship. Equally naturally, William convinces himself that Mr Willingham genuinely is a criminal and gets somewhat confused between fact and fiction.

On the downside, the boys drop his box of indoor fireworks into a water tank (believing it to be a bomb); on the upside, Douglas is indeed cured.