insufferably virtuous children

 The facts

Ginger had brought an old diary that his mother (who was an indifferent cook) had thrown away, in the empty spaces of which he meant to enrol the names of the pets and the owners who joined the club.
Arabella Simpkin arrived pushing a pram.
“What’s your pet?” said William coldly.
“’Im,” said Arabella, pointing to the pram’s occupant.
William looked down at the features of Arabella’s baby brother – repulsive even in sleep. “You can’t have him,” he said, outraged. “He’s not an animal.”
“That’s right!” shrilled Arabella. “Insult a pore kid wot can’t stand up for itself… ’E’s as good as an animal, isn’t ’e?”
William enrolled the repulsive baby among the pets: “Baby George Tommus Simpkin”.
Arabella watched him suspiciously. “’Ere! What’s this?” she said, reading the entry that was written just beneath the name. “’Baby pancakes. Flat and sodden.’ Startin’ insultin’ of ’im again, are you?”
“Oh, shut up!” said William. “That’s what Ginger’s mother wrote years an’ years ago.”

  • Number: 28.6
  • Published: 1952 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William accidentally wins a fancy dress competition.

Verdict

This story – or at least the printed version I have – contains the unique feature of an asterisk, in relation to Robert’s collection of birds’ eggs, sternly warning readers, “It is now against the law to collect the eggs of any British wild bird.” I have to say, given the amount of serious criminal offences William and the Outlaws have committed, it’s surprising this is considered the only one worth warning of. But there we go.

The birds’ eggs form an important part of the story, because Robert wants to give them as a present to the ridiculously-named Peregrine Forrester – Peregrine being the favoured younger brother of Dolores, who Robert particularly wants to impress.

“But your egg c’lection!” said William. “That ole
Pelican havin’ your egg c’lection! He’s no right. It’s
not fair. It’s – it’s the same as stealin’.”
“Don’t be absurd,” said Robert, “and his name’s Peregrin.”
“It can be Kangaroo for all I care,” said William heatedly. “It’s the meanest thing anyone’s done to anyone since the world began. It’s worse than Cain or Dr Crippen or – or Guy Fawkes or – or that man called Squeers that kept a school in Shakespeare or – or…”

Because the rest of the Browns are united that Robert should not give away such a treasured possession to anyone outside the family, he comes up with the clever technique of offering them as a prize for a local fancy dress competition, which he is sure will be won by the insufferably virtuous Peregrine.

But he reckons without William, who – his own clothes having been destroyed by an over-enthusiastic member of the Pets’ Club he has just founded – makes a surprise appearance…

The facts

“I say,” said William, “why shu’nt we start makin’ sweets an’ sell ’em to the sweetshops?”
The prospect was a roseate one. Too roseate, they felt, for reality. Henry voiced the obvious objection. “You’ve gotter have special machinery for makin’ sweets. They make ’em in factories.”
“You can make ’em at home all right,” said William.
“How d’you make ’em?” said Ginger.
“Oh, you jus’… sort of mix things up together,” said William vaguely.

  • Number: 23.10
  • Published: 1941 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William encounters a bully.

Verdict

The words “Look here,” said William, “let’s put the sardines in an’ call the whole thing Sardine Toffee. The sardines’ll give it a more def’nite taste than it’s got now” at the start of this story almost put me off from reading on, but I pulled myself together and continued…

A visiting lecturer in Child Psychology is anxious to find a nice gentle companion to introduce to her son Claude. She fondly imagines Claude to be a paragon of manliness and a good, toughening influence on every other child with whom he happens to come into contact.

Due to a misunderstanding of alarming magnitude, she gets the impression that William is a nice gentle boy, and so arranges with Mrs Brown for him and Claude to spend some time together at her home.

“William’s so much quieter and gentler than Claude,” Mrs Dayford said.
Mrs Brown tried to imagine Claude, and her imagination boggled at the task.

As it turns out, William does make an impact on the horrible bully that is Claude… and probably a positive one at that.

The facts

The journey was fairly uneventful. He annoyed an old gentleman by playing on a mouth-organ that he had brought with him to while away the time, and an old lady by passing continually from one window to the other, always treading on her toes on the way and never failing to apologise profusely. On one occasion he leant so far out of the window that he nearly overbalanced and had to be hauled back to safety by the combined efforts of the entire carriage.
Aunt Florence was at the station to meet him. She did not fail to notice the look of relief on the faces of his fellow travellers as he leapt exuberantly out on to the platform, followed by his suitcase, which he had forgotten and which the old gentleman threw out after him with what seemed unnecessary violence.

  • Number: 23.3
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William ruins two men’s vegetables.

Verdict

While Mrs Brown recuperates from a sprained ankle, William is sent away to aid her recovery.

Aunt Florence somewhat reluctantly receives him, though even her acid tongue is rendered speechless when William announces: “Why, they didn’t want me to come away ’cause I’m such a help, but I’d got a bit overworked an’ they thought a holiday’d do me good.”

Aunt Florence’s locale is atwitter with the excitement of the local Flower Show, at which Colonel Summers and Mr Foulard are perennial and bitter rivals in the peach contest and in the asparagus contest.

One of William’s first acts, on arrival, is to make Colonel Summers’s acquaintance by semi-intentionally eating all of his prize-winning peaches. Colonel Summers is livid, but Mr Foulard is so grateful that, positivly brimming with schadenfreude, he forgives William for beating up his grandson: “Boys will be boys,” he tells the little lad’s enraged mother.

Unfortunately, the second round of their fight takes place in amongst Mr Foulard’s prize asparagus. Mr Foulard fires off a furious letter to William’s father, but Colonel Summers’s attitude has mellowed somewhat: “Boys will be boys…”

Aunt Florence looked at him helplessly. “I simply can’t understand it, William,” she said. “Can’t you move without damaging people’s property?”
“Haven’t you enjoyed havin’ me?” said William pathetically.
“No,” said his aunt simply. “I didn’t expect to.”

Unfortunately, when leaving Colonel Summers’s house, William leaves the gate open and thus allows a passing herd of cattle to trample his prize asparagus.

Mr Foulard, safe in the knowledge that his rival now has no vegetables whatsoever to exhibit in the Flower Show, smiles upon William.

But in a final twist, the war intervenes in an unexpected way to leave both men happy. William’s father is baffled by the succession of contradictory letter’s he’s received; but all’s well that ends well.