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.
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…