jumble

The facts

“You knocked him down!” said William severely. “You came right over this side of the road.”
Clarence took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow. “I… er…  I remember swerving a little. But I felt nothing. I’m sure I didn’t go over him.”
“No,” said William rather regretfully, for it would be impossible even to pretend that any motorcycle had passed over the solid and obviously intact form of Ginger. “You didn’t go over him, but you… you swerved right on to him an’ gave him a t’riffic blow on his head. He’s got… he’s got,” the word came with a flash of inspiration, “’cussion. That’s what he’s got. He’s got ’cussion.”

  • Number: 9.5
  • Published: 1928 (1927 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger need to teach an errant adult a lesson.

Verdict

Miss Holding, a young woman much admired by William, was supremely bored with the attentions of her houseguest Clarence Bergson.

But it wasn’t until he perpetrated the supreme sins of kicking Jumble and handing Douglas and Henry over to a wrathful Farmer Jenks that William decided enough was enough, and vengeance must follow.

“They say he’s gotter have a lot of nourishment an’ his mother’s not got any food in the house ’cause of them bein’ very poor – ever so poor. So if you could let me have a few cakes an’ things for him I’d take them to his house for him. The doctor says he can have rich things – he’d like some of those cakes with cream on.
“You’ve gotter eat with ’cussion. It’s the only thing to do to save your life – to go on eatin’ an’ eatin’. Can I have that bag of biscuits for him?”

His plan was to stage a road traffic accident, in which Ginger would be victim, and blackmail Clarence into providing vast quantities of (edible) restitution, before ruining his afternoon with Miss Holding and leaving him to believe himself to be on the run from the law.

An amusing setup but I actually find this one slightly discomforting. Clarence Bergson is very genuinely terrified of what he believes himself to have done, and admittedly he is (odiously) more concerned with escaping detection than the moral consequences, but it does seem a particularly cruel trick to play on anyone – even if they did kick Jumble, and even if they are a crashing bore…

The facts

Mr Morgan looked while his mouth and eyes slowly opened to an almost incredible extent and his cheeks grew paler and paler. There in his library with feet on his writing table, sat a brutal communist commander beneath the red flag. Brutal communist soldiers lounged in all his best chairs and some poor unhappy prisoner stood trembling before the brutal communist commander.
“W… what is it?” he gasped.
“It’s broke out,” said William succinctly, “the revolution – it’s broke out.”

  • Number: 7.7
  • Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Outlaw
  • Synopsis: William enrages an old man by blowing on an exceptionally loud whistle – and regrets its confiscation.

Verdict

In the William version of The Seven Basic Plots, ‘recovery of confiscated items’ must surely be one of them – and William is invariably successful. In The Midnight Adventure of Miss Montagu, 6.6, he used force. This time, he uses cunning.

His plan to train Jumble as a sheep-dog has disastrous consequences not only for the sheep, a number of local farmers and William’s white rats, but also on the rest and relaxation of Mr Morgan, an elderly man who lives at the edge of the village and is enraged by the constant blowing of William’s most prized possession, an unnaturally loud whistle. So Mr Morgan confiscates it.

Idly William thought that he’d train Jumble to be a police dog when he’d finished training him to be a sheep dog. He’d train him to hunt down robbers and bite them hard.

William’s attempts to regain the whistle include asking for it (Mr Morgan laughs in his face), complaining of its theft to the police (the policeman laughs in his space) and begging his father for help (Mr Brown laughs in his face).

After all these above-board methods come to naught, he begins casing the joint from the outside and, by faking a coma, secures an invitation inside while the owner is away and opened the house to his niece’s drama troupe.

There, he learns not only Mr Morgan’s secret fear – a Communist revolution – but that the drama troupe will, by one of those Williamesque coincidences that only happen rarely in real life but multiple times in the same book in Richmal Crompton’s universe (cf Finding a School for William, 7.6), be rehearsing, in the house, a play about a Communist revolution.

Despite the fact that the plot is almost entirely borrowed from a small number of previous stories, this one reads fresh and is very enjoyable, especially William’s triumphed and Mr Morgan’s frustration at the end.

The facts

For eleven years Mrs Brown had filled the trying position of William’s mother. It had taught her patience.

  • Number: 1.12
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William acquires a dog.

Verdict

Jumble is such a close associate of William that it’s hard to imagine how far back in the mists of time their first meeting must have been. But this is it – and, shockingly, Jumble was already named before William obtained him!

“Oh, you are a funny boy!” she said with a ripple of laughter, “and you look so rough and untidy. You’re rather like Jumble.”

When he first takes his new dog home, Mr Brown’s first concern is for his garden: but, not to worry, his son has this angle covered: “‘He’s tied up all right,’ William assured him. ‘I tied him to the tree in the middle of the rose-bed.'”

Unfortunately, as with collar-wearing dogs found in the street, Jumble already had an owner, an eccentric girl and her eccentric artist father. The girl takes rather a shine to William, and, with the promise of a quieter, prettier dog in the offing, agrees to make William a gift of Jumble… in exchange for a kiss.

“There was a picture in that year’s Academy that attracted a good deal of attention. It was of a boy sitting on an upturned box in a barn, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands. He was gazing down at a mongrel dog and in his freckled face was the solemnity and unconscious, eager wistfulness that is the mark of youth. His untidy, unbrushed hair stood up round his face. The mongrel was looking up, quivering, expectant, trusting, adoring, some reflection of the boy’s eager wistfulness showing in the eyes and cocked ears. It was called ‘Friendship’. Mrs Brown went up to see it. She said it wasn’t really a very good likeness of William and she wished they’d made him look a little tidier.”

This story seems oddly implausible even for William. But it laid the groundwork for dozens of Jumble-centric stories in future so we can’t really complain!