love

The facts

The young man had met Ethel at an evening party and had succumbed to her charm. Lacking courage to pursue the acquaintance, he had cultivated the friendship of her small brother, under a quite erroneous impression that this would win him her good graces.

  • Number: 1.11
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William accepts a bribe in exchange for his sister’s heart.

Verdict

Some pangs of conscience from William in this story: although happy to help Mr French win over Ethel, he feels bad about using subterfuge.”Still – white rats were white rats”, and Mr French had promised him two of them.

“I can’t walk any more, Ethel,” William said, turning his healthy countenance up to her. “I’m took ill sudden.”
She looked down at him impatiently. “Don’t be absurd, William,” she said. “Get up.”
“I’m not absurd,” he said firmly. “I’m took ill.”
“Where do you feel ill?”
“All over,” he said guardedly.

Of course, having given in to bribery, it was just a short step to blackmail, as William realises that further treats might be extorted from Mr French in exchange for his silence about the whole scheme.

Affairs come to a climax, as so often, in church, where a rat escapes and the whole plot is laid bare.

William obviously behaves pretty badly in this story, but shows surprisingly mature intelligence in the way that he does so!

The facts

William would have no half-measures. They were to be married by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. He would wear his balck pirate suit with the skull and crossbones.

  • Number: 1.4
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Left alone with Miss Drew after school one day, William becomes infatuated and begins to plan the wedding.

Verdict

Perhaps William’s headmaster was less astute as regarded his safeguarding responsibilities than would be a modern school.

But the scene in which William accompanies an unwilling Miss Drew on a date (with her “very nice-looking male cousin” no less) will defintely linger long in my memory – as, no doubt, it will in Miss Drew’s.

“Well, I can’t unnerstand any of it. I can’t think why people go on givin’ people bits of money for givin’ ’em lots of money. Anyone’s a mug for givin’ anyone a hundred pounds just ’cause he says he’ll go on giving’ him five pounds and go on stickin’ to his hundred pounds. How’s he to know he will? Well,” he warmed to his subject, “what’s to stop him not givin’ any five pounds once he’s got hold of the hundred pounds?”

Fortunately, William’s crush comes to a rapid end when he goes to a lot of trouble to obtain his teacher some syringa flowers – by ‘obtain’, of course, I mean ‘steal’, taking refuge in a dirty hen-coop when the irate landlord appears on the scene – only to discover that she prefers guelder roses.

His idol fallen, he treats her to his trademark look of “stony contempt” before abandoning his not altogether successful attempt at being a Model Student, and returning to his wayward ways.

This story seems particularly jarring to the modern reader but still a pleasing tale of William causing utter chaos to all around him, even when in love.

The facts

“She’s different from everybody else in the world,” stammered Robert ecstatically.
How’s she different from anyone else?” William demanded. “Is she blind or lame or sumthin’?”

  • Number: 1.2
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Robert is smitten by a visitor to the village. But she’s more interested in William…

Verdict

William’s attitude towards Robert’s love life tends to be either well-meaning – trying to find him a wife – or, less commonly, malicious – gathering material to use as ammunition in future arguments.

This story is unusual, then, because William and Robert simply clash due to unfortunate circumstances. Robert is anxious to make a closer acquaintance of Miss Cannon. So is William. To Robert, she is the embodiment of every womanly virtue. To William, she is one of the only adults he knows willing to talk to him about hunting and  cannibalism, and to play Red Indians with him.

“You must come again some time,” said Robert weakly but with passion undaunted.
“I will,” Miss Cannon said, “I’m longing to see more of William. I adore William!”

Each is totally unable to understand the other’s fascination, to the point of William’s outburst (unfortunately in the presence of Miss Cannon): “Is no one else ever to speak to her jus’ ’cause Robert’s fell in love with her?”

William is victorious in the end, of course. But he’s only won the battle, not the war. Because in the final words of the story, Robert sets the scene for fifty more years of fraternal strife: “It’s not peace, it’s an armistice—that’s all.”