mr and mrs lane

The facts

Hubert was not an original child and could think of no other tactics than his familiar ones of shouting out to the prospective guests of the rival party the dainties that were being prepared for his own.
“Jellies and cream!” said William incredulously. “You can’t get jellies and you can’t get cream.”
“My father can,” sniggered Hubert.
“Your father’s a black marketer,” said William sternly.
Hubert smiled his sly smile. “You can’t prove it,” he said, “and that’s all that matters.”

  • Number: 24.10
  • Published: 1942 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: William decides that Hubert doesn’t deserve all the black market food he has.

Verdict

So finally, 18 years after his first appearance in the canon, Hubert Lane worms his way into the title of a story.

Though really, direct responsibility for the mischief which takes place lies with his mother, and indirect responsibility with, as so often, the Vicar’s wife.

It was Mrs Monks’s idea that the children whose fathers were not serving in the forces should give a party to the children whose fathers were serving in the forces. Only half a dozen children whose fathers were not serving in the forces would actually attend the party, and the half-dozen would be chosen by lot. The names were William,Ginger, a boy called Ralph, and three little girls of the type who are seen and not heard and give no trouble.
There was, of course, a good deal of disappointment; but, on the whole , people were sporting about it. Even if their children were not to be at the party, they promised to give what help they could. All except Mrs Lane.
And Mrs Lane was furious. If darling Hubie were not to be at the party, she said, she wouldn’t raise a finger to help.On the contrary, she would do all she could to hinder. It was a shame, it was a scandal, it was a conspiracy. Hubie was heartbroken. She would never forgive them for it. She went to Mrs Monks and made a scene. She went to Mrs Brown and made a scene. She went to Ginger’s home and made a scene. She went to the homes of the three little girls and made scenes. She told them all that it was a shame and a scandal and a conspiracy, and that Hubert had more right than any of them to go to the party and that they wouldn’t get a crumb or a penny out of her, so they needn’t waste their time trying. She added that Hubert’s father was just as angry as she was about it and that no one need think they were going to take an insult like this lying down, because they weren’t…
“A foolish woman,” said Mrs Monks, and dismissed the whole thing with an airy wave of the hand.

William took a seat by the window, so that he could keep an eye on the gate. He didn’t know quite what he was going to do if Hubert and his mother appeared, but his immediate aim was to get the tea eaten as quickly as possible. He did his own share towards accomplishing this, and encouraged the others to do theirs, though, indeed, little encouragement was needed. Aunt Emmy fluttered about, serving jelly and trifle, cutting cake, refilling cups and saying at intervals: “I’m sure I’ve done the right thing. It was the only thing l could do. Now try to enjoy yourselves as much as if Hubie were here, children.”
The children certainly enjoyed themselves.

In a particularly nasty twist, she decides to outshine the altruistic party by holding, in honour of Hubert, an unaltruistic party, supplied with abundant off-ration, black market and illegal foodstuffs and sweets aplenty.

Although the ‘William arranges to crash and ruin one of Hubert’s smug parties’ theme has been done to death (most notably in Revenge is Sweet, 6.13), this story still manages to seem somewhat fresh with the addition of Mrs Lane’s sheer malice.

The facts

“Dunno if I remember it right,” said William, “but on Midsummer Eve, scarecrows are s’posed to come alive jus’ after dark an’ come to anyone what’s stole anythin’ out of their fields durin’ the year an’ get it back off them.”
Hubert paled. “G-g-get it back off them?” he stammered.
“Yes,” said William carelessly. “They leave the person what stole it in a jolly nasty mess, too. They’ve got the strength of ten men when they come alive, scarecrows have. Well , I know I wouldn’t like to be knocked about by a scarecrow come alive with the strength of ten men.”
“The s-s-s-s-strength of ten men?”
“Yes, or it might’ve been twenty.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Hubert, but looking like a boy in the grip of a nightmare.

  • Number: 24.3
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws and the Hubert Laneites compare shrapnel collections.

Verdict

Owing largely to Mrs Lane’s overindulgent wallet, Hubert’s collection of wartime memorabilia far outshines William’s. But then fortune strikes and they acquire a much-prized ‘German bomb stick’ (whatever that is)… only to have it confiscated by Farmer Jenks, on whose land they are trespassing!

And to make matters worse, Hubert steals a garden fork from one of Farmer Jenks’s land girls – who is a great friend of the Outlaws – so that she will have to pay him back for it out of her wages.

They manage to resolve the situation, but in a manner sadly reminiscent of William’s Goodbye Present, 21.2.

The facts

“Be quiet,” interrupted Mrs. Lane severely. “If you tell any more of these wicked lies I shall come round and tell your father this evening. Of course I believe Hubert rather than you. Hubert’s a most truthful little boy, aren’t you, Hubert?”
“Yes, Mother,” agreed Hubert smugly.

Verdict

At last, a relative of Hubert’s who is genuinely pleasant. In fact, Uncle Paul from Australia is so closely attuned to the Outlaws’ rough-and-tumble way of life that he much prefers them to his own nephew.

 

“Well,” said William, lowering his voice confidentially. “When we came here this morning we saw an ole woman in the field with a cloak an’ a big pointed hat an’ a broomstick.”
The superior sneer fell from Hubert’s face. “It was a witch,” he said excitedly. “It was a witch, of course. What was she doin’?”
“She was jus’ goin’ about an’ wavin’ her broomstick an’ sayin’ things.”
“Spells!” said Hubert, his round, credulous face pink with eagerness. “She was makin’ spells. I say” – his eyes glinted greedily – “did she say anythin’ about findin’ treasure or anythin’ like that?”

When he returns to Australia, he gives Hubert a pistol as a goodbye present (!) and also buys a pen-knife for William, to be delivered by Hubert.

Hubert, though, doesn’t deliver it. He claims it as his own, and with no witness to Uncle Paul’s intentions, Mrs Lane sends William away when he calls round to ask for it.

But the Outlaws play on Hubert’s fear of the supernatural – and specifically, his fear of having his family turned into hens – to convince him to return what is rightfully theirs (and also the pistol…)