mr brown’s secret approval

The facts

“You see, my aunt’s coming on Saturday, dear,” said Mrs Brown, “and I keep putting off telling your father. He does so hate having people staying in the house.”
William’s brow wove itself into an intricate pattern as he pondered on the situation. “Couldn’t you sort of hide her up somewhere in secret without him knowing?” he suggested at last. “Same as people did with exiles an’ Cavaliers an’ rebels an’ Roundheads in hist’ry.”


When William’s father is having one of his characteristic meltdowns about household finances, he rather misguidedly ponders the possibility of taking in a “paying guest”, ie a lodger. William considers this to be an excellent idea, especially once he discovers that his neighbours have a paying guest who regularly supplies the children of the household with ice-cream.

So he sets out to find one, and in these days before, he goes for the fairly direct approach of walking up to the first stranger he sees in the village and asking, “’Scuse me, are you a PG?” Unfortunately she is, and was on her way to her new host family until William diverts her to his.

Mr Brown snatched up another bill. “Why does that boy have to have a new pair of shoes every day of the year?” he roared.
“He doesn’t dear,” said Mrs Brown, “but sometimes things happen to them.”
“They sort of got caught up in a bonfire,” explained William apologetically.

Mr Brown is not especially surprised to see this prim elderly lady walk up his driveway, because he’s been expecting a visit from his wife’s aunt (they’ve never met), and this woman confirms all his worst fears.

Miss Privet went to the bed and felt the mattress. “Reasonably comfortable,” she said.
Mr Brown gulped and swallowed and again, by a supreme effort of will, managed to remain silent.
Miss Privet was now switching the bedside light on and off. “Too strong,” she said. “I like a twenty-five watt bulb for the bedside light.” She opened the cupboard that contained the overflow of Mrs Brown’s wardrobe. “I shall need all this space. Will you please have all these clothes removed?”
Mr Brown’s face was purple with his efforts at self control.

It all gets sorted out eventually (and to Mr Brown’s delight, the real aunt is a dream guest compared to Miss Privet), but not before William’s tried some complicated scheme involving dressing up as a spaceman to scare the unwanted paying guest away.

 The facts

“Gosh! didn’t he carry on!” said William, “Sayin’ I wasn’t fit to be a member of a civ’lised community! Well, I jolly well don’t want to be a member of one. I’m jolly well sick of civ’lised communities. I’m jolly well sick of tryin’ to help civ’lisation an’ the yuman race. All I get for it is my bow an’ arrow took off me an’ no fireworks. That shows civ’lisation’s all wrong an’ l’m jus’ about fed up with it. I’m jolly well goin’ back to the days before there was any civ’lisation. I bet we’d all be a jolly sight better off if we all went back to bein’ savages same as those ole Markie was tellin’ us about that lived in trees.’
“Tree-dwellers,” said Ginger.
“Yes, them… Well, I’m jolly well goin’ back to bein’ one. I’d sooner live in a tree than a house any day.”


A new neighbour, Mr Redditch, is making Mr Brown’s life hell both at home and away from it (he is a fellow member of the local golf club and a fellow commuter to London). This makes Mr Brown extremely irritable, and in a particularly sore moment he bans William from marking Bonfire Night.

“You see,” the man from the Insurance Company explained to William, “this chap staged a burglary because he wanted to get the insurance money. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” said William, adding zestfully – for William liked his drama laid on thick – “He’s prob’ly the head of a gang of international crim’nals. Prob’ly Scotland Yard have been huntin’ for him for years. He’s prob’ly a smuggler as well. An’ a spy. He’s prob’ly foiled the best brains in the Secret Service.”

It’s while he and Ginger are occupying a tree in Mr Redditch’s garden while he’s (supposedly) away on holiday that they witness Mr Redditch sneaking around and behaving rather oddly.

They don’t immediately twig [yes I did have to make that pun] how odd it is, but in their entirely altruistic attempt to help him, they do manage to let his insurance company know; and his insurance company is very grateful.

 The facts

“I’ve thought of somethin’ else I’m goin’ to be when I’m grown up,” said William.
“Gosh! Not another!” said Ginger in reluctant admiration.
William decided on a new career every few days. Already, in the course of the last week, he had decided to be diver, golddigger, big-game hunter, tree-lopper, conjurer, atom-bomb maker and snake charmer.

  • Number: 29.8
  • Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s Mistake
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: The boys need to raise two shillings by doing odd jobs.


William and Ginger are anxious to raise a shilling each in order to see the Wonder Cossacks, a horse-riding circus troupe.

Outraged that Mr Brown is not willing to fund this investment in their futures (the boys’ careers as cossacks obviously depend on soaking up this early experience), William expostulates, “I remember he paid fifteen shillin’s once for garden spray. Gosh! We could’ve seen the Wonder Cossacks…” – he paused and wrinkled his brow in mental effort – “seven an’ a half times for that.”

“Gosh, Miss Milton, don’t write to our fathers, please,” said William. “We’re sorry about your frame an’ it was my fault, an’ I don’t know what made that stone go a diff’rent way to what I threw it. I bet it mus’ be somethin’ to do with the atom bomb. Somethin’ got out into the air out of the atom bomb and… and sort of mesmerised it. Listen, Miss Milton. I’ll mend your garden frame. Honest, I will. I bet I can find a bit of glass an’ I know where there’s a tube of glue.”

But his relentless optimism comes in, and he resolves to earn enough money not only to see the Wonder Cossacks but also to buy lots of ice-cream and a jet bomber.

His ‘best’ idea is to do a favour for his father, namely painting a cupboard brown. They don’t have any brown paint but decide to try a blend of cough mixture, hair tonic and walnut ketchup.

Mr Brown is irate, at least until he makes a cock-up of his own and begins to understand that, well, these little mistakes will happen…