music art and artists

The facts

“I went to the dentist, Wednesday,” said Ginger with a touch of legitimate pride.
“I bet you made ’nough fuss,” said William, who considered it his duty to deflate his fellow-creatures when he thought they were unduly puffed up.

  • Number: 8.2
  • Published: 1927 (1926 in magazine form)
  • Book: William in Trouble
  • Synopsis: William helps a small girl escape from boarding school.

Verdict

The Outlaws set out on a quest to explore “where no white man’s ever set his feet before”. On the discovery of terra incognita – conveniently located in the middle of their local wood – they set about a game of hide-and-seek.

William comes across a parked car (the sort of thing, I suppose, often to be founded in land where no white man’s ever set his feet before) and thinks it would be the perfect place to hide, so he climbs in.

Then, of course, the car drives off, and he isn’t able to escape until it has pulled up outside a girls’ boarding school.

The Fairy Daffodil seemed unaware that it was attracting any attention. It sat down and gazed around it, stern, bored, contemptuous – then a light as at some happy memory came into its face. It pulled up the butter muslin to its waist, revealing muddy boots, muddy legs and muddy trousers, plunged its hand into its pocket and brought out a nut, which it proceeded to crack with much facial contortion and bared teeth.

There, he is mistaken for the gardener’s boy and made to pose for an art class (“I think I’ve got his ugliness all right but I can’t quite get his cross look”) before meeting a tearful young girl who wants to run away, back to her family.

Agreeing to impersonate her (veiled) character in a school play that evening, to buy her time to abscond, William thus becomes Fairy Daffodil.

It was difficult for me to choose how to classify this one, but eventually I chose William comes out on top, because although he is discovered and disgraced, it rather looks like he’ll get away with it – plus he gets a hearty tea and attention from a pretty girl, both to his great satisfaction.

The facts

“What’s the matter?” William said gruffly.
She raised blue, tear-filled eyes. “My daddy’s out of work,” she said.
“What d’you mean?” said Douglas, “d’you mean he’s got nothin’ to do?”
“Yes,” said the little girl, “nobody’ll give ’im any work to do, an’ he’s got to stop at home all day.”
“Coo!” said Ginger feelingly, “I wish I was him.”

  • Number: 7.8
  • Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Outlaw
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws attempt to find work for an unemployed man.

Verdict

This is literally the third story in a row in this book to rely, for its denouement, on the coincidental availability of a very specific costume: a Tudor dress in 7.6, a Communist commander in 7.7, and now a set of “Charles the First clothes”. So the allure of the ploy is beginning to pall.

This story sees the Outlaws on a quest to procure employment for a local unemployed man to whose daughter they have taken a shine. They have various plans. William wants to see him hired as “a motor-car driver” (“shuvver”, Ginger corrects him) or “a sort of man what looks after people’s clothes” (“valley”, Ginger corrects him).

Henry suggests that they try to find a vacancy as a doctor, lawyer or clergyman, but is firmly rebuffed by William’s observation: “Those are special sorts of people. They start turnin’ into those before they leave school.”

“When are we goin’ to have a car?” William demanded innocently.
“Not while I’m alive,” answered his father.
William considered this in silence for some minutes, then asked: “How soon after you’re dead?”
His father glared at him and William cautiously withdrew into silence.

Douglas thinks their client would make a good male nurse for a lunatic… and he even knows where to find a lunatic: “I acted like I was goin’ queer in my head. But I couldn’t sort of seem to make ’em understand I was actin’ queer in the head. They seemed to think I was actin’ ordin’ry.”

William, though, finally comes up with the goods (almost): “bein’ drawed”. He’s been sketched by a local artist who has been commissioned to illustrate a short story about a young boy ruffian (“Fancy writing a story about a boy,” he exclaims with no sense of irony), and the artist agrees to pay the unemployed man to model for him – on condition that the unemployed man wears Civil War-era clothing.

Fortunately, Robert has just such an outfit, for a party to which he is hoping to escort the artist’s daughter. William’s complicated plan goes wrong, but a twist at the end means that the consequences aren’t quite so disastrous as they might have been…

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!