Inside the saucepan were the smoked remains of a couple of sardines, three sausages, a handful of patent cat food, a dollop of custard, four pickled walnuts, the scraping of a tin of golden syrup, half a bottle of sour milk, a soupçon of Gentleman’s Relish, a dash of mouldy mint sauce, some cheese and bacon rinds and the tail end of a bottle of Henry’s father’s tonic – the whole blended and cooked by William. It formed a meal from which all four would have turned with loathing and disgust had it been offered them in their own homes, but they consumed it – sitting round the small clearing in the wood, eating in tum from the screw-top of an old honey jar that did service as a spoon – with undiluted pleasure.
“When I’m grown up,” said William, “I’m goin’ to start a rest’rant an’ I’m goin’ to cook mixtures same as I do here an’ people can eat ’em sittin’ on the ground same as we do an’ I bet everyone’ll want to come to it. It’s tables an’ chairs an’ knives an’ forks that spoil ordinary grown-up meals. I bet I make my fortune an’ when I’ve made it I’m going to…”
“Well, what’ll we do now?” said Ginger, knowing that William, once launched on the subject of his future careers, was not easy to check.
Robert and Ethel have awarded a coveted (albeit ridiculously minor) child’s role in the Dramatic Society play to Hubert Lane, and William is livid: “Gosh, it’s worse than Cain an’ Abel!”
But unfortunately, in the ensuing fight with Hubert, Jumble is kidnapped/ dognapped, and held ransom by the Hubert Laneites.
“Your hair looks as if it had been dragged through a hedge backwards,” said Ethel.
“It has,” said William, casting his mind back over the events of the morning.
William tries to get his revenge by kidnapping Hubert’s aunt, but he ends up with the wrong old lady held hostage.
But it turns out that she was just the old lady he needed to meet…
William entered, panting and breathless, a loaf under his arm.
“Sorry, if I’ve been a long time,” he said. “I met Ginger.”
“Didn’t they give you a bag or paper for the loaf, William?” said Mrs Brown.
“Yes, but it sort of came off.”
“It’s filthy!” said Ethel as she took the loaf from him. “You might have been playing football with it.”
William tried to look as if he had not been playing football with it.
- Number: 29.4
- Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William in Charge
- Book: William and the Moon Rocket
- Synopsis: The Outlaws help Archie to escape from an indifferent Justice.
Ethel is hosting a party-and-drama evening (the play having been written by Robert’s friend Oswald Franks, who rather optimistically “hopes that it will go to the West End” after its debut at the Browns’). Her latest admirer, Lionel, is to take the starring role – though rather unusually, Mrs Brown has strong views that he is unsuitable.
Archie is bitterly disappointed not to have been cast, and goes on hopefully practising the starring role’s most momentous speech: “I am a criminal, a common criminal, and the net is closing round me. Unless I can flee the country before tonight, I am doomed!”
“What are those?” said William, turning his frowning gaze on to the pastry cases.
“Pastry cases, dear. They’re going to be filled with mushroom and white sauce mixture and things like that.”
“If I eat this one it’ll save you the trouble of fillin’ it, won’t it?” said William virtuously.
The Outlaws hear this. And, as in William and the Returned Traveller, 28.4, they make it their duty to rescue Archie from the clutches of the police.
Fortunately, their bizarre attempt to smuggle him into a van to Portsmouth backfires to the advantage of everyone concerned (except Lionel).
As William approached Ginger’s house, he gave the ear-splitting ‘yodel’ that was the secret signal between them – a signal calculated to attract the attention and shatter the nerves of everyone within a radius of two miles.
“Hello,” said Ginger, coming down to the gate. “That was a jolly good one.”
“My yodel?” said William complacently. “Yes, I thought it was, too. I’ve been practisin’ it all this week. ’Least, I did till my family stopped me.”
- Number: 28.5
- Published: 1952 (1951 in magazine form)
- Book: William the Tramp
- Synopsis: The Outlaws determine to un-haunt a cottage
The Browns’ housekeeper, Mrs Peters, has handed in her notice because her route to work takes her past a cottage she believes to be haunted. And this gives Dolores, Robert’s latest, an idea of the perfect stage for her new one-act play…
This probably wouldn’t cause too much trouble except for William’s resolve to “unhaunt” the cottage in question, and Violet Elizabeth’s resolve to join in the enterprise (“Oh, pleathe, William,” she said earnestly, “if ith a teeny weeny little ghotht, may I have it for my dollth houthe?”).
“I’ve got a jolly sight more money than you think I’ve got. I’ve got some in the post office that an aunt put in for me when I was born.” There was in William’s voice the bitterness that always invaded his spirit when he thought of the fortune standing to his name in the records of the government. “It’s five pounds an’ I’m goin’ to buy an aeroplane with it when I get it, if I ever do get it” – his bitterness increased – “if the post office hasn’t spent it all by then. I bet it has. Always havin’ cups of tea an’ biscuits. Jolly nice for me goin’ in to buy stamps an’ things an’ seein’ ’em all havin’ cups of tea an’ biscuits out of my five pounds. They mus’ have used about half of it by now…”
His plan is lifted from a play what he once saw: “It was about a man with a name like Dr Foster what sold his soul to a ghost with a name like Methylated.” Because Dr Foster (Faustus) successfully caught a ghost by drawing a circle around it, so too will William. For added certainty, Ginger is going to use the Chinese technique of “using bangs” (Violet Elizabeth plans to “give it a thauther of milk”).