robert

The facts

“I don’t think you can get imprisoned for life for dangerous driving,” said Ginger.
“I bet this man could fix it,” said William. “I told you he’d stop at nothin’.”

  • Number: 37.6
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William tries to save Robert from prosecution for a minor motoring offence.

Verdict

When Robert has a fairly unexciting road-rage altercation with a fellow motorist, William takes the matter to heart and is determined to save Robert from the life in prison that awaits bad drivers. He convinces himself that the fellow motorist obviously staged the whole thing for the sole reason of getting Robert ‘out of the way’.

“William, what on earth’s happened to your clothes?” gasped Mrs Brown in horror.
William glanced down at his clothes. “Jus’… jus’ normal wear an’ tear, I ’spect,” he said.
“William, it couldn’t be.”
William appeared to consider deeply. “Well,” he said, “it might… it jus’ might be a bit of cement.”

He eventually abandons this fantasy as untenable, and instead sets out to “melt his heart” and persuade him not to turn Robert in.

In the course of melting his heart they manage to half-destroy his house, but all turns out well when they’re able to help him when he least expects it…

The facts

“A new girl’s only got to come to this place,” said William, “an’ Robert starts bein’ keen on her. He was nuts on Biddy Needham till they went on this caravan holiday, then they sort of got fed up with each other and he started on this new one. He might be someone on the films, the way he carries on. Bluebeard or Henry the Eighth or someone.”

Verdict

This is a seriously weird story.

Robert is enamoured by Celia Green, a newcomer to the village. And, unusually, William is a little enamoured by her younger sister Anthea.

Anthea, Celia, Robert and, as it happens, Henry have all been at a meeting of the Literary Society where they heard from a ‘detective journalist’ about here work:

“She pretended to be somebody she wasn’t jus’ to see how other people sort of acted an’ then she wrote an article about it an’ got money. Once she went out as a charwoman, jus’ one day each to diff’rent people an’ she told them all the same yams about her husband knockin’ her about (she hasn’t got a husband really an’ I bet he’d make off pretty quick if she had) an’ her little girl havin’ some terrible disease an’ her son stealin’ valu’bles an’ havin’ the p’lice after him.”
“She was tellin’ lies,” said Douglas sternly.
“No, it’s not lies if it’s detective joum ‘lism,” said Henry. “If it’s detective joum’lism, it’s… well, it’s jus’ detective journ’lism.”

Robert had noticed something cold and distant in Celia’s manner. “I haven’t done anything to offend you, have I, Celia?” he said humbly at last.
“You never do anything at all,” said Celia. ”That’s the trouble. You’re so hopelessly ineffectual.”
Robert thought of his triumphs on the tennis courts and rugger field but wisely forebore to mention them.

Celia and Anthea are both enthusiastic about the whole idea – not enthusiastic to follow it themselves, but they happily shanghai their men into having a go.

William had performed upon the back door of The Briars the loud and lengthy tattoo with which he was wont to announce his presence.
Miss Devon opened the door. William fixed his most ferocious scowl on her.
“I’m lost,” he said.
“Oh dear! Poor little boy!” said Miss Devon. Her face beamed with compassionate kindness.
“Lost out of a car,” said William.
“Oh dear!” said Miss Devon again. “I suppose your parents stopped for a little halt and you wandered off.”
“Yes,” said William, regretfully abandoning kidnappers and deciding to follow whatever lead she gave him. He’d probably be able to make something of it.
“Where were they going, dear?”
“I forget,” said William.
“Where is your home?”
“Outer Hebrides,” said William.

Although Robert also decides to play this rather aimless prank on Miss Devon, the story as a whole doesn’t really go anywhere. Which is a shame, because it’s bookended by a rather fun sub-plot about William turning his house’s water tank into an aquarium.

The facts

“My mother was telling me about this thing she once went to where people had to get things from all over the village an’ they had clues written in poetry to tell them what they’d got to find. It was called a scavenger hunt.”
“We won’t call it that,” said William. “We’ll call it Treasure Hunt. It’s easier to spell.”
He took the pencil stump and wrote ‘Tresher hunt’.

Verdict

With the long summer holidays spread out in front of them – both exciting and daunting – the Outlaws decide to open an adventure holiday centre for local children.

For its inaugural treasure hunt, William chooses various objects from around the village that he is going to send his campers to fetch. But the dry run the Outlaws perform causes such chaos (including the accidental borrowing and destruction of a letter from Robert to his best beloved) that a rethink is called for.

Henry had had the idea of a blindfold race using plant pots instead of handkerchiefs and, while testing the effect, had got his plant pot so firmly wedged over his head that it had had to be broken by William and Ginger, leaving a cut across his forehead and a blackening eye.
“Did you take the dog back?” said William.
“Well, not quite,” said Douglas.

In the meantime, William has to re-create Robert’s letter… He can’t actually think of any nice things to say about the recipient, Diana, but he knows some unpleasant thinks Ethel has said about her and cleverly inverts them:

Dear Dianner, I hop you are well. Thank you for asking me to cum to the sowth of france with you I will cum to the sowth of france with you. I don’t think that your conseated and die your hair or that you look a site without makeup or that your a harfwit and I wouldent mind being seen ded in that hat with fethers and I no weel have a jolly good time in the sowth of france. with luv, Robert Brown.