school and schoolteachers

The facts

William tried the handle of the back door. It opened. “Good!” he said. “We can have a look inside now. Come on!”
“There’s laws…” said Douglas.
“Rubbish!” said William. “Ole Frenchie always says that if a thing’s worth doin’ it’s worth doin’ well, so we’re only doin’ what he tells us to.”

  • Number: 38.3
  • Published: 1970
  • Book: William the Lawless
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to find their teacher the best wedding present money can (not) buy.

Verdict

This is a really fun story, and it’s driven by William’s soft-hearted and well-concealed affection for his form master, Mr French. Following his engagement in William’s Adventure Society, 37.5, the time has now come for the boys to buy Mr French a wedding present. As Henry confesses, “After all, he’s had a lot to put up with from us.”

One of the boys remembers his parents’ tactic for choosing a wedding present: they waited until invited to dinner by the recipient, and took advantage of the opportunity to look around and see what items were missing. Of course, the Outlaws realise that they are unlikely to be invited to dinner by Mr French, so instead they wait until he goes out for the day “to readsomethin’ up in the British Museum for an article he’s writin’ on middle-aged gardens” before breaking in to his house.

“We’ve done a good -bit of damage,” said Douglas.
“He’ll forgive us,” said William, “when he finds out that we’ve rescued him from the clutches of a blackmailer.”
“Maybe,” said Douglas doubtfully.

While they’re in there – specifically, while William is looking for one of Ginger’s exercise books to compare one of the answers against one of his own – a letter comes through the front door, and the boys inevitably misread it and believe it to be a blackmail threat, signed “M”.

They split up and investigate four prominent Ms in the village. A series of misunderstandings with each suspect only strengthen’s their investigator’s suspicions: William hears Miss Milton lamenting her “killer” dog and assumes his teacher to be a murderer; Henry interprets General Moult’s concern about plagiarism of his biography as the teacher being a “spy”; Douglas gets nowhere at all with Archie Mannister; and Ginger gets particularly confused when Reverend Monks refers to a trendy church organist as “drug pushing his wretched wares among the young and innocent”.

Fortunately, the Outlaws are able to salvage the situation because the damage they caused to Mr French’s house uncovers something rather interesting…

The facts

“What’s that thing he said we hadn’t got any of?” said William.
“Initiative,” said Henry.
“Oh…” said William. “What is it?”
“Doin’ things without bein’ told to,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said William in surprise. “Seems to me we’re always doin’ that.

  • Number: 37.5
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William founds a new society bent on finding adventure.

Verdict

The headmaster has given the entire school a motivational talk, and, although William rather missed its point (“I thought he was talkin’ about takin’ an interest in world affairs an’ not jumpin’ over his tulip bed”), Henry was paying close attention. He heard the suggestion that the boys get together and create some extra-curricular societies to promote responsibility, industry and other desirable qualities.

William is well up for this.

“We’ll have an Adventure Society,” he said.
“What’ll we do in it?” said Douglas.
“Adventures,” said William simply.

“Now we’ve got to take an oath,” said William. “They always take oaths in secret societies. You can make up the oath, Henry. You’re better at long words than us.”
“All right,” said Henry. He cleared his throat impressively then raised his right hand. “I swear never to betray the secrets of the Adventure Society an’… an’ to carry out all its adventures” – he paused, at a loss momentarily for words, then remembered the heading on one of his mother’s tradesmen’s bills – and ended, “promptly and efficiently.”

There is some concern that Mr French, the form-master, may not be a fan of this plan, but William isn’t worried. “Ole Frenchie can’t stop us if the headmaster says we ought to. It would be mutiny.”

After agreeing a constitution for the Society (“Deadly weapons may be used but axshul murder not allowed”) they proceed to appoint Officers:

“We ought to elect a President, an’ Secretary an’ Treasurer,” said Henry.
“Well, there’s no time for that,” said William, “so I’ll be all of ’em.”

And the Adventure Society is open for business, with its first mission being the slightly vague one of fighting crime. Naturally, the person who falls most under their suspicion, after his cruel refusal to permit the Society to exist at all, is Mr French.

They cause a fair bit of chaos, but Mr French – and his new fiancée – isn’t too peeved.

The facts

“Ole Frenchie always gives dotty subjects for essays,” said Ginger.
“The last one was Wales,” said Douglas.
“I wrote a jolly good one on that,” said William. “I told about the man that got eaten by one in the Bible and about a dream I once had of one tryin’ to get on top of a bus an’ endin’ up havin’ a fight with an octopus. It was a smashin’ essay an’ he didn’t give me a single mark an’ he said some jolly nasty things about it.”
“He meant the country not the fish,” said Henry. “He’d just given a lesson all about it with maps an’ things.”
“Well, I hadn’t been listening,” said William in simple explanation.

  • Number: 37.3
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: Violet Elizabeth Bott seeks sanctuary with the Outlaws.

Verdict

Violet Elizabeth has been temporarily deposited in a local boarding school for girls while her parents are away, and, not enjoying the experience, has been dogging the Outlaws all the more.

Eventually she dons a wig and escapes altogether, attaching herself to the Outlaws, leading Henry to conclude, “It’s a sort of moral problem. She’s sort of taken sanctuary with us. She’s sort of a mixture of an orphan and a refugee.”

“You’re a story-teller,” said Douglas sternly.
“I know I am,” said Violet Elizabeth with an air of modest pride. “I’m a very good thtory-teller.”

She suggests that they “put a notith in the potht offith” to get her adopted: “Lovable young lady wanth to be adopted by nithe perthon.”

When they hear of a mysterious local woman who is looking for a girl to be a companion to her own daughter, their hearts leap… but when they set eyes on this local woman, everything goes wrong…