school and schoolteachers

The facts

In English Grammar class the next morning, William’s thoughts were interrupted: “What have I just been saying, William?”
William sighed. That was the foolish sort of question that schoolmistresses were always asking. They ought to know themselves what they’d just been saying better than anyone. He never knew. Why were they always asking him?
“What’s a negative, William?”
William sighed. “Somethin’ about photographs?” he said obligingly.
No,” snapped Miss Jones. She found William and the heat (William particularly) rather trying.

  • Number: 1.6
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William’s family leaves him alone for an evening. He decides to host a party.

Verdict

We’re all familiar with those news stories in which someone’s private party goes viral on Facebook and their house gets trashed by thousands of uninvited revellers.

But who knew that William managed to create comparable chaos even without a social media account?

“I’m goin’ to bed,” William said, “’cause my father don’t understand ’bout English Grammar, that’s why!”

When his teacher introduces to him the concept of double negatives, his mind immediately turns to a conversation he had with his father that morning (“Did you say I could have a party, father?” “No, I did not“).

Having learnt that two negatives make a positive, William goes ahead and organises a riotous party that tramples the garden, breaks windows, leaves muddy footprints on Robert’s bed and actually imprisons long-suffering Cook in the coal-cellar!

One is left wondering whether William honestly believed himself to be in the right on this one. Often he has no doubt genuinely misunderstood an instruction or offhand comment and the consequences that ensued were, therefore, somewhat innocent.

But could he really have believed that his father’s stern instruction was meant to be an expansive permission?

You decide…

The facts

William would have no half-measures. They were to be married by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. He would wear his balck pirate suit with the skull and crossbones.

  • Number: 1.4
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Left alone with Miss Drew after school one day, William becomes infatuated and begins to plan the wedding.

Verdict

Perhaps William’s headmaster was less astute as regarded his safeguarding responsibilities than would be a modern school.

But the scene in which William accompanies an unwilling Miss Drew on a date (with her “very nice-looking male cousin” no less) will defintely linger long in my memory – as, no doubt, it will in Miss Drew’s.

“Well, I can’t unnerstand any of it. I can’t think why people go on givin’ people bits of money for givin’ ’em lots of money. Anyone’s a mug for givin’ anyone a hundred pounds just ’cause he says he’ll go on giving’ him five pounds and go on stickin’ to his hundred pounds. How’s he to know he will? Well,” he warmed to his subject, “what’s to stop him not givin’ any five pounds once he’s got hold of the hundred pounds?”

Fortunately, William’s crush comes to a rapid end when he goes to a lot of trouble to obtain his teacher some syringa flowers – by ‘obtain’, of course, I mean ‘steal’, taking refuge in a dirty hen-coop when the irate landlord appears on the scene – only to discover that she prefers guelder roses.

His idol fallen, he treats her to his trademark look of “stony contempt” before abandoning his not altogether successful attempt at being a Model Student, and returning to his wayward ways.

This story seems particularly jarring to the modern reader but still a pleasing tale of William causing utter chaos to all around him, even when in love.