societies

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

“We know something about art,” said William.
“We learn it at school,” said Douglas. “We have lessons in it.”
“I drew a picture of a volcano last week,” said Ginger, “an’ my mother said it was abs’lutely realistic.”
“She thought it was meant to be a pineapple,” said William.

Verdict

When the secretaryship of the local Art Club becomes vacant, the Outlaws are determined to give Archie Mannister the career boost he deserves – in Douglas’s words, they want “to get him hung in the British Museum”.

“But what’s happened?” said Miss Golightly, rubbing her eye.
“It’s William Brown that’s happened,” said Miss Milton.

Archie’s first task is to organise a field trip to a local stately home filled with Old Masters. On a preparatory visit, the house’s highly eccentric mistress presents him with a puppy as a gift – for which she later bills him 30 guineas. He is desperate to return the dog, but has, unfortunately, lost it.

The lady’s small god-daughter holds the key to the mystery; and William unlocks 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.