societies

 The facts

“You see, dear,” Mrs Brown said, “you and your friends can form a sort of Houses of Parliament and… well,” vaguely, “pretend to be Ministers of the Crown and that sort of thing and… and discuss politics.”
“Yes,” said William and added with rising interest, “yes, it’s a jolly good idea.”
Mrs Brown stifled a slight feeling of misgiving.

  • Number: 29.2
  • Published: 1954 (1953 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: Mrs Brown suggests that William might like to play a game called ‘House of Commons’.

Verdict

Inevitably William is going to turn Mrs Brown’s suggestion of a nice, quiet game – House of Commons – into a disaster. Partly because he believes that Black Rod is “the chucker-out”, partly because he takes the view that “it’s educational so that makes it all right, whatever happens”, and partly just because he’s William.

Their first task is to secure accommodation for their game:

“We’ll have to find a house. We ought to have more than one to call it the Houses of Parliament, but we’ll manage with one.”
“Yes, an’ how’ll we find one?” said Henry. “It isn’t so easy, findin’ houses.”
William glanced at the houses that bordered the road along which they were walking.
“There’s lots about,” he said carelessly.
“Yes, but there’s people livin’ in them,” Ginger pointed out.
“There’s lors about houses,” said Henry darkly. “Some people can’t get in ’em an’ some people can’t be got out of ’em. It’s not so easy.”
But William’s optimism was not to be dispelled. “I bet I get one,” he said, licking the last vestiges of lollipop from a stick before he threw it away. “I bet I get one all right.”
“I bet you don’t,” said Douglas, “an’ I bet even if you do it’ll get us in a muddle.”

“I’ll be the Foreign Secret’ry,” said Douglas. “I’m jolly good at bein’ foreign.” He extended his mouth in an imbecile grin, gesticulated wildly and said in a high-pitched squeaky voice, “Je suis, tu es, il est… hic, haec, hoc… bonus, bona, bonum… la plume, la porte, la fiddlededee, la thingamagig.”
William and Ginger laughed hilariously, but Henry looked doubtful.
“I don’t think the Foreign Secret’ry axshully is foreign,” he said.
“’Course he is,” said Douglas, elated by his success. “If he’s called a foreign secret’ry he mus’ be foreign.”
“’Course he mus’,” said William. “Stands to reason he mus’. Well, it’s news to me if a foreign secret’ry isn’t foreign.”

After ‘buying’ a house from a little girl for five shillings, and proceeding to eat its entire contents, they allocate roles (“Well, come on, let’s look for a whip”) and get down to business.

“That was a jolly good fight,” said William as he picked himself up.
“They call it a debate,” said Henry.
“Well, it was a jolly good debate, then,” said William. “Let’s have another.”

Fortunately, their occupation/ destruction of the house they are using turns out not to be as disastrous as could be…

 The facts

“Professor Golightly,” the headmaster said, “is one of the most distinguished scholars of the age. We cannot let him go away with the impression that our children are devoid of intellectual interests.”
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t,” said William. “I’m jolly well devoid of ’em an’ I don’t know anyone that isn’t.”
“Dunno what good they’d be to us anyway,” said Ginger. “I want to be a juggler when I grow up.”

  • Number: 28.2
  • Published: 1952 (1950 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William enters an essay-writing competition.

Verdict

The village’s schoolchildren are competing in an essay-writing competition judged by a Professor of History, nephew of a local headmistress.

William’s first draft, prepared on behalf of all the Outlaws, read:

Bony prince charly
He came bekause they playd skotsh chunes on bag peips he dansed with ladies and fort a battel and fel into a bogg and then there wasent ennything elce to do so he went hoam in a bote.

“Let’s go’n’ write that hist’ry essay.”
Reaching Ginger’s bedroom, they sat on the floor in silent concentration.
“Well, come on,” William said at last in a tone of irritation. “Think of somethin’, can’t you?”
“Let’s all have a think about hist’ry,” said Henry. “There’s Victoria.”
“That’s a station,” said William.
“It’s a person as well,” said Henry.
“Well, I’m not goin’ to write about that,” said William. “They’d get muddled up, wonderin’ which I was talkin’ about.”

Meanwhile, Joan has had her mother’s birthday present confiscated at school, and beseeches William to recover it from the headmistress’s house.

And while he’s in there, he meets the Professor of History, and they form something of an affinity…

Fairly touching on the whole. (And as a bonus, Hubert Lane gets a bit of come-uppance as well.)

 The facts

William decided to practise his tight-rope act. He had never actually practised it yet. He had merely enjoyed glorious mental visions of himself walking with airy nonchalance at a dizzy height with crowds of cheering spectators far below. The only practical step he had taken towards the materialisation of this vision was the appropriation of a length of clothes line from his mother’s washing basket.
The resultant crash brought the entire household out into the hall.
“What on earth are you up to now, William?” said Mr Brown, in a voice that held concern but little tenderness. “Come down here at once.”
“I’ve not hurt myself an’ I’ve not done any harm,” William said, forestalling the inevitable queries and accusations. “Not any real harm, I mean. The handle came off the chest of drawers, but I bet it must’ve been loose to start with. Well, I bet real tight-rope walkers have somethin’ on their feet to make ’em stick. They must have. Glue or somethin’. Well, I’m jolly good at balancin’, but I went right over at once, so…”
“Be quiet, William,” said Mr Brown, who knew that William’s eloquence, if not checked at its source, could grow to an overwhelming torrent.

  • Number: 28.1
  • Published: 1952 (1947 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to juggle a tramp and a visiting lecturer.

Verdict

Yet again the Outlaws and Violet Elizabeth are trying to come up with a way to smuggle the poor into The Hall as a form of social justice. The fact that every previous attempt at this scheme – most notably Just William’s Luck, 26 – has resulted in total disaster and financial ruin, does not dampen their enthusiasm at all.

The tramp they select is, like most of the other tramps the boys encounter, a talkative and ingenious one who introduces himself as Marmaduke Mehitavel (and Archibald Mortimer, and Horatio Grimble).

The room they select is one which Mrs Bott has destined for a visiting Literary Society lecturer, the celebrated scholar Mr Bumbleby.

Their truly inspired plan to prevent the seemingly inevitable clash is that the tramp should wear a suit of Mr Bott’s and impersonate Mr Bumbleby.

The real Mr Bumbleby’s role in this plan is the glamorous one of being locked in the coal shed…