supernatural

The grand finale – Day 360: William’s Foggy Morning – and an Afterword

The facts

“Are there any auras here?” William had asked doubtfully. “I’ve never seen one an’ I’ve lived here eleven years.”
“You don’t see an aura, William,” she had explained, “you sense it, though you may see manifestations.”
“They may have some manifest’uns in the Library,” Henry suggested helpfully, but Miss Montecute shook her head.

Note: as I observed yesterday under William and the Sponsored Walk, 38.6, today’s story, William’s Foggy Morning, was the last on which Richmal Crompton worked – and, indeed, it was unfinished at the time of her death on 11 January 1969. Her niece and literary executor Richmal Ashbee completed it posthumously based on her notes.

So here we go, the final story…

Verdict

“How do you fight creatures from Outer
Space?” asked Douglas, slightly alarmed.
“We could ask General Moult to shoot him,” suggested Ginger.
“You can’t shoot spacemen,” pronounced Henry. “They’ll be like the vampires in that film we saw, an’ you need silver bullets to shoot ’em with and stakes an’mallets to pin ’em down.”
“We’d better go an’ get ’em, then,” said William simply.
Henry fetched a ball of string and his Latin grammar. “You’ve got to chant Latin at ’em,” he insisted. “They only know Latin an’ it frightens ’em.”
“It sort of frightens me,” agreed William.

On an exceptionally (implausibly?) foggy morning, the Extra Dimension Community – loopy spiritualists planning a commune in the village – are arriving. Things very rapidly become silly, with people going missing, people unable to see people, the Outlaws misunderstanding spiritualism and assuming evil monsters to be behind the fog…

They set out to rescue Archie (lost in the mist) from these extraterrestrial demons, and when they find him dressed as Mephistopheles things only become more confused.

Afterword

Well, that is that – the end. Except I wouldn’t want to let the end go by without adding on a few words.

In my professional life, I tend to deal more with Moses, Abraham, Joseph and suchlike. But William is by far and away my favourite fictional character. His bafflement at the adult world is a joy. His language – so often inexpertly borrowed from the grown-ups he fails to understand – makes my sides ache. His inventiveness is quite something. And his unstintingly good heart and relentless optimism are a lesson to us all.

Who knows what would have happened to William had Richmal Crompton lived longer: he would, of course, have stayed 11 and never progressed to adolescence or marriage or adulthood. But how would he have found the ’80s and the ’90s? The internet? The Iraq War? Pokémon? Fidget spinners? It’s sometimes fun to think about.

What I’ve also had fun thinking about is long-term trends across the decades of books. As I’ve gone along, I’ve classified each story as ending with either William comes out on top or William comes out on the bottom. The final totals were: on top, 266; on the bottom, 94.

But it was kind of hard to quantify. The stories where William came out on top were easy enough to identify: wrongs righted, money earned, confiscated items recovered… But where he might be thought to have come out on the bottom (aims not met, or serious disciplinary consequences incurred) I quite often ended up categorising it as ‘on top’ regardless because he found something to be glad about, or proud of, or just enjoyed the experience so much.

I’ve enjoyed this experience too. It’s been a long and packed year for me: I’ve begun seminary, started learning Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, moved house, got engaged, even found time for a brief holiday. But the sheer joy of being able to fill spare time with William’s exploits, and force myself to navigate through all 360 stories – from the best-known to the never-published – has been wonderful.

And thank you all for reading and encouraging and joining with me!

The facts

“He’s been to the Gen’ral’s house,” said William.
“We don’t know he has,” said Ginger.
“Well, he came from that direction, so he mus’ have been. He couldn’t have come from anywhere else.”
“He might have done,” said Ginger.
“Well, I bet he didn’t,” said William. “You could tell by the look on his face that he’d been up to some devilry.”

  • Number: 37.2
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William helps get General Moult’s memoirs published

Verdict

A group of villagers, marshalled by Mrs Monks, has got together to organise a 90th birthday party for General Moult (who insists that he is only 80 and is enraged by any suggestion to the contrary – and also hates parties).

But the General has other problems as well: his lengthy war memoirs have been rejected by publisher after publisher, to the extent that he believes that he must be under the curse of a witch-doctor he met out in Africa during the Boer War (see also William and the Brown Check Sports Coat, 27.3).

William believes he’s detected the witch doctor living nearby, and goes to investigate…

An oddly flat story though.

The facts

“Is he the man?” whispered Henry to William.
“Yes, he is,” said William.
“He looks pretty strong,” said Douglas. “I don’t think it’d be any good tryin’ to kidnap him.”
“’Course it wouldn’t” said William. “We’ve got to think out somethin’ better than that.”
“Somethin’ subtle,” said Henry, pronouncing the word as spelt.

Verdict

Serious business in this story, in which Henry warns:

Anyone might wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses goin’ up all over the place an’, once they’ve started, it’s too late to stop ’em ’cause of these plans.”
“What plans?” said William.
“They make plans for buildin’ houses” said Henry. “Sort of drawings of them, you know, an’ they take them to a meeting of the mayor an’ corporation an’ they pass them an’, once these plans have been passed, no one can stop ’em building them.”
“Can’t people go to this meetin’ an’ stop the mayor an’ corporation passin’ them?” said William.
“Yes, they could, but ordin’ry people don’t go to meetings ’cause they’ve not got time, so the nex’ thing they know is they wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses all round ’em and all the fields an’ woods gone.”

The visiting lecturer from whom Henry learnt about the evils of developers used the Outlaws’ beloved Old Barn as an example of a picturesque structure vulnerable to the ravages of housebuilding.

But the boys are having none of this. “The first thing to do is to keep a look-out,” William determines.

“You tell him about the hauntin’, Henry, an’ Ginger about the tomb an’ I’ll do the black magic, an’ I bet we get him so scared that he’ll never make any more plans for the rest of his life.”
“I bet he won’t listen,” said Douglas.
“Yes, he will,” said William. “I’ll be specially polite so he’ll have to.”

So imagine their horror when they see a man sketching the building and measuring it up with a tape measure!

They immediately begin a campaign to scare him away, loosely based on the curse of Tutenkhamen’s tomb, and, in parallel, bribe his granddaughter to tell him where he keeps his plans, so that they can destroy them. (The bribe is a donkey which gets them into all sorts of complications.)

Fortunately, the Old Barn is safe.