the browns host

The facts

“Well, now I expect you want to run off, dear,” said Mrs Brown. “The War Working Party will be here any minute, and I know that you aren’t any fonder of them than they are of you.”
“Gosh, no!” said William, and vanished.

Verdict

William needs money with which to buy Christmas presents, so when he hears that the toy shop will buy scarce metal toys at generous prices, he jumps at the chance. Outside the shop he encounters an older boy who claims to be the owner’s cousin and offers to take the toys off for a free valuation.

The inevitable happens, so William has to enter detective mode and track down his property. He handed it over to the thief in a distinctive multi-coloured bag, and who should he see holding such a bag but the Vicar’s wife!

Mr and Mrs Monks led lives of such unblemished outward respectability that William, whose taste in literature tended to the lurid, had always cherished the suspicion that this blatant appearance of respectability hid some secret career of crime. He had, at different times and without success, tried to prove that they were spies, murderers and traffickers in drugs. And now, at last, his suspicions were proved correct. Mrs Monks was a member of a Gang, if not the head of it. A Gang of Toy Stealers. Perhaps an international Gang of Toy Stealers…

He hastily abstracts the bag from her, but it contains not his toy soldiers but a Christmas cake, some Yuletide napkins, a sponge and some china flowers. William is relatively relaxed about confiscating these proceeds of crime and giving them, as they are, to his mother as the perfect Christmas present.

But when Mrs Brown puts these items out at a tea party she is giving that afternoon, things become slightly confused…

The facts

Beneath William’s rugged exterior was a deeply hidden vein of chivalry. He didn ‘t like to think of the little girl ‘s being unhappy. He couldn’t get it out of his head. It worried him… He didn’t want to, but he felt he must go back to see if she really was crying, and, in that case, to find out if he could help. Slowly, reluctantly, he retraced his steps to Honeysuckle Cottage.

  • Number: 24.9
  • Published: 1942 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: William (sort-of) embraces vegetarianism.

Verdict

Tempted by a little girl’s tears to help save her pet rabbit from being eaten as an off-ration family treat in pie form, William resorts to increasingly desperate measures to secrete Ernest somewhere safe and, above all, inconspicuous.

Despite William’s very ingenous charming of General Moult, who ‘keeps rabbits’, the whole thing goes horribly wrong. But as a story, it’s somewhat devoid of entertaining moments, and its plotline is fundamentally identical to He Who Fights, 20.1, and William and the Unfair Sex, 22.4.

The facts

“Why, I bet cyclin’ over that ground did it good , same as ploughin’ or somethin’. Bet I saved ’em trouble, cyclin’ over that ground. An’ I bet everyone was sick to death see in’ those ole plants day after day. They oughter be jolly grateful to me for knockin’ ’em down so’s they could put in a few new ones.” He sighed deeply. “All grown-ups are mean, but I bet my fam’ly’s about the meanest of the lot.”

  • Number: 23.2
  • Published: 1941 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger take control of some valuable geological specimins.

Verdict

William and Ginger are both aggrieved: William has had his bicycle confiscated after using it to destroy some plants, and Ginger dropped a half-crown out the window of a train, and was then further penalised when he pulled the emergency brake in a bid to recover it (“A man came round to see my father about it las’ night an’ said they’d overlook it this time. Said they’d overlook it. I like that! It oughter be me overlookin’ it. I bet I could’ve found that half-crown in two minutes if they’d let me look for it”).

So embittered are they that they resolve to become highwaymen to wreak revenge on society.

“You’ve gotter have a black horse to be a highwayman,” objected Ginger.
“You needn’t,” said William. “A bicycle’d do.”
Ginger considered the question again in silence. “They’ve gotter have masks,” he said at last.
“They needn’t,” said William, to whom the career of highwayman was beginning to seem not only attractive, but the obvious solution of all his problems. “I’ve seen pictures with crim’nals in, an’ they jus’ wear handkerchiefs over their noses. It’s better than masks. It’s not so old-fashioned.”

The first person they hold up is General Moult, who is too deaf to comply with their demands. The second and third ignore them. The fourth is a little girl who very sweetly offers William the threepence she is grasping – but “William’s scheme had somehow not included the taking of pocket money from little girls. He waved it aside.” But he is prepared to accept from the little girl her uncle’s briefcase of valuable geological samples.

He promptly sells them on to Ethel for her rock garden, just before the Browns welcome a guest for lunch. The guest is an eminent professor of geology…