trains

The facts

William, Ginger and Henry had not intended to join the meeting. They had come to the house in order to call for Douglas. But Douglas, it turned out, had not yet returned from an appointment with the dentist, so they decided to wait for him. Ginger and Henry would have loitered fidgeting in the doorway, but William, who liked to be in anything that was going on, had made his way at once to the front row.

  • Number: 38.2
  • Published: 1970
  • Book: William the Lawless
  • Synopsis: William tries to give a retired army officer a taste of how life used to be.

Verdict

The Outlaws are compiling a Railway Museum. What they really want for this Railway Museum is a guard’s lamp. And Major Reading, a retired military gentleman, has one. They can’t afford to offer him any money for it, but they try to give him an experience that he’d like.

“Well, I got the trivial thoughts out of my mind all right,” said Douglas. “Then I started thinkin’ how I’d like to have the dentist in the chair an’ me have a go at him with that drill thing.”
“That’s not very upliftin’,” said William. “What did you think, Ginger?”
“Well, I got the trivial thoughts out of my mind, too,” said Ginger. “Then… well, I started thinkin’ about those two trees by the road an’ I thought if I climbed up one of them I could sort of swing myself from the middle branch of that one on to the middle branch of the other an’ climb down its trunk.”

So when they overhear him saying to someone in conversation, “I’d give almost anything to have an hour or two of the old days back,” they know their task.

“What’ll we do, then?” asked Ginger.
“Give him an hour of danger, discomfort, an’ challenge,” said William simply, “an’ he’ll get so ’zilarated with zest that he’ll give us the guard’s lantern.”
“He mightn’t, you know,” said Henry.
“It’s goin’ to be one of the biggest muddles we’ve ever got into in all our lives,” said Douglas.

It doesn’t entirely go to plan, but remarkably (and slightly implausibly) they do get their hands on a guard’s lamp!

The facts

“I’d worked jolly hard an’ painted a good bit of that pipe when suddenly the tin fell off the window-sill. It fell off quite sudden right on top of her.”
“Who?” asked Henry.
“Mrs Peters,” answered William. “She was jus’ comin’ in at the door an’ it fell right on top of her.”
“Did it kill her?” asked Douglas in a tone of dispassionate interest.
’Course not, snapped William. “We’d have had to pay for her funeral if it’d killed her, an’ I bet they’d have stopped my pocket money for years to pay for that. They’re jolly expensive things, are funerals. They cost pounds.”

  • Number: 38.1
  • Published: 1970
  • Book: William the Lawless
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws are hoping for a trip to the London Transport Museum.

Verdict

Mr Brown had (possibly out of self-interest) volunteered to take the Outlaws on a much-coveted trip to the London Transport Museum during their school holidays. But an act of careless naughtiness by William places the whole thing in jeopardy.

The boys immediately set about doing a good deed to outweigh the previous act of evil, namely “puttin’ the neglected gardens of old age pensioners to rights”.

William was thinking about life – that it was odd and bewildering and inconsistent and unpredictable. You did good things and they turned out bad. You did bad things and they turned out good. You… Then he dismissed the thought. After all, why quarrel with life when it held such wonders as the Coppemob, the Cornwall, the Butler Henderson, and the Pet?
He drew a deep sigh of contentment.
“Engines,” he said.

Of course, they don’t actually have any plants with which to spruce up these poor oldies’ gardens, but other people’s gardens are full of plants, and as William reasons, “We wouldn’t be pinchin’ things. We’d jus’ be sharin’ them out.”

Not entirely surprisingly, this only propels the Outlaws further into hot water, and they feel that their trip to London is so irrevocably cancelled that they may as well take advantage of the opportunity to do something really naughty: things can hardly get worse.

So they go climbing on the roof of an abandoned cottage from which Mr Brown has specifically forbidden them, just as he happens to be walking home from the station. And somehow they put a smile on his face…

 The facts

“Hi!” panted Ginger. “Don’t run so fast. I can’t keep up with you.”
“Well, don’t talk so much,” said William. “You oughter save your breath for runnin’ same as me. I’m not talkin’ all the time. I’m savin’ my breath
for runnin’.”
“You’ve never stopped talkin’ since we started,” Ginger reminded him. “I say! Let’s pretend there’s a herd of wolves after us. That oughter make us run quicker.”
“I’m not scared of wolves,” said William. “I bet if wolves were after us I’d jus’ turn round an’ kill ’em one after the other.”
“You’ve got nothin’ to kill ’em with.”
“I’d strangle ’em. I’ve got jolly strong hands. I can unscrew tops of tins an’ things what my mother can’t.”
“You’d find a wolf jolly diff’rent from the top of a tin.”

  • Number: 27.7
  • Published: 1950 (1948 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger accidentally stop a train, and fall victim to Hubert the master blackmailer.

Verdict

William and Ginger buy a magnificent pen-knife, whose most magnificent feature is “a thing for takin’ stones out of a horse’s hoof” (“You never know when you’ll get a horse”) – although their first act on receiving it is to test said tool on a horse which neither needs nor wants a stone taken out of its hoof. They get kicked across the road and then chased by an irate horseman (the description of whom as a “black-faced giant” is, I suspect/ hope, more a reference to their class and trade than to their ethnicity).

Hubert also wanted the knife, for no reason other than spite, and the Outlaws hand him the perfect leverage when they (from the best of intentions) stop a train – the 4:40 – unnecessarily and imagine that they must thenceforth be fugitives for the rest of their lives. In fact, Hubert blackmails William for many posssessions; again, for no reason other than spite.

“I’m feeling jolly ill. I’ve got an awful pain in my backand in my stomach an’…” – he paused for a moment, decided that it would be foolish to risk omitting any convincing illness by understatement, and went on – “an’ in my legs an’ in both my arms an’… an’ in my head.” He paused again and added simply, “I’ve got toothache too.”
William!” said Mrs Brown incredulously.

Affairs come to a head when Hubert and William are both invited to the same tea party as Robert and his crush of the moment:

“Hubert Lane!” said William in disgust. “Fancy anyone askin’ Hubert Lane to tea!”
“I’d a darn sight sooner have Hubert Lane to tea than you,” said Robert. “He doesn’t eat like something out of the zoo.”
“No, he eats like something in it,” said William, and was so delighted at his own wit that a bland smile overspread his countenance and the heavy weight lifted itself for a moment from his spirit.

But the hostess is indebted to William for reasons of her own…