william comes out on the bottom

The facts

“My aunt kept on an’ on about doin’ service to the community,” said Ginger.
“What’s the community?” said William.
“It’s people,” said Ginger earnestly. “It’s anyone. Helpin’ the community means helpin’ people. Anyone. An’ this aunt of mine promised me ten shillings if I did somethin’ to help the community.”
“Oh,” said William. “That’d be jolly useful. We could do a lot with ten shillin’s… What sort of things did she mean?”
“Well, she kept talkin’ about things that people had done for the community, like puttin’ a stop to slavery an’ settin’ up the Health Service an’ stoppin’ people gettin’ executed in public.”
“It’s too late to do any of those,” said William after a moment’s thought. “They’ve been done.”

Verdict

Ginger’s aunt has offered ten shillings to the boys on condition that they do something altruistic, and Ginger has an idea:

“She’s got a friend that works at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”
“What’s that?” said William.
“It’s… well, it’s sort of advisin’ citizens,” said Ginger uncertainly.
“Sounds easy enough,” said William. There was a new note of interest in his voice. “Gosh, I could do that all right. I bet I could advise anyone about anythin’.”
“They might ask us things we don’t know about,” said Ginger.
“Oh, I know about most things,” said William airily, “an’ I can make ’em up if I don’t.”

So they set up shop in the Old Barn, and their first customer is another local child, Anthea Green, who needs support in obtaining a new fancy dress costume. (I can’t help feel that Richmal Crompton rather slipped up in imagining that William was familiar with French plurals though: “’Course we can’t get you a new fancy dress costume. Citizens’ Advice Bureaux aren’t there to get people new fancy dress costumes.”)

“You’re a story-teller,” said Douglas sternly.
“I know I am,” said Violet Elizabeth with an air of modest pride. “I’m a very good thtory-teller.”

Goaded into promising to help, the boys quickly start trying to raise four shillings and sixpence so they can buy a Gretl costume they’ve seen on sale at the village fair.

This backfires.

The facts

“Ole Frenchie always gives dotty subjects for essays,” said Ginger.
“The last one was Wales,” said Douglas.
“I wrote a jolly good one on that,” said William. “I told about the man that got eaten by one in the Bible and about a dream I once had of one tryin’ to get on top of a bus an’ endin’ up havin’ a fight with an octopus. It was a smashin’ essay an’ he didn’t give me a single mark an’ he said some jolly nasty things about it.”
“He meant the country not the fish,” said Henry. “He’d just given a lesson all about it with maps an’ things.”
“Well, I hadn’t been listening,” said William in simple explanation.

  • Number: 37.3
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: Violet Elizabeth Bott seeks sanctuary with the Outlaws.

Verdict

Violet Elizabeth has been temporarily deposited in a local boarding school for girls while her parents are away, and, not enjoying the experience, has been dogging the Outlaws all the more.

Eventually she dons a wig and escapes altogether, attaching herself to the Outlaws, leading Henry to conclude, “It’s a sort of moral problem. She’s sort of taken sanctuary with us. She’s sort of a mixture of an orphan and a refugee.”

“You’re a story-teller,” said Douglas sternly.
“I know I am,” said Violet Elizabeth with an air of modest pride. “I’m a very good thtory-teller.”

She suggests that they “put a notith in the potht offith” to get her adopted: “Lovable young lady wanth to be adopted by nithe perthon.”

When they hear of a mysterious local woman who is looking for a girl to be a companion to her own daughter, their hearts leap… but when they set eyes on this local woman, everything goes wrong…

The facts

“Prehistoric people lived on wild animals,” said William, “an’ we’re goin’ ‘back to bein’ prehistoric… We’ll need wild animals’ skins to dress in, too.”
“There won’t be any wild animals,” said Ginger. “They’ll all have got wiped out by this atom bomb.”
“There might be a few left in the Zoo or somewhere,” said William. “Stands to reason. If a few yumans get left a few animals might, too.”
“They’d be tame ones if they came out of the Zoo,” said Henry.
“Well, we could start with ’em tame an’ train ’em up to be wild,” said William.

Verdict

Henry has read a book about a small group of atom-bomb survivors who are forced to found a new civilisation. “Gosh! I’d like to do that,” says William. “I could make a jolly sight better one than the one we’ve got now. I’ve seen pictures of prehistoric times an’ they look smashin’.”

“So it’s a Play Centre and you’re the organiser?”
“Yes,” said William. “It’s a Play Centre an’ I’m the organiser.”
His voice was deeply magisterial, his expression earnest and authoritative. He was no longer a survivor of an atomic war. He was an organiser of a Children’s Holiday Play Centre.
The man’s eyes roved over the crowd of screaming scuffling children.
“They all seem to be doing different things,” he said.
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on doin’ diff’rent things,” said William.
“Two of them seem to be having a wrestling match.”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on havin’ a wrestling match,” said William.
“Rather noisy, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on bein’ noisy,” said William. “It’s good for ’em.”
“Free expression, I suppose!” said the man.
“Oh yes, it’s all free,” said William.

Henry’s rather touching contribution is to bring a telephone directory (“I thought we ought to have a bit of education”) and a painting of William Gladstone (“It’s art”).

The problem comes when all the children of the village hear of the impending disaster and implicitly believe in it – some expecting an atom bomb, some a flood – and so converge on the Outlaws looking for salvation.

But just then a TV crew arrive looking for a children’s holiday play centre to film for a documentary… along with all the local parents, who are determined to track down the Pied Piper who has stolen away their offspring…