william comes out on top

The facts

The place and time of the “show” presented no little difficulty. To hold it in the old barn would give away to the world the cherished secret of their meeting place. It was William who suggested his bedroom, to be entered, not by way of the front door and staircase, but by the less public way of the garden wall and scullery roof. Ever an optimist, he affirmed that no one would see or hear.

  • Number: 1.5
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws need five shillings, so they decide to stage a freak show. Meanwhile, Mr Brown is anxious to truncate the stay of his wife’s troublesome aunt.

Verdict

Animal rights campaigners may blanch at the scene in which Henry paints a dog blue (for the sole reason of justifying the show’s label “Blue Dog”), and they may not be too keen on Douglas’ decision to paint a rat blue and pink (“Rats are all like this in China”).

But nevertheless, this episode marked the start of William’s expertise as an event planner, always on the lookout for a good money-spinner, but rarely finding one.

Next came a giant composed of Douglas upon Ginger’s back, draped in two sheets. This was labelled: “GENWIN GIANT”.
“It’s got Douglas’s face,” said one of his audience.  William was for a moment at a loss.  “Well,” he said at last, “giant’s got to have some sort of a face, hasn’t it?”

This particular show was initially unsuccessful… but then its customers heard the sound of Aunt Emily snoring in the guest bedroom.

Seizing on this opportunity, William hastily writes out a label declaring her to be a “fat wild woman torkin natif langwidge” and opens her sleeping form to the public, after administering an “oth of silence”.

This is the first story in the books in which William comes out completely on top – and the first of many in which he only does so through a twist of fate that he didn’t really expect!

The facts

“She’s different from everybody else in the world,” stammered Robert ecstatically.
How’s she different from anyone else?” William demanded. “Is she blind or lame or sumthin’?”

  • Number: 1.2
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Robert is smitten by a visitor to the village. But she’s more interested in William…

Verdict

William’s attitude towards Robert’s love life tends to be either well-meaning – trying to find him a wife – or, less commonly, malicious – gathering material to use as ammunition in future arguments.

This story is unusual, then, because William and Robert simply clash due to unfortunate circumstances. Robert is anxious to make a closer acquaintance of Miss Cannon. So is William. To Robert, she is the embodiment of every womanly virtue. To William, she is one of the only adults he knows willing to talk to him about hunting and  cannibalism, and to play Red Indians with him.

“You must come again some time,” said Robert weakly but with passion undaunted.
“I will,” Miss Cannon said, “I’m longing to see more of William. I adore William!”

Each is totally unable to understand the other’s fascination, to the point of William’s outburst (unfortunately in the presence of Miss Cannon): “Is no one else ever to speak to her jus’ ’cause Robert’s fell in love with her?”

William is victorious in the end, of course. But he’s only won the battle, not the war. Because in the final words of the story, Robert sets the scene for fifty more years of fraternal strife: “It’s not peace, it’s an armistice—that’s all.”