william fails to understand girls

The facts

“A new girl’s only got to come to this place,” said William, “an’ Robert starts bein’ keen on her. He was nuts on Biddy Needham till they went on this caravan holiday, then they sort of got fed up with each other and he started on this new one. He might be someone on the films, the way he carries on. Bluebeard or Henry the Eighth or someone.”

Verdict

This is a seriously weird story.

Robert is enamoured by Celia Green, a newcomer to the village. And, unusually, William is a little enamoured by her younger sister Anthea.

Anthea, Celia, Robert and, as it happens, Henry have all been at a meeting of the Literary Society where they heard from a ‘detective journalist’ about here work:

“She pretended to be somebody she wasn’t jus’ to see how other people sort of acted an’ then she wrote an article about it an’ got money. Once she went out as a charwoman, jus’ one day each to diff’rent people an’ she told them all the same yams about her husband knockin’ her about (she hasn’t got a husband really an’ I bet he’d make off pretty quick if she had) an’ her little girl havin’ some terrible disease an’ her son stealin’ valu’bles an’ havin’ the p’lice after him.”
“She was tellin’ lies,” said Douglas sternly.
“No, it’s not lies if it’s detective joum ‘lism,” said Henry. “If it’s detective joum’lism, it’s… well, it’s jus’ detective journ’lism.”

Robert had noticed something cold and distant in Celia’s manner. “I haven’t done anything to offend you, have I, Celia?” he said humbly at last.
“You never do anything at all,” said Celia. ”That’s the trouble. You’re so hopelessly ineffectual.”
Robert thought of his triumphs on the tennis courts and rugger field but wisely forebore to mention them.

Celia and Anthea are both enthusiastic about the whole idea – not enthusiastic to follow it themselves, but they happily shanghai their men into having a go.

William had performed upon the back door of The Briars the loud and lengthy tattoo with which he was wont to announce his presence.
Miss Devon opened the door. William fixed his most ferocious scowl on her.
“I’m lost,” he said.
“Oh dear! Poor little boy!” said Miss Devon. Her face beamed with compassionate kindness.
“Lost out of a car,” said William.
“Oh dear!” said Miss Devon again. “I suppose your parents stopped for a little halt and you wandered off.”
“Yes,” said William, regretfully abandoning kidnappers and deciding to follow whatever lead she gave him. He’d probably be able to make something of it.
“Where were they going, dear?”
“I forget,” said William.
“Where is your home?”
“Outer Hebrides,” said William.

Although Robert also decides to play this rather aimless prank on Miss Devon, the story as a whole doesn’t really go anywhere. Which is a shame, because it’s bookended by a rather fun sub-plot about William turning his house’s water tank into an aquarium.

 The facts

William turned to VioletElizabeth. “Would you like to be Germany? It’s a jolly good part.”
“What thould I wear?” said Violet Elizabeth. “It dependth on what I’d wear.”
They considered the question. “Swashtikas,” suggested Henry.
“No,” said Violet Elizabeth firmly . “I don’t like thwathtikath!”
“Sackcloth,” said Ginger.
“No,” said Violet Elizabeth, still more firmly. “I don’t like thackcloth.” Suddenly her small face beamed. ” Tell you what! I’ve got a fanthy dreth at home I could wear. Ith a fanthy dreth of a rothe. I wouldn’t mind being Germany if I could wear that.”
“Well, you can’t,” said William shortly. “An’ if you’re goin’ to be Germany at all, you’ve gotter be sorry for all the wrong you’ve done.”
“Well, I’m not,” said Violet Elizabeth with spirit, “and I haven’t done any wrong.”
“You started the war.”
“I didn’t,” snapped Violet Elizabeth. “I wath in bed with a biliouth attack the day the war thtarted. Athk the doctor if you don’t believe me.”
“You’re bats,” said William. “It’s no good talking to you.”

  • Number: 27.5
  • Published: 1950 (1946 in magazine form) – originally titled The Pageant
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws plan to celebrate Victory.

Verdict

The Outlaws are getting up a Victory Pageant.

The Hubert Laneites are also getting up a Victory Pageant – which they only think to do after Violet Elizabeth, spurned by the Outlaws, leaks the idea to them (“I bet even Hitler wouldn’t have done a thing like that” rages William).

But which group of warriors will end up with the ignominy of playing the captured German soldiers in the other group’s production?

Somehow the zest had gone out of it. It was the absence of Violet Elizabeth. They had resented her presence among them and heartily wished her away but, now that she had gone, they missed her – missed her dynamic personality, her unreasonableness, her contrariness, her varying moods, her uncertain temper, even her lisp… Joan failed to provide the stimulus that Violet Elizabeth had always provided. And, though they would not have admitted it, they felt wounded and betrayed. That Violet Elizabeth, their most troublesome but most loyal follower, should have joined the Hubert Laneites was almost too monstrous for belief.

Reeling from Violet Elizabeth’s perfidy, the Outlaws sullenly drill their Victory ‘soldiers’ and resign themselves to a pageant without the lavish refreshments being provided by Mrs Bott to the Laneite show.

But then two unexpected twists occur in quick succession…

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.