william wins a competition

The facts

“Gosh!” said William. “What a lot of sausage rolls!”
“Yes, I don’t know why I bought so many,” said Mrs Brown. “They were selling them off.”
“I’ll eat them for you if you like,” said William.
“All right, dear. They’ll do for your supper.”
When she came back William was kneeling on a chair, eating sausage rolls and reading the evening paper. Most of the newsprint was obscured by crumbs, but he cleared them away as he read.
“Gosh!” he said indistinctly. “Nearly a whole page about teachers strikin’.”
“It’s very sad, dear,” said Mrs Brown. “I hope yours won’t.”
“I hope they will,” said William.

Verdict

Archie has been roped in, by the indomitable Mrs Monks, to running the hoop-la stall at the church fair, but he is anxious to attend the (simultaneous) tennis club fête because Ethel will be there and he wants to make himself helpful to Ethel.

William finds this baffling (“Gosh! I’d sooner have a hoop-la stall than Ethel any day!”) but offers to run the hoop-la stall himself so as to free Archie for Ethel-chasing duties. Even though Archie won’t trust him with it, William insists.

William slid neatly down the balusters.
“Mother…”
“Oh, William!” groaned Mrs Brown. “I thought you’d gone to bed.”
“I have,” said William. “I mean, I am going. But I’ve got a smashing idea, Mother. Listen! If they do go on strike an’ we can’t go to school, we ought to get unemployment pay, oughtn’t we?”
“William, what nonsense!”
“Yes, but listen…” began William.

The hoop-la prizes, he is told, are in a brown suitcase. Inevitably William opens the wrong brown suitcase and chaos ensues – but then (and we’ve had this ending before: see eg William the Rat Lover, 17.4) William unexpectedly enters and wins a fancy-dress competition.

The facts

“I’ve got a jolly good idea,” said William. “It’s come to me quite sudden. We’ll go over the road to the woods on the other side an’ play Red Indians.”
“We’re s’posed to be doin’ nature,” said Douglas.
“Well, Red Indians are nature,” said William. “Gosh! They’re nat’ral, aren’t they?”

Verdict

During the school’s annual wild-flower-gathering competition, even Mr Crisp is bored stiff, and doesn’t really notice when the Outlaws sneak off for a ‘quiet’ game of Red Indians.

But it turns out there is a girls’ school operating in the same area, and one of its members attaches herself to the Outlaws as their squaw. And, with a Violet Elizabeth-esque determination not to be shaken off, they are stuck with her. But on the plus side, she offers them delightful delicacies, in huge quantities.

“You… you’ve none of you noticed anything strange going on, have you?” asked Miss Hampshire.
“No,” said the Outlaws. The blank imbecility of their expressions would have roused suspicion in anyone who knew them, but, fortunately for them, Miss Hampshire did not know them.

It all turns out alright, though, and they even manage to entertain a bird-watcher, foil a crime, feed Douglas monstrous quantities of sweets in a deliberate attempt to make him vomit up some poison (I particularly enjoy this scene: “Mr Bentley, standing behind his counter, was mildly surprised by the sight of three boys watching with tense, set faces a fourth boy eating an ice-cream”), complete a struggling writer’s poem, help the headmistress of the girls’ school, and, best of all, find an exceptionally rare flower.

 The facts

Ginger had brought an old diary that his mother (who was an indifferent cook) had thrown away, in the empty spaces of which he meant to enrol the names of the pets and the owners who joined the club.
Arabella Simpkin arrived pushing a pram.
“What’s your pet?” said William coldly.
“’Im,” said Arabella, pointing to the pram’s occupant.
William looked down at the features of Arabella’s baby brother – repulsive even in sleep. “You can’t have him,” he said, outraged. “He’s not an animal.”
“That’s right!” shrilled Arabella. “Insult a pore kid wot can’t stand up for itself… ’E’s as good as an animal, isn’t ’e?”
William enrolled the repulsive baby among the pets: “Baby George Tommus Simpkin”.
Arabella watched him suspiciously. “’Ere! What’s this?” she said, reading the entry that was written just beneath the name. “’Baby pancakes. Flat and sodden.’ Startin’ insultin’ of ’im again, are you?”
“Oh, shut up!” said William. “That’s what Ginger’s mother wrote years an’ years ago.”

  • Number: 28.6
  • Published: 1952 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William accidentally wins a fancy dress competition.

Verdict

This story – or at least the printed version I have – contains the unique feature of an asterisk, in relation to Robert’s collection of birds’ eggs, sternly warning readers, “It is now against the law to collect the eggs of any British wild bird.” I have to say, given the amount of serious criminal offences William and the Outlaws have committed, it’s surprising this is considered the only one worth warning of. But there we go.

The birds’ eggs form an important part of the story, because Robert wants to give them as a present to the ridiculously-named Peregrine Forrester – Peregrine being the favoured younger brother of Dolores, who Robert particularly wants to impress.

“But your egg c’lection!” said William. “That ole
Pelican havin’ your egg c’lection! He’s no right. It’s
not fair. It’s – it’s the same as stealin’.”
“Don’t be absurd,” said Robert, “and his name’s Peregrin.”
“It can be Kangaroo for all I care,” said William heatedly. “It’s the meanest thing anyone’s done to anyone since the world began. It’s worse than Cain or Dr Crippen or – or Guy Fawkes or – or that man called Squeers that kept a school in Shakespeare or – or…”

Because the rest of the Browns are united that Robert should not give away such a treasured possession to anyone outside the family, he comes up with the clever technique of offering them as a prize for a local fancy dress competition, which he is sure will be won by the insufferably virtuous Peregrine.

But he reckons without William, who – his own clothes having been destroyed by an over-enthusiastic member of the Pets’ Club he has just founded – makes a surprise appearance…