“It’s a sponsored walk,” said Exton.
“It’s got up by the Friends of Highland School… that’s the school we go to. Doesn’t the school you go to have Friends?”
“No,’ said William after a moment’s consideration, “they’re mostly en’mies.”
- Number: 38.6
- Published: 1970
- Book: William the Lawless
- Synopsis: William and Ginger end up filling in on a sponsored walk.
Note: I’ve deviated slightly from the order here. This story is the sixth and final chapter of the 38th and final published William book. However, I’ve skipped over William’s Foggy Morning, 38.5, which was the story that was actually last to be written – indeed, the one that Richmal Crompton left unfinished. That can be for tomorrow’s final entry…
Off looking for adventure on the final day of their summer holiday, William and Ginger come across two schoolboys on a sponsored walk. The sponsored walkers want to make a slight detour to the shops; William and Ginger could do with a laugh; it’s a match made in heaven.
“Looks all nght,” William said. “Lettuce… cheese… bars of chocolate… apples… Looks jolly good. Come on. Let’s find a place to eat it.”
“Yes, but what about the sponsored walk we’re s’posed to be goin’ on?” said Ginger.
“Oh, we’ll carry on with that when we’ve had somethin’ to eat,” said William carelessly. “No good goin’ for a sponsored walk an’ dyin’ of starvation on the way. I’ve got a dyin’ of starvation feelin’ comin’ over me already.”
Coming across an unattended hamper, William and Ginger naturally assume that this is a donation to the sponsored walkers (ie them) and help themselves.
But when the Outlaws see the owners of the hamper track down the real sponsored walkers and brutalise them for information on its current whereabouts, they realise that their banquet must have been more valuable than they initially realised.
Finally, in this last of last William stories, the boys have managed to bring down an international drug-smuggling gang.
Not that anyone in their families believes them…
An apple core, thrown by William and aimed at the drain-pipe, sailed through the open kitchen window to land in the middle of a half-made shepherd’s pie.
“It was a jolly good shot, axshully,” said William. “Right in the middle of that pie.”
“But you weren’t aiming at the pie,” said Henry.
William knit his brows. “I’m not sure I wasn’t,” he said.
“You said the drain-pipe.”
“I might have changed my mind.”
Having read a book about daring wartime escapes, the Outlaws come up with a plan: Henry and Douglas will lock William and Ginger into a (supposedly) vacant house, and the latter two will “do a war escape out of it”.
William and Ginger surrounded their ‘prison’ with critical interest.
“I bet I could do somethin’ with those stag horns,” said William. “If I could find a fur rug I might go out disguised as a stag.”
After William liberally helps himself to some snacks he finds lying around his new surroundings, Ginger reminds him, “We’re s’posed to be gettin’ out of this house, not settlin’ down in it.”
And their escape attempt commences.
William tapped the wood and listened thoughtfully. “Sounds to me like one of those secret rooms where clergymen used to hide up in the olden days.”
“When did they?” said Ginger.
“Bronze Age or Stone Age or some time,” said William vaguely.
But thereafter things proceed along much the same lines as William Goes for a Nice Little Walk, 30.2.
”Tell you what!” said William at last. “I’ll show ’em round.”
“You?” said Archie, startled.
“Yes, me,” said William. “I’ll meet ’em at the station an’ I’ll bring ’em to look at the cottage an’ I bet I’ll be able to get ’em to take it. I’ll ’splain that that hole in the roof’s made special for vent’lation an’ that it’s healthier not havin’ a lot of paint on the walls…”
Archie has, as usual, a problem. He has a prospective tenant booked to view his cottage at the very moment that he needs to go to London to humour a wealthy aunt whose favour he is keen to win. He can’t delegate the work of humouring his aunt. But he can, reluctantly, appoint William as his estate agent.
And like estate agents double or triple his age, William quickly realises that, if a property is in no condition to show to prospective tenants, a little creativity is called for. The precise form of creativity on which he fixes is to show the visitors not Archie’s cottage, but the much pleasanter Miss Radbury’s cottage.
William was now counting on the arrangement to fill the void of a Gingerless day.
He walked homeward, upheld by a pleasurable feeling of self-importance. He was going to meet Archie’s tenants, escort them to Archie’s cottage and feed them on Archie’s bread and cheese… It would be a new experience and he was ready for a new experience. He began to rehearse his new role, flinging out his arms in eloquent gestures.
“It’s artistic an’ delightful an’ d’sirable an’ all those things the newspapers said it was.”
To be fair, William is not bad at promoting the village: “There’s places here that people’ve axshally painted an’ put in frames. It’s a jolly nice place.”
And astonishingly, he does succeed in letting Archie’s cottage, though not in quite the way he intended…