Day 33: William’s Secret Society

The facts

William considered that the microbe world was treating him unfairly. Mild chicken-pox would be, on the whole, a welcome break in the monotony of life. It would afford an excuse for disinclination to work for months afterwards. And now Henry, Douglas and Ginger had all succumbed, but chicken-pox had passed William by.
William himself spared no effort. He breathed in heavily the atmosphere of Ginger’s Latin Grammar, on which Ginger had been lately engaged, as soon as he heard that Ginger had fallen a victim. It was no use. William caught nothing.

  • Number: 3.7
  • Published: 1923 (same year in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1952 story, 28.7, of the same name
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William assembles a gang to take revenge on those who cross him… but they soon turn against him.

Verdict

This is a story of what William would, no doubt, consider to be nothing but strict justice, but what the rest of us might view as nothing but malicious lashing-out at authority figures. It is actually relatively unusual to find William engaging in motiveless malignity for the sheer sake of being naughty. But this is such an example.

With the rest of the Outlaws in bed with chicken-pox, William assembles a “secret serciety” of fierce local servant boys Albert, Leopold and Sam, who roam the village in a reign of terror, pranking anybody who has attempted to discipline or restrain William.

Eventually, though, the Outlaws recover and William attempts to disband the “serciety”; Albert, Leopold and Sam demand to be paid off for their silence.

“They’re jus’ frens of mine,” said William. “Jus’ frens of mine that was interested in gardens and wanted to see ours—”
“But they’re horrid, common, rough boys,” said Mrs Brown.
“Oh, no,” he said. “They’re not really. They only look like horrid, common rough boys. They’re dressed like horrid, common, rough boys. They—”
“Don’t talk nonsense Wililam.”

In desperation, and for lack of any pocket money not being parentally diverted to pay for past breakages and damages, William abstracts a veal pie, the centrepiece of his family’s dinner party, to give the boys.

Mr Brown and his hungry guests assume the theft was perpetrated by some scoundrel who had passed the open kitchen window, and gave chase. Then they came upon William remonstrating with Albert, Leopold and Sam…

William, in his pyjamas, pondered for a moment over the mystery of human life as he bestowed those few perfunctory brushes upon his shock of hair that constituted its evening toilet. He had that day committed almost every crime known to boyhood.
He had brought “common” boys home.
He had stolen a pie.
He had fought openly on the high road, and acquired a thoroughly disreputable black eye.
Finally, he had been acclaimed as a hero. He was bewildered. He did not understand it.
Before he finally surrendered to the powers of sleep, he summed up his chief impressions of the evening: “They’re jolly queer, grown-ups are,” he said, sleepily. “Jolly queer!”

Once again, circumstances conspired to ensure that William learnt fairly little from his misdemeanours, other than that fate is often on his side!