“Now what people don’t know is that there’s a lot of Central Asher people livin’ quite near here.” William’s audience gasped with amazement, but he continued unperturbed. “What we’ve decided to do is to give a speshul medal in Sunday Schools for convertin’ heathen, to wear nex’ your good conduct medal. An’ I want you to be the first to win this new medal for convertin’ the heathen.”
- Number: 11.7
- Published: 1930 (1929 in magazine form, originally titled William and the Good Little Boys)
- Book: William the Bad
- Synopsis: William and Ginger need to assemble an army; fortunately, a Sunday School is holding its camp in the village.
As someone who used to run Machaneh Kadimah, what could be very roughly described as the Liberal Jewish equivalent of a national Sunday School camp, for a living, I feel quite a connection to this story – although Kadimah is a far cry from the overly virtuous, puritanical atmosphere of Mrs Griffith-Griffith’s encampment for prize-winning boys from various local Sunday Schools.
These boys, for whom fun looks like a rousing chorus of “the Band of Hope song” (clearly this initiative took off elsewhere in the country, even though William destroyed its local branch in William Joins the Band of Hope, 1.7) and exuberance like, “When I want somethin’ excitin’ I go out to try to find a fresh flower for my collection”, do not look like promising material for the army which William and Ginger need to put together for a massive organised fight with the Hubert Laneites.
“If they’d been ornery boys I’d’ve made a plan out of them,” said William testily.
“If they’d been ornery boys,” said Ginger bitterly, “they wun’t’ve been here at all.”
But when William hears that the boys are due to hear a lecture from a visiting missionary about Central Asia, he comes up with an idea…
I was tempted to mark this story as featuring deliberate naughtiness, because William does deliberately corrupt these pure, mild-mannered boys, for the sole purpose of winning a fight with his personal nemesis. But on reflection, I haven’t. Because one gets the distinct impression that the ‘good little boys’ enjoyed themselves enormously, and needed to be shaken out of their rut.