“He’s heir to a knighthood,” said Mrs Bott.
“You can’t be heir to a knighthood,” snapped her husband.
“I never said I was,” replied Mrs Bott. “I said he was.”
- Number: 17.7
- Published: 1935 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William and the League of Love
- Book: William the Detective
- Synopsis: William encounters some staunch defenders of animal rights.
Mrs Bott and the Pennymans in this story, who jointly found the League of Perfect Love, a group devoted to the cause of kindness to animals. Its principles include the cessation of all blood sports, including the blood sport of removing mice from kitchens.
“It’s our unkindness that has driven the creatures to be wild and unsocial,” said Mrs. Pennyman. “Isn’t the world big enough for them as well as for us? Why should we turn upon our little brothers and slay them? Tell me that? Why were they created if they were not meant to exist? Tell me that?”
The servants listened to this harangue with expressionless faces, said “Very good, ma’am,” and went off to set the mousetraps and lay the rat poison as usual.
“My good boy,” she said, “you can’t come to a meeting in that state.”
William looked down at his person. His career as spy tracker and world ratting champion owner had left their marks upon him. The ditches he had burrowed in and the trees he had climbed had all
made their various and by no means negligible contributions
to the general effect. Fortunately he could not see his face and head, but he would not have been in any way dismayed if he had seen them. It was, after all, the way he generally looked.
“Why not?” he said simply.
Their members consist largely of what we would now call ‘Highgate Mums’ – middle-class ladies who lunch, and who consider themselves to be the height of sophistication. (Interestingly they are quite happy to feed their Poms – they all have Poms – chicken, which seems somewhat at odds with their principles.)
Their lack of success in recruiting a full demographic range of volunteers, though, leads them to desperate measures; when Robert, as secretary of the local football club, wants to renew the lease on their field, Mrs Bott refuses to engage with him unless he joins the League (which is an altogether different sort of league than that which interests football enthusiasts).
But William solves it all – with the help of a few rats.
Another good story in general, but as with all the Pennyman material, Richmal Crompton seems to be using it mainly to satirise them and society, with William’s involvement mainly an (inadequate) vehicle.