Day 108: One Good Turn

The facts

“Did I tell you about the man I met who’d had a very rare complete set of Italian stamps taken out of his pocketbook during a journey without feeling anything?”
“Yes,” said Robert viciously.
Uncle Frederick threw him a suspicious glance. He was almost sure he’d never told Robert that story.

  • Number: 9.7
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William’s Good Turn)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: Robert wants rid of a relative obsessed with philately.

Verdict

Richmal Crompton must have known a philatelist (or ‘stamp bore’) because because she is able to come up with a particularly caricatured depiction of one in Uncle Frederick: “Sometimes in the evening he read aloud to them from a book called The Joy of Stamp Collecting.”

This would be irksome at the best of times, but Robert has the added problem that Uncle Frederick has attached himself, and his philatelic pratter, to himself and Cousin Flavia like a limpet. And Robert is rather anxious to spend some one-on-one time with Cousin Flavia (despite her being particularly dopey, even by the low standards set by Robert’s lady-friends: Flavia’s main mode of being seems to be “sitting by, as usual, serenely conscious of her beauty”).

It is probable that very mixed motives had prompted Robert’s gift. It is possible that he felt some compunction of heart at his impulsive destruction of William’s treasured head-dress. It is more than possible that he felt apprehensive as to the results. He had been as a matter of fact nervously awaiting some counter-move on William’s part ever since he committed the outrage.

William resolves to eject Uncle Frederick from the family home, and does this with hilarious ingenuity:

It emerges that Uncle Frederick has never before listened to the radio, so William invites him to sample the Browns’ set.

So he sits down comfortably next to the receiver, while William hastily excuses himself from the room.

A deep bass voice (which those who knew William better might have recognised as one of his ‘disguised’ voices) began to speak. It said: “London callin’ the British Isles. There is a ridge of high pressure movin’ eastwards over England, together with a secondary anticyclone deepenin’ over Scandinavia. There is one SOS: will Mr Frederick Brown kindly go home at once as his stamp collection has been stolen.”
Uncle Frederick leapt from his seat, flew up to his bedroom, hastily packed a bag and, hurling an incoherent message at William, rushed forth into the night.