Day 173: It All Began with the Typewriter

The facts

William’s mother had the night before shown him a collection of valentines that had been sent to his grandmother in her youth: elaborate affairs of red velvet hearts on white lace background, of discreetly amorous ditties surrounded by corpulent cupidsor pierced hearts.
William, deeply impressed by these masterpieces and fired by a longing to emulate the makers of them, had “borrowed” the red ink from Robert’s bureau. He found that he could make excellent pierced hearts with it. Moreover, the process was a distinctly pleasant one. William had always enjoyed having dealings of any kind with red ink. He outlined the hearts first, then filled them in by splashes of red ink. When the splashes went over the outline he enlarged the outline till in the end the hearts assumed odd, sausage-like contours that would have much puzzled any student of anatomy. William, however, was completely satisfied with them.

  • Number: 15.12
  • Published: 1933 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Typewriter
  • Book: William the Rebel
  • Synopsis: William sets up a Valentine’s Day French farce.


William’s enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day is less because he is of a romantic personality, and more because it offers the perfect opportunity to experiment with red ink and Robert’s prized typewriter.

The card he makes reads:

Sofair you? are%. SO fairand sweet.
ilay my heart down¾ at youR feet.

But while William is abstracting Robert’s typewriter, despite having been banned from doing so, Robert is abstracting their father’s top hat, despite having been banned from doing so. Robert needs the top hat to impress Lorna Barton with his sophistication and poise.

“I’ll give you a penny if you’ll take this letter,” Robert said.
William ran along the road quickly, pretending that he wasa spy carrying despatches through an enemy’s country and that the hedge was alive with hostile spies, trying to shoot him. Occasionally he flung himself full length upon the ground in order to avoid the imaginary bullets that whizzed around him. Sometimes he crawled along the ditch – much to the detriment of his personal appearance – in an attempt to mislead his imaginary pursuers. He did not, of course, hurry.

He is also in the awkward position of having to write to his previous love, Cornelia Gerrard, in his capacity as secretary of the badminton club, to ask her to prepare the refreshments at their forthcoming tournament.

Unfortunately, Robert’s coldly formal letter to Cornelia and William’s eccentrically-formatted Valentine’s Day card end up on the same sheet of paper.

William notices his mistake and immediately tries to put things right, by starting a rumour that Robert is already married. This is certainly successful in repelling Cornelia, but of course it also repels Lorna, and attracts the attention of the village’s righteous elders. Poor Mr Solomon the Sunday School superintendant is deputed, in the Vicar’s absence, to remonstrate with Robert – and Robert, deeply guilty about his theft of the top hat, is in just the frame of mind to be remonstrated with…