Day 133: The Christmas Truce

The facts

“If you’ll invite Hubie to Willie’s party, we’ll insist on his coming,” said Mrs Lane, “and we’ll invite Willie to Hubie’s, and you insist on his coming, and then it will be all right. They’ll have got to know each other, and, I’m sure, learnt to love each other.”

  • Number: 12.3
  • Published: 1930 (1929 in magazine form, originally titled William’s Christmas Truce)
  • Book: William’s Happy Days
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws and the Hubert Laneites ruin each other’s Christmas parties.

Verdict

This is a very special story for me, because it’s the first William story I ever came across – hearing Martin Jarvis read it out over the car radio was an exciting moment.

In some ways it mirrors Revenge is Sweet, 6.13, but it does it much better.

Mrs Lane’s plan to abolish the Outlaw-Hubert Laneite feud works only to her son’s advantage. To be fair to Mrs Lane, she probably did not intend this consequence (only ‘probably’, though, because her remark that “Hubie’s so lovable I simply can’t think how anyone could quarrel with him” suggests a certain bias). But nevertheless, “the Hubert Laneites looked upon the truce not as something that tied their hands for the time being,
but as something that delivered their enemies into their power”.

William’s Christmas party came first, and the Hubert Laneites were ostensibly on their best behaviour – but in a horrible, oily, Uriah Heep sort of way that is ghastly to read. And Hubert tops it off by squirting William with a water pistol that he claims to have obtained from a Christmas cracker, but in fact smuggled in especially for this purpose.

‘Father Christmas’ took the parcels out one by one, announcing the name on each label. The first was William. The Hubert Laneites watched him go up to receive it in paroxysms of silent mirth. William took it and opening it, wearing a sphinx-like expression. It was the most magnificent mouth organ that he had ever seen. The mouths of the Hubert Laneites dropped open in horror and amazement. It was evidently the present that Hubert had destined for himself.

William is so utterly enraged by these proceedings that he dedicates his life to finding a means of revenge.

Which he does, in spectacular style: the Outlaws not only manage to acquire all of the presents that the Hubert Laneites had, corruptly, bought for themselves, but Douglas even manages to hoist Hubert on his own petard by squirting him with an ink pistol (a messier version of a water pistol, of course) which Hubert had intended to be used against William:

“I’m so sorry, Hubert,” he said, “I’d no idea that it
was going to do that. I’ve just got it out of my parcel and I’d no idea that it was going to do that. I’m so sorry, Mrs Lane. I’d no idea that it was going to do that.”
“Of course you hadn’t, dear,” said Mrs Lane. “It’s
Hubies’s own fault for buying a thing like that. It’s very foolish of him indeed.”
Hubert wiped the ink out of his eyes and sputtered helplessly.