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Authors: Richmal Crompton

More William

BOOK: More William
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CONTENTS

Foreword by Martin Jarvis

2. Rice-mould

3. Willliam’s Burglar

4. The Knight at Arms

5. William’s Hobby

6. The Rivals

7. The Ghost

8. The May King

9. The Revenge

10. The Helper

11. William and the Smuggler

12. The Reform of William

13. William and the Ancient Souls

14. William’s Christmas Eve

 
FOREWORD

More William? Yes, please.

This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. When I was recording it for BBC Audio a few years ago there were times when I could hardly keep going, simply because of the situations in
which William gets embroiled and the brilliant hilarity of Richmal Crompton’s writing. I’d be hooting with laughter and have to start a paragraph all over again. Then, just when I
thought I’d regained some semblance of professional control, I’d glance up from the microphone, only to see the studio engineer and my co-producer doubled up with mirth on the other
side of the glass . . . which would set me off once more. Exquisite agony!

Richmal Crompton was a hugely popular author: her timeless brainchild, eleven-year-old William Brown, was certainly the Harry Potter of the 1920s. Children, and parents, would wait anxiously for
William’s latest adventures before pouncing on them and racing away to devour more exploits of their lateral-thinking hero.

William’s magic lies in his own personality, uniquely endowed by the generous genius of his creator. It’s true that some of the starchier folk in William’s village consider him
mischievous, naughty, probably mendacious. His long-suffering family can think of even less flattering words to describe him. But we know that William pretty well always sets out with good
intentions. It’s just that, being him, things often go wrong; though, as in ‘The May King’ or ‘William and the Smuggler’, they can go surprisingly, gloriously
right.

His motto invariably is ‘Doin good, ritin’ rongs and persuin’ happiness for all’. Not a bad motive for life in any generation, let alone a world recovering from the
staggering tragedies of World War I. ‘Let me show you a good time,’ William seems to say. ‘It’s jus’ over there.’ He’s keen to bring justice (as he sees
it) to an often unjust world, to prick the bubble of pomposity and, as the dance bands of the 1920s were already expressing in musical terms, to paint the clouds with sunshine.

Here, in this joyous book, William is at his imaginative best. Whether he’s conjuring up a ghost to give a batty aunt a spiritual thrill, attempting (with unexpected results) to assist a
team of removal men or airily offering the hospitality of his home to a tramp with no ears, it’s all approached with an utmost seriousness of purpose that can only result in laugh-out-loud
comedy.

Crompton’s world is still real, still recognizable, reflecting both the absurdity and blessedness of British life. William, though of his time, is for all time. Throughout Richmal
Crompton’s long writing career, until her death in 1969, William, always aged eleven, celebrated many birthdays and Christmases, righted numerous wrongs and brought much happiness to
generations of fans. He still does.

William Brown’s voice resonates down the years. Surely he’s telling us, even now: ‘Seems to me those people who keep sayin’ I’m scruffy or a scamp, or worse –
an’ want to see and hear
less
of me – well, they’d better read this book, that’s all I can say. S’jolly funny, an’ it’s all about me. S’called
More William
, not less, an’ – ackshully – that’s the way I like it.’

Martin Jarvis OBE

 

CHAPTER 1

A BUSY DAY

W
illiam awoke and rubbed his eyes. It was Christmas Day – the day to which he had looked forward with mingled feelings for twelve months. It
was a jolly day, of course – presents and turkey and crackers and staying up late. On the other hand, there were generally too many relations about, too much was often expected of one, the
curious taste displayed by people who gave one presents often marred one’s pleasure.

He looked round his bedroom expectantly. On the wall, just opposite his bed, was a large illuminated card hanging by a string from a nail – ‘A Busy Day is a Happy Day’. That
had not been there the day before. Brightly coloured roses and forget-me-nots and honeysuckle twined round all the words. William hastily thought over the three aunts staying in the house, and put
it down to Aunt Lucy. He looked at it with a doubtful frown. He distrusted the sentiment.

A copy of
Portraits of our Kings and Queens
he put aside as beneath contempt.
Things a Boy Can Do
was more promising.
Much
more promising. After inspecting a penknife, a
pocket compass, and a pencil box (which shared the fate of
Portraits of our Kings and Queens)
, William returned to
Things a Boy Can Do.
As he turned the pages, his face lit up.

He leapt lightly out of bed and dressed. Then he began to arrange his own gifts to his family. For his father he had bought a bottle of highly coloured sweets, for his elder brother Robert (aged
nineteen) he had expended a vast sum of money on a copy of
The Pirates of the Bloody Hand.
These gifts had cost him much thought. The knowledge that his father never touched sweets, and that
Robert professed scorn of pirate stories, had led him to hope that the recipients of his gifts would make no objection to the unobtrusive theft of them by their recent donor in the course of the
next few days. For his grown-up sister Ethel he had bought a box of coloured chalks. That also might come in useful later. Funds now had been running low, but for his mother he had bought a small
cream jug which, after fierce bargaining, the man had let him have at half price because it was cracked.

Singing ‘Christians, Awake!’ at the top of his lusty young voice, he went along the landing, putting his gifts outside the doors of his family, and pausing to yell ‘Happy
Christmas’ as he did so. From within he was greeted in each case by muffled groans.

He went downstairs into the hall, still singing. It was earlier than he thought – just five o’clock. The maids were not down yet. He switched on lights recklessly, and discovered
that he was not the only person in the hall. His four-year-old cousin Jimmy was sitting on the bottom step in an attitude of despondency, holding an empty tin.

Jimmy’s mother had influenza at home, and Jimmy and his small sister Barbara were in the happy position of spending Christmas with relations, but immune from parental or maternal
interference.

‘They’ve gotten out,’ said Jimmy, sadly. ‘I got ’em for presents yesterday, an’ they’ve gotten out. I’ve been feeling for ’em in the dark,
but I can’t find ’em.’

‘What?’ said William.

‘Snails. Great big suge ones wiv great big suge shells. I put ’em in a tin for presents an’ they’ve gotten out an’ I’ve gotten no presents for
nobody.’

He relapsed into despondency.

William surveyed the hall.

‘They’ve got out right enough!’ he said, sternly. ‘They’ve got out right
enough.
Jus’ look at our hall! Jus’ look at our clothes! They’ve
got out
right
enough.’

Innumerable slimy iridescent trails shone over hats, and coats, and umbrellas, and wallpaper.

‘Huh!’ grunted William, who was apt to overwork his phrases. ‘They got
out
right enough.’

He looked at the tracks again and brightened. Jimmy was frankly delighted.

‘Oo! Look!’ he cried. ‘Oo
funny
!’

William’s thought flew back to his bedroom wall – ‘A Busy Day is a Happy Day’.

‘Let’s clean it up!’ he said. ‘Let’s have it all nice an’ clean for when they come down. We’ll be busy. You tell me if you feel happy when we’ve
done. It might be true wot it says, but I don’t like the flowers messin’ all over it.’

Investigation in the kitchen provided them with a large pail of water and scrubbing brush each.

For a long time they worked in silence. They used plenty of water. When they had finished the trails were all gone. Each soaked garment on the hatstand was sending a steady drip on to the
already flooded floor. The wallpaper was sodden. With a feeling of blankness they realised that there was nothing else to clean.

It was Jimmy who conceived the exquisite idea of dipping his brush in the bucket and sprinkling William with water. A scrubbing brush is in many ways almost as good as a hose. Each had a pail of
ammunition. Each had a good-sized brush. During the next few minutes they experienced purest joy. Then William heard threatening movements above, and decided hastily that the battle must cease.

‘Backstairs,’ he said shortly. ‘Come on.’

Marking their track by a running stream of water, they crept up the backstairs.

But two small boys soaked to the skin could not disclaim all knowledge of a flooded hall.

William was calm and collected when confronted with a distracted mother.

‘We was tryin’ to clean up,’ he said. ‘We found all snail marks an’ we was tryin’ to clean up. We was tryin’ to help. You said so last night, you know,
when you was talkin’ to me. You said to
help.
Well, I thought it was helpin’ to try an’ clean up. You can’t clean up with water an’ not get wet – not if
you do it prop’ly. You said to try an’ make Christmas Day happy for other folks and then I’d be happy. Well, I don’t know as I’m very happy,’ he said, bitterly,
‘but I’ve been workin’ hard enough since early this mornin’. I’ve been workin’,’ he went on pathetically. His eye wandered to the notice on his wall.
‘I’ve been
busy
all right, but it doesn’t make me
happy –
not jus’ now,’ he added, with memories of the rapture of the fight. That certainly must
be repeated some time. Buckets of water and scrubbing brushes. He wondered he’d never thought of that before.

William’s mother looked down at his dripping form.

‘Did you get all that water with just cleaning up the snail marks?’ she said.

William coughed and cleared his throat. ‘Well,’ he said, deprecatingly, ‘most of it. I think I got most of it.’

‘If it wasn’t Christmas Day . . .’ she went on darkly.

William’s spirits rose. There was certainly something to be said for Christmas Day.

It was decided to hide the traces of the crime as far as possible from William’s father. It was felt – and not without reason – that William’s father’s feelings of
respect for the sanctity of Christmas Day might be overcome by his feelings of paternal ire.

Half an hour later William, dried, dressed, brushed, and chastened, descended the stairs as the gong sounded in a hall which was bare of hats and coats, and whose floor shone with
cleanliness.

‘And jus to think,’ said William, despondently, ‘that it’s only jus’ got to brekfust time.’

William’s father was at the bottom of the stairs. William’s father frankly disliked Christmas Day.

‘Good morning, William,’ he said, ‘and a happy Christmas, and I hope it’s not too much to ask of you that on this relation-infested day one’s feelings may be
harrowed by you as little as possible. And why the deu— dickens they think it necessary to wash the hall floor before breakfast, heaven only knows!’

William coughed, a cough meant to be a polite mixture of greeting and deference. William’s face was a study in holy innocence. His father glanced at him suspiciously. There were certain
expressions of William’s that he distrusted.

William entered the dining-room morosely. Jimmy’s sister Barbara – a small bundle of curls and white frills – was already beginning her porridge.

‘Goo’ mornin’,’ she said, politely, ‘did you hear me cleanin’ my teef?’

He crushed her with a glance.

He sat eating in silence till everyone had come down, and Aunts Jane, Evangeline, and Lucy were consuming porridge with that mixture of festivity and solemnity that they felt the occasion
demanded.

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