Some say it began when my aunt called Mrs Jay an irresponsible
harridan. Others blamed it on Dummy's
pyjamas. There are even some who say it was the fault of the rose-
hip competition. But I know the true
story: it all started with a bag of liquorice allsorts:
Jenno had helped me get my cart ‘Lightning’ back from the Pepper Mill Lane Mob after they had temporarily ‘borrowed’
her and I wanted to show my thanks. As I never got any pocket money, it was difficult to know what to give her. But when
my next lot of sweet-ration coupons came along, I sold most of them to make a few coppers. With this, I bought her a bag
of liquorice allsorts at Ma Jennings' corner store.
As I went into the school yard, I saw Jenno near the gate. As I was going over to her with the bag held
out in my hand, Harold Crawley ran straight at me.
In the school playground, a bag of sweets is knocked out of the hand of the hero. This trivial incident
leads to a progressive breakdown of relations among the inhabitants of Widdlington.
The newcomer is accused of assault; threatened with an appearance before the School Board and
arrested for theft. He acquires a black eye, is blackmailed and cheated of money.
The villagers take sides and become increasingly quarrelsome. The only person untouched by this
is Dummy, the village idiot. The hero is secretly trying to gather sufficient money to help Dummy with
a medical problem, but is continually frustrated by the predicaments in which he finds himself.
There are disputes over firewood; problems in class; uproar in the air-raid shelter; bickering in
church; resignations and revolts; cart races between rival gangs; the theft of some pallets; a hearing
before the magistrate and much else besides that is excitingly human or humorous. The tension in the
village reaches a climax at a fund-raising fete to buy a Spitfire aircraft. This ends in a riotous fight.
An air-raid destroys part of the village. The villagers then discover that by facing up to a grave
external menace, they can overcome their internal differences.
The funds raised for the Spitfire are, alas, last seen floating gently down the river in the twilight and a barrel. What
eventually happens to them is the next story.
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