Still William

The facts

“I don’t think anyone ever had a boy like you ever before, William,” Mrs Brown said with deep emotion.

  • Number: 5.14
  • Published: 1925 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: William develops a crush on his Sunday School teacher.

Verdict

This is another story that speaks to me, albeit rather disturbingly, as a (Jewish) Sunday (Saturday) School teacher. (Although un-disturbing is William’s unexpected passion for self-directed Bible study: “’Fraid I din’t learn my verses: I was goin’ to last night an’ I got out my Bible an’ I got readin’ ’bout Jonah in the whale’s belly an’ I thought maybe it’d do me more good than St Stephen’s speech an’ it was ever so much more int’restin’.”)

“Quite a lady-killer, William,” said General Moult from the hearth-rug.
“I’m not,” said William, indignant at the aspersion. “I’ve never killed no ladies.”
“I mean you’re fond of ladies.”
“I think insects is nicer,” said William dispiritedly.

It is also another story in which we see William playing goosberry to Robert and Robert’s inamorata-of-the-moment (cf. William the Intruder, 1.2) and hideous breaches of safeguarding procedures.

His attempts to chat up the desirable Miss Dobson are comical: “Has anyone ever told you that you’re like a bottled cherry? I think we’re pre-existed for each other.” Eventually he gives up and decides to marry Joan.

What stands out most, though, is how the villagers treat the idea of Valentine’s Day as if it’s outdated tosh: “No-one takes any notice of that nowadays,” “It had gone out in my day but I remember your grandmother showing me some that had been sent to her,” and so on. Presumably today’s Valentine mania is fuelled mainly by commercialism?

The facts

“I think I remember hearin’,” said Ginger somewhat vaguely, “’bout a man with all false arms an’ legs an’ only his body reel.”
“That’s nothin’,” said William giving rein to his glorious imagination. “I once heard of a man with a false body an’ only legs’ an arms reel.”

  • Number: 5.13
  • Published: 1925 (1924 in magazine form)
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: William, impersonating an old man, ends up being mistaken for an old man.

Verdict

I suppose that any of us, really, who happened upon an unoccupied wheelchair just sitting on pavement, would get into it and play at being an old man.

William watched the family, wondering what was going to be done next and who was going to do it. He hardly dared move in case his spectacles or muffler or rug fell off and revealed him to the cold light of day. He felt instinctively that the cold light of day would have little pity on him.

That’s all William did, though unfortunately an extended family having a gathering ‘recognise’ him as their long-estranged Uncle George and wheel him into their garden, warmly introducing him to younger generations and being lightly patronising.

I can’t help feeling, though, that more could have been made of this scenario. William remained silent (or, at least, wordless: “he was beginning to find his growl effective”) and there was a slightly odd twist at the end where the owner of the wheelchair, the real Uncle George, comes bounding into the garden to recover his property – totally able-bodied.

The facts

This was a strange time for William. William had previously escaped scot free for most of his crimes. Now to his amazament and indignation he found himself in the unfamiliar position of a scapegoat. Any disturbance in William’s part of the room was visited on William and quite occasionally William was not guilty of it. Most people considered that this was very good for William, but it was a view that was not shared by William himself.

  • Number: 5.12
  • Published: 1925 (1924 in magazine form)
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: William decides that one of his teachers needs taking down a peg or two.

Verdict

A lesson to all teachers here: don’t have an Achilles heel, if you do then on no account allow your pupils to discover it, and ideally live a long way away from those you teach.

“I hope my nephew is kind to you,” said Miss Felicia.
William gave her a pathetic glance like one who wishes to avoid a dark and painful subject. “I expect he means to be,” he said sadly.

Mr Evelyn Courtnay failed on all three of these fronts, and so it was that he found his (genuine) wrongdoing against William being punished by William letting a mouse – of which his visiting rich aunt was terrified – loose in his home, followed by a cat – of which he was terrified – followed by a William, who saved both adults from the menace and obtained ample material for blackmail in the process.

This story is perhaps most notable, though for its touching description of the unorthodox kinship between William and “Old Stinks” the regular science master.