William Again

The facts

“William,” Mr Brown said, “the effect upon the nerves of the continued sound of your voice is something that beggars description. I would take it as a personal favour if it could kindly cease for a short time.”
William was crushed. The fact that he rarely understood his father’s remarks to him had a good deal to do with the awe in which that parent was held.

  • Number: 3.11
  • Published: 1923 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William takes his grandfather to the circus.

Verdict

This is a really touching story.

William is anxious to go to the circus, but first his dancing class (the teacher remarks, “You’re enough to make any litle girl cry, the way you dance!”) and then a visit from his frail, elderly grandfather intervene.

But it turns out, just as William rebels against the civilising strictures of his mother, so does his grandfather rebel against the caring totalitarianism of Aunt Lilian.

William had never met his grandfather before, and he gazed in astonishment at him. He had met old people before, but he had not thought that anything quite so old as Grandfather Moore had ever existed or could ever exist. William was fascinated. He could hardly keep his eyes off him all tea-time.

When William is sneaking out of the house, through his (supposedly sleeping) grandfather’s bedroom, to go to the circus, he finds the old man still awake and “obviously revelling in his wickedness”.

They form a remarkable bond and decide to sneak out together: William evading his mother, Grandfather Moore evading Aunt Lilian.

They have a wonderful time, share their disdain for dancing classes, and sneak back without being caught.

Again, William proves a hit with elderly relatives.

The facts

William, asleep in bed, was dreaming of Mr and Mrs Croombe, handcuffed, and dressed from head to foot in red triangles.

  • Number: 3.10
  • Published: 1923 (1922 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William decides to be a dressing-gown wearing detective.

Verdict

For no particular reason, William – who has decided to be a detctive following a thrilling village play – deduces that Mr Croombe is the thief responsible for a string of local burglaries.

William frenziedly accused Mr Croombe of theft and murder. He referred to handcuffs and bloodhounds. He said wildly that he had had the house surrounded by police. It took about half an hour to convince him of his mistake.
“How do you know they’re their own things? How do you know he isn’t a gang?”

He so dogs the poor suspect that Mr Croombe begins to think he is hallucinating, and seeks psychiatric help.

As with all the best detective stories, affairs come to a denoument at a dinner party (unfortunately attended by a mortified Mr and Mrs Brown) but the Croombes are so grateful to William for not being a sign of impending madness that they offer him dinner.

And William decides on a new career as an actor: “On the stage, one could be a detective in comfort.”

The facts

“It’s a beautiful book, William,” Aunt Ellen said. “It might prove the turning-point in your life. I’m sure you’ll wish you knew Peter and his dear mother.”
William, after reading a few pages, began, as she had predicted, to wish he knew Peter. He wished he knew Peter in order to take the curl out of that butter-coloured hair and the fatuous smile from the complacent little mouth that stared at him from every illustration. Driven at last to fury, he dropped Peter down the well, and began to look for more congenial occupations.

  • Number: 3.9
  • Published: 1923 (1922 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1948 William novel of the same name
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: An author persuades William to impersonate one of their creations.

Verdict

Another interesting variation on the ‘insufferably virtuous child’ theme.

In this coincidence-packed story, William accompanies his mother to Aunt Ellen’s house where Aunt Ellen insists he read the true story of a lovely little boy called Peter, written by Peter’s own mother.

But, roaming round the neighbourhood, William comes across the author of Peter, a childless man who considers Peter’s non-existence to be his deepest secret. Terrified that it is about to emerge because a fan is on her way to visit him, he bribes William to be Peter for the afternoon.

“He must have taken a fancy to William,” said William’s mother. “SOME people do…”

William does not, it must be admitted, put much (or any) effort into his role, at first. “That curly hair wot I had,” he explains to the visitor, “all came off – got clawed off by a monkey, at the Zoo.”

But then, when he gets into it, he goes at the drama of the situation with a crusader’s zeal. His mother, he explains, is upstairs dying. The real author, hiding under a table in the living room, is a burglar.

Somehow William manages to come out on top of the situation even though literally nobody else does…