William’s Happy Days

The facts

“I take it that you are interested in the psychic side of life?”
“Uh-huh,” agreed William.
He hadn’t the remotest conception what the psychic side oflife was, but he was quite ready to be interested in whatever the lady was interested in. She was unlike anyone else he had ever met, and William always liked people who were unlike anyone else he had ever met.
“Have you ever had any experiences?”
“Me?” said William. “Oh yes, lots.”

  • Number: 12.10
  • Published: 1930 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William’s Happy Days
  • Synopsis: William makes friends with a pair of visionaries.

Verdict

Tristram and Auriole Mannister are highly eccentric but make up for it with their instinctive friendship of and generosity towards William.

They are renting a cottage in the village in order to sharpen up their psychic faculties: Tristram by doing inspirational painting, and Auriole by seeking to photograph a “nature spirit” (ie fairy).

William instinctively takes to them, and they instinctively take to William, happily sharing their meals, paint, canvas and garden with him.

William was kept in so regularly at school that, when he wasn’t, he always felt as if he’d been let out an hour earlier than the right time.

I thought long and hard before categorising this one as William comes out on the bottom : in some ways, he does very well when he (unintentionally) making both twins’ dreams come true by giving them a ‘psychic experience’ – albeit by walking around so covered in grass cuttings that Auriole assumes him to be a nature spirit, and by doing a painting so dreadful that the editor of Psychic Realms publishes it as an inspirational work by Tristram.

But he is sad to lose his friends when the move away at the end of the story. And none of his friends believe that the painting was actually by him…

The facts

“I bet I’d jolly well understand your worry,” William said earnestly, “’cause the things I worry about seem silly to other people, so I bet I’d understand about yours.”
“What sort of things do you worry about?” said the lady.
“Oh, when windows keep gettin’ in the way of my arrers an’ cats go stickin’ their fur in Jumble’s mouth an’ things like that,” he said, and added truthfully: “I don’t mean that I worry a norful lot about them.”

  • Number: 12.9
  • Published: 1930 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William’s Happy Days
  • Synopsis: William attempts to help a downtrodden lady achieve her dream.

Verdict

It is a little tragic that Miss Rossiter’s greatest ambition is to put on a decent stall at the village bazaar (yes, another village bazaar), well-stocked with donations. But William is determined to make it come true.

There is the added complication of a villain, in the haughty form of Mrs Porker, who (with a motiveless malignity rivalled only by that of Mrs Bretherton when cheating in the village flower show in The Outlaws and the Cucumber, 11.8) tells the entire village that Miss Rossiter will not be putting on a stall so they should give all their donations to her, Mrs Porker, instead.

“Your tea will be ready in the dining-room at five, dear,” Mrs Brown said at last, “but you may have a piece of bread and butter now if you like.”
“Thanks,” said William apologetically. “It does sort of seem a long time between lunch and tea.” Giving a wide interpretation to the words “bread and butter”, he took the largest piece of cake he could see after a fairly lengthy inspection.

In order to help, though, William first needs some information.

“I say, Ellen,” said William. “What do they have on fancy stalls?”
“Fancy things, of course,” said the housemaid.
“What sort of fancy things?”
“Ornaments and handkerchiefs and pretty
things.”
“You wouldn’t do for one then, would you?” said
William, with obvious delight at his own wit.

He initially plans to steal ‘fancies’ from his home, just a few at a time so nobody would notice, and ‘donate’ them to Miss Rossiter.

But then he comes up with an even better idea, thanks to a chance meeting with a local ventriloquist, and Mrs Porker’s touching belief in the ghost of her late dog Pongo.

So well does he do for Miss Rossiter that she even forgives him for helping her:

William had attached himself to Miss Rossiter for the afternoon and was busying himself “helping” at her stall. He sold a pile of things that had been already sold and put aside for their owners. He sold Miss Rossiter’s parasol and scarf. He gave wrong change on a generous scale. He told Sir Charles Politt, who had opened the Bazaar, to clear off and stop taking up all the room if he wasn’t going to buy anything. In short, he worked very hard all the afternoon.

The facts

“You’d look a bit better,” said William sternly, “with your hair cut off.”
“An’ you’d look a bit better,” said the amazing child without a moment’s hesitation, “with your face cut off.”
“Well,” said William shortly, “well, somethin’ wants doin’ to him.”
It was evident that the others were entirely in agreement with this cryptic statement.

  • Number: 12.8
  • Published: 1930 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William the Mesmerist) – not to be confused with the 1968 book, 37, of the same name
  • Book: William’s Happy Days
  • Synopsis: William pretends to have special powers to impress a girl.

Verdict

Another blonde, curly-haired, white-suited insufferably virtuous child in this story, this one armed with “an impregnable conviction of his own superiority”.

Unfortunately, William finds himself unable to take violent retribution on little Reggie (retribution, I might add, for very little other than Reggie’s general demeanour), because he falls for Reggie’s sister Angela. In a moment of manly weakness, William promises to protect Reggie from bullies, and so he sadly begins sabotaging all the Outlaws plans.

“I’ve always thought that William must be better at his work than they make out,” said Mrs Brown. “I’ve never believed those awful reports he gets.”

But he also decides, for no apparent reason, to undertake to protect Reggie from teachers. He claims a power to make teachers bend to his will with only a look.

Unfortunately, of course, William possesses no such power. And when the teachers begin to tire of Reggie’s attitude almost as much as his fellow pupils, Angela pleads with/ emotionally blackmails William (“I thought you liked me”) to save him from detention.

Remarkably, William manages to conclude matters in his own favour though. Reggie and Angela move away from the area, for which William claims credit (“Oh yes,” he said darkly, “his father’s got to go to America. Oh yes, an why’s his father got to go to America?”) and thus restores his image in the eyes of the Outlaws.

And William’s teacher, who Angela ingenuously confides in about William’s special powers, has an amused twinkle in his eye.