“It’s a smashing idea, this health service, and I don’t see why animals shouldn’t have it, same as yumans!”
- Number: 31.8
- Published: 1958
- Book: William’s Television Show
- Synopsis: Fleeing from an enraged neighbour, William takes refuge in the local hospital (to the dismay of said hospital). He is inspired to establish a National Health Service for animals.
The NHS was 15 years old by the time this story was written, and the presence in the hospital waiting-room of a hypochondriac old lady determined to ‘get her money’s worth’ out of national insurance could just as easily happen today.
“There’s vets already,” said Ginger.
“Yes, but you have to pay vets. This other thing’s free!”
“No, it’s not. You pay a bit each week.”
“Well, animals could pay a bit each week.”
The scene in which William is forced by circumstance into faking a broken arm (albeit one which has miraculously recovered) shows how ready he was to take a leaf out of her book.
What could less easily happen today, or any day, though, is the way that William’s entirely well-meaning antics manage to enrage three entirely separate men who ultimately, and largely coincidentally, come together seeking to exert vengeance.
A fun story of the ‘William attempts to do social good’ variety.
“All right,” said William. “I don’t want to stay here anyway. I don’t want to go on wastin’ my time tryin’ to help people that don’t want to be helped an’ that don’t know what’s an excitin’ party an’ what isn’t.” He rose with dignity from his seat on the hearthrug. “An’ I wouldn’t help you now, not if – not if you came on your bended knees beggin’ me to.”
He withdrew from the room, much impressed by his parting
speech. “Huh!” he said to himself, as he slid down the banisters and landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. “I bet they’re feelin’ small.”
Ethel and Robert reluctantly admit William into their plans for an anniversary party for their parents – and begin to regret their decision when his suggestions include “an animal show with Jumble an’ a stag beetle an’ Henry’s tortoise”.
When William nevertheless goes ahead and buys a white rat for the purpose, it causes chaos throughout the village… but Mr Brown doesn’t mind too much in the end.
“What’s a right of way?” asked Ginger.
“It’s weighin’ things right,” said William. “That new man at the sweet shop doesn’t even try to. He stops puttin’ them on soon as the scales begin to wobble ’stead of goin’ on till they go down with a bang same as he’s s’posed to by lor. I once told a p’liceman about it but he didn’t take any notice. He was prob’ly in league with him.”
Bored of all the weeding which seems to come their way during Bob-a-Job Week, William and Ginger take on a different sort of task: a friendly old lady is being terrorised by some yobbish older boys whenever she crosses through their garden (using an ancient right of way) to reach her bus stop.
The Outlaws quickly manage to lock the yobs into a bedroom in their house – but then a rather interesting siege situation develops, because the room in which they are locked has a large number of heavy tiles in it, and plentiful windows through which the yobs can throw them so as to keep the Outlaws in the house as well. They are trapped.
“l’d’ve made my will again if I’d known… I made a new one last week but I forgot to leave my c’lection of insects to the British Museum.”
“We ought to try one of those war escapes,” William said. “They dug tunnels. They dug tunnels from where they were imprisoned to outside of it. If we could dig a tunnel from inside the house to ole Miss Risborough’s garden…”
“How?” challenged Ginger. “Kin’ly tell me how to dig a tunnel through people’s floor-boards comin’ out into other people’s gardens. You tell me.”
“Oh, shut up!” said William testily. “There were other ways… Some of ’em got out in a wooden horse.”
“All right,” said Ginger, “find a wooden horse.”
They succesfully escape, bringing back with them a copper jam saucepan of the old lady’s which had been stolen from her… but then it’s back to weeding. Hey ho.