Day 58: William Turns Over a New Leaf

The facts

He decided to start first thing the next morning: not before. William was a good organiser. He liked things cut and dried. A new day for a new life. It was no use beginning to be self-denying and self-sacrificing in the middle of a day that had started quite differently. If you were going ot have a beautiful character and a grateful family circle you might as well start the day fresh with it.

  • Number: 5.4
  • Published: 1925 (1924 in magazine form)
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: William is inspired to live a better life, so helps to get Robert engaged, Ethel out of an unwanted social engagement, and to cook dinner.


Despite William’s later-to-emerge deep distaste for Old Boys turning up at his school to lecture the children on manly virtues, on this occasion he is seduced by just such a speech.

Obviously his attempts to be self-denying and self-sacrificing fail dismally (for instance, to get Ethel out of a party he imagines she doesn’t want to go to, he politely informs the host that she can’t come as she has contracted epilepsy).

“Yah, you’re ’fraid!” taunted Henry, not because he had the least doubt of Wiliam’s courage but simply to introduce an element of excitement into the proceedings.

But there are some lasting consequences this time: he finds Robert writing a love poem to “Marion” and assumes that he must want to marry Marion Dexter but is too shy to ask.

So he duly pops round to visit Miss Dexter – who is, of course, the wrong Marion – who, “eyes dancing and lis quivering with suppressed laughter”, writes a note to Robert accepting his proposal-by-proxy.

I do wonder whether Mrs Brown was being somewhat malicious in her treatment of Robert’s genuine distress on hearing this news: “Robert, I don’t think you ought to use expressions like that before your little brother, whoever you’re engaged to.”