Day 198: William and the Perfect Child

The facts

William was feeling specially aggrieved. This afternoon he had been condemned to accompany his mother to a meeting at the Vicarage. It was the housemaid’s afternoon off, and the cook said that she wouldn’t be left in the house again with that young limb, not if they went down on their bended knees to her, she wouldn’t. She’d pack up and go, she would, sooner. She was a good cook, so Mrs. Brown promised faithfully that the young limb should not be left with her, which meant that the young limb must accompany Mrs Brown to the meeting of the Women’s Guild at the Vicarage.

  • Number: 18.2
  • Published: 1936 (1935 in magazine form)
  • Book: Sweet William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws acquire a horse.


The Outlaws come across and appropriate for themselves a horse (“William saw himself arriving at school triumphantly on horseback, the admired of all beholders”).

Despite Douglas’s level-headed reminder that it doesn’t belong to them, the others enthusiastically come up with reasons why it should. William speculates that it is a wild horse (“like in anshunt times”). Ginger assumes that “the man it belonged to’s dead”.

Ultimately, they all agree to keep it in the Old Barn, and share ownership.

That afternoon, William has to accompany his mother to a lecture at the vicarage on the subject of The Upbringing of Children. Mrs Gladhill, the lecturer, is accompanied by her divinely perfect daughter Frances Mary.

There had been a slight hitch in their journey owing to William’s having been discovered to be wearing odd shoes – both for the same foot – when they were half-way there. William protested passionately that it didn’t matter, that he never kept his shoes for special feet, anyway, that he always wore any shoe on any foot, and both shoes and feet were used to it. He said that no one would notice the fact that they were of different pattern unless they were balmy, and then it didn’t matter what they thought. But Mrs. Brown was determined that for once in his life William should do her credit.

William cunningly escapes out of a window, only to bump into Frances Mary in the garden. He offers to show her ‘his’ horse, so imperiously demanding, “Hi, Ginger! Get off my horse!” that Ginger obeys without question.

And so it came to pass that, just as Mrs Gladhill was telling the mothers of the village, “Several of you have remarked to me today on the beautiful manners and behaviour of my own little girl. They are not some freak of nature, but merely the result of correct upbringing,” said beautifully-mannered girl arrived at the vicarage, mud-spattered and clinging to a horse which trampled everything in sight.