alcohol and temperance

The facts

In the new game, William, Ginger, and Henry were “nervous breakdowners”, and Douglas the proprietor of a “rest cure home”.

  • Number: 16.6
  • Published: 1934 (1933 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Gangster
  • Synopsis: William discovers some sleeping potion.


William was excited for his Aunt Jane’s visit, because she had had a nervous breakdown and he was looking forward to seeing her acting “’xactly like a lunatic”. So it was a great disappointment to find that she was only suffering from mild depression and that “she’s jus’ like anyone else”.

But he gets excited again when he discovers that she has brought sleeping-pills with her. The Outlaws come up with the brilliant plan of putting their entire school to sleep every day so that they can have free time unencumbered by lessons.

“I’d get into an awful row if they found I’d got cows or horses sleepin’ in the summer-house.”

But then the Browns welcome into their home Mr Forrester, a speaker from the Temperance Society who is visiting the village. He confides to Mr Brown, “In this good work I never sleep.” William overhears this, and naturally considers it his social duty to help Mr Forrester with his insomnia, and administer him some sleeping draught.

The facts

“’Scuse me, but what do you want to go to Maple Court for?” asked William.
“I’m giving a lecture there,” said the Scotland Yard man.
Jolly clever thing to say, of course, but they probably had special lessons at Scotland Yard in thinking of things to say like that.

  • Number: 13.3
  • Published: 1931 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William Stays to Tea
  • Book: William’s Crowded Hours
  • Synopsis: William is enthralled by a young man’s tales of his life as an international criminal.


Anthony is a young university student staying with his aunt in the holidays. He takes a shine to William, partly due to William’s own merits and partly in order to spite his holier-than-thou aunt.

Unfortunately, William completely believes all Anthony’s stories about being a famous international criminal, and, despite William’s pretence at being “a Scotland Yard man”, when somebody who he supposes to be a real Scotland Yard man arrives on the scene, his loyalty to his new friend overcomes his ‘professional’ duties and he does his best to get rid of the police officer.

The young man had told William that, in common with many other famous criminals, he was called Alias.

Of course, the Scotland Yard man is in fact a lecturer in English literature giving a talk to the local literary society, so when William gleefully diverts him to the Temperance Society in a neighbouring town, his lecture on The Drinking Songs of Britain does not go down terribly well.

Although William is roundly punished for his role in the affair, he does gain a valuable life lesson about trust:

William looked from the Vicar to the young man and a horrible certainty together with a horrible doubt entered his head. The horrible certainty was a certainty that the sleuth was not a sleuth, and the horrible doubt was a doubt whether the young man was really a criminal.

…plus ten shillings from Anthony and the suggestion that they go into crime together for real when William finishes school.

And the lecturer gets an entertaining story he can tell for the rest of his life.

The facts

The Christmas holidays had arrived at last and William was celebrating by having influenza.
Though William is my hero, I will not pretend that he made a good invalid. On the contrary he made a very bad one. He possessed none of those virtues of patience, forbearance, and resignation necessary to a good invalid. William, suffering from influenza, was in a state of violent rebellion against fate. There was, he bitterly complained, nothing to do.

  • Number: 9.1
  • Published: 1928 (1927 in magazine form)
  • Book: the eponymous William the Good
  • Synopsis: William becomes convinced that Ethel is an alcoholic.


Fresh from trying to save Ethel from forced marriage in the previous story William to the Rescue, 8.10, William now tries to save her from the evils of drink.

From his festive sickbed, William reads a story of an insufferably virtuous child, but, “because of his weakened condition”, he is captivated by it and aspires to live the life of its subject.

Its subject had a sister who was an alcoholic. So William must have a sister who is an alcoholic. It is with this approach to life that he interprets the sight of Ethel taking medicine: she was drinking from a bottle, so she drinks.

“Ethel’s all right,” said William absently. “I mean, she’s all right in one way. She’s not ill or anything.” Then he added casually: “It’s only that she drinks.”
“W… what?” said Mrs Morton, putting her cup down hastily upon an occasional table, because she felt too unnerved to hold it any longer.
“She drinks,” said William more clearly and with a certain irritation at having to repeat himself. “Din’t you hear what I said? I said she drinks.”

And it gets worse: he sees her taking a dish from a neighbour’s house (the neighbour had, in fact, borrowed it from the Browns) so assumes that she is a kleptomaniac as well.

William doesn’t treat either of these pieces of information with any particular sensitivity, so soon the whole village knows that Ethel is a drunkard and a thief.

Remarkably, not only is this a story in which William comes out on top, but it is one in which his bad deeds are never even noticed. They cause Ethel to get a part in a local play which she had coveted, but she just puts this down to her natural talent (and, perhaps more prominently, natural beauty). So she does quite well out of it; but the most she concedes, through the thick cold for which she was taking her medicine, is: “Sobe rather fuddy things did happed but Williab couldn’t possibly have beed respodsible for any of theb.”