travel

The facts

“I’m goin’ out, mother,” William said in a voice which expressed stern sorrow rather than anger.
“All right, dear,” said Mrs Brown sweetly.
“I may not be coming back – never,” he added darkly.
“All right, dear,” said William’s mother.

  • Number: 3.3
  • Published: 1923 (1922 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William manages to persuade an elderly do-gooder that he is a neglected child with alcoholics for parents.

Verdict

This is another of those stories in which one can feel some sympathy for William given the hopelessness of his situation. Trapped on a boring, child-unfriendly holiday inland, he decides to run away from home, aided by a free trip on a sightseeing coach.

William is unmoved by the Norman architecture pointed out to him by the guide, but strikes up an acquaintance with an elderly lady who declares, “I go about the world helping people and I’m going to help you.”

“I suppose,” said the lady uncertainly, as William consumed boiled eggs with relish, “that your family are kind to you.”
“You needn’t s’pose that,” said William.”

If said lady had ever done child protection training she would know the dangers of loaded questions. Because she really does lead the witness into saying the things he says. When she volunteers to buy him tea on the basis that he must be being mistreated by his parents:

He felt torn between joy at the immediate prospect of a meal and pity for his unhappy home life. William, generally speaking, had only to say a thing to believe it. He saw himself now as the persecuted victim of a cruel and unsympathetic family, and the picture was not without a certain pleasure. William enjoyed filling the centre of the stage in any capacity whatsoever.

Although Mr and Mrs Brown have the unpleasant experience of the interfering lady marching into their accommodation and accusing them of being drunkards, perhaps they learnt a thing or two about how to deal with children in the process! Perhaps, so did she.

The facts

“Great Aunt Jane’s very ill,” said Mrs Brown. “They say…” She looked again at her letter as if to make quite sure: “They say she wants to see William. She’s never seen him, you know.”
“Good Lord!” Robert said, “fancy anyone wanting to see William!”

  • Number: 3.2
  • Published: 1923 (1922 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Again
  • Synopsis: William’s Great Great Aunt Jane is at death’s door. Mrs Brown rushes to her bedside. She takes William along too.

Verdict

This is one of my favourites. The idea of taking William to an aged relative’s deathbed seems wrong, somehow. As Robert says, “It hardly seems fair to show William to anyone who’s not strong.”

And his antics over in Ireland are certainly calculated to destroy anyone’s peace of mind. He pushes his cousin into a water-butt. He attacks his uncle under the mistaken impression that he is a burglar. Best, he brings a scarecrow inside and lets his short-sighted aunt chat to it for quite some time.

“How is Great Aunt Jane?” Mrs Brown said.
“Sinking,” said Uncle John in a voice of deepest gloom. Sinking fast, sinking fast.”
William’s expression grew animated. “Where is she?” he said. “Is she out at sea?”

But Great Great Aunt Jane, of course, loves him. She delights in his antics. She can’t wait to hear rumours of their next instalment from her nurse. She is ecstatic at his “attempt to temper truth with politeness” by announcing, “I wun’t mind going home now. I’ve got a lizard in a box at home.”

It seems that William is often a great hit with elderly relatives.

And, as Great Great Aunt Jane says, “He’s a cure, that boy.”

The facts

“If you’re deliberately turning that child loose into a boarding-house full, presumably, of quiet, inoffensive people,” Mr Brown said, “you deserve all you get. It’s nothing to do with me. I’ve disowned him.”

  • Number: 2.11
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: At a holiday to the seaside, William is determined to save the land from the ravages of smugglers.

Verdict

This is a fun story because Mr Jones almost fulfils two of the William stories’ stock roles: the insufferably virtuous child, except he is not a child; and the annoying houseguest, except he is not a houseguest.

At last the day of departure arrived. William was instructed to put his things ready on his bed, and his mother would then come and pack for him. He summoned her proudly over the balusters after about twenty minutes. “I’ve got everythin’ ready, Mother.”
Upon his bed was a large pop-gun, a dormouse in a cage, a punchball on a stand, a large box of “curios,” and a buckskin which was his dearest possession. Mrs Brown sat down weakly on a chair.
“You can’t possibly take any of these things,” she said faintly but firmly.
“Well, you said put my things on the bed for you to pack an’ I’ve put them on the bed, an’ now you say—”
“I meant clothes.”
“Oh, clothes!” scornfully. “I never thought of clothes.”

He is, in fact, a fellow visitor to the seaside resort that at which the Browns are staying (in February!) and it doesn’t take him long to monopolise conversation, both in the boarding-house in general, and for the Browns in particular – referring, privately, to William’s sister Ethel as his “future spouse”.

Mr Brown had hired a beach hut for William’s exclusive use/ exile, and from this base William makes friends with a little girl and schemes with her to catch a smuggler.

Of course, the ‘smuggler’ actually turns out to be none other than Mr Jones on an innocent, if insufferable, nocturnal walk, and he is so offended at his treatment that he leaves town at once – to the Browns’ delight.