william the healer

The facts

“D’you feel any mental trouble?” said William.
“No,” said Ginger after a moment’s consideration.
“I’ve cured you, then,” said Wimam triumphantly.

Verdict

A famous psychiatrist is staying in the village (suffering from depression!) but on hearing about the craft of psychiatry, William feels he could do a better job. And so the sign goes up on the Old Barn:

WILLIAM BROWN
SEKKITRIST
MENTAL TRUBBLES KURED.
THREPPENCE EECH.

They painted the wall in patches: red, blue, green and yellow. The paint spread up William’s arms, down Ginger’s neck, over both their faces. Again they stepped back to consider the result.
“Well, I mus’ say I like it,” said William. “Don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” said Ginger. “It jus’ couldn’t help cheerin’ anyone up.”

He fails to cure his first patient, who is feeling down in the dumps due to the collapse of his engagement; but as William remarks, “Crackers! He jolly well deserves his mental troubles.”

But the boys’ second patient is Mr Summers, the famous psychiatrist. And while they don’t cure him (William does, quite perceptively, observe: “It’s your fault if you’re not cured; you can’t have talked right”), he pays them so handsomely that the Outlaws feel obliged to do more to help him.

Rather oddly, their approach is to redecorate his house in highly eccentric, bold colours. Although they paint the wrong house… the one belonging to their first patient…

The facts

The sound of horses’ hooves is made with a coconut, but he had succumbed to temptation and eaten it. He didn’t quite know what to do about the horses’ hooves. He hadn’t dared to tell anyone about it. Here it was coming now.
“Listen,” Miss Gwladwyn was saying. “I hear the sound of horses’ hooves.”
Then in the silence came the sound of a tin tray being hit slowly, loudly, regularly. The audience gave a yell of laughter. William felt annoyed. He showed his annoyance with a deafening and protracted thunderstorm.

  • Number: 9.2
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: William is asked to provide the sound effects for a village play.

Verdict

I think this is probably my absolute favourite William story of the lot. It has everything.

Just the description of William’s ludicriously over-the-top sound effects (to accompany an admittedly ridiculous play) makes me almost cry with laughter:

“List,” said the heroine, “how the thunder rages in the valley.”
The thunder raged and continued to rage. For some minutes the cast remained silent and motionless – except for facial contortions expressive of horror and despair – waiting for the thunder to abate, but as it showed no signs of stopping they tried to proceed. It was, however, raging so violently that no one could hear a word, so they had to stop again. At last even its maker tired of it and it died away. The play proceeded. Behind the scenes William smiled again to himself. That had been a jolly good bit of thunder. He’d really enjoyed that.”

“Thunder, William,” said Miss Gwladwyn.
William beat on his tin tray. Miss Greene-Joanes groaned. “That noise,” she said, “goes through and through my head. I can’t bear it!”
“Well, thunder is loud,” said William coldly. “It’s nachrally loud. I can’t help thunder being’ nachrally loud.”
“Thunder more gently, William,” commanded Mrs Bruce Monkton-Bruce.
Just to annoy them William made an almost inaudible rumble of thunder, but to his own great annoyance it didn’t annoy them at all.

William was particularly anxious to show off because he had told the Outlaws that he was the star of the play – and not only that, he had also told Sir Giles Hampton that he was the star of the play. Sir Giles, a major London actor suffering from depression, was on a rest cure in the village and had wryly befriended William. He seemed amused by William’s complete lack of respect for his eminence:

“Do you know who I am?” he said majestically.
“No,” said William simply, “an’ I bet you don’t know who I am either.”
I am a very great actor,” said the man.
“So’m I,” said William promptly, “I’m the most important person in the play I’m in now. It’s to raise money for my football an’ the Lit’rary Society’s cinematograph”

So, of course, William has to prove to his audience that he is the most important person in the play. He does this not just by overexuberant sound effects, but by doctoring the theatrical programmes:

He had copied down the dramatis personæ from the ordinary programme, but at the end he had put an “and” and then in gigantic letters:
Wind
Rain
Thunder
Horses’ Hooves
And All Other Noises:
William Brown

There is simply nothing about this story that doesn’t make me guffaw.

And just to top it all, William’s little mistake with the paper ‘snow’ he was supposed to pour in from the rafters (the mistake involved a bucket of water) managed to get two of the actors engaged. And he cures Sir Giles’s depression. So all’s well that ends well.

The facts

“Why didn’t you tell me the river is flooding?” she screamed, “You must have known.”
“Well,” said William with a burst of inspiration, “I din’ want to give you a sudden shock – what I thought it might give you tellin’ you you was macarooned.”

  • Number: 7.9
  • Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Outlaw
  • Synopsis: William climbs through a fissure in a cave and floods a sanatorium.

Verdict

At last a break from cunning costume ploys: a classic old adventure story in which William goes exploring a narrow fissure at the back of a local cave (looking for smugglers) and emerges, unexpectedly, in a field with which he is unfamiliar.

“Who’s in charge of the staff, then?”
“Me.” said William simply. “I’m all there is left of it.”
He was rewarded by an even finer display of hysterics than the one before. He sat and watched this one, too, with critical enjoyment as one might watch a firework display or an exhibition of conjuring. His attitude seemed to irritate her.

He then readily agrees to take over the job of a servant-boy in the nursing home he comes across, floods the back yard, makes the patients cocoa using knife powder, unintentionally cures a patient suffering a nervous breakdown, fills the house with animals, kidnaps two young children and fakes amnesia – all before returning to the cave whence he had come and discovering that his entire family believes he had died in there.

This is an exceptional concatenation of chaos even for William, and unusually there is no real purpose to it (either good intention or bad). It just kind of happens and he finds himself getting deeper and deeper into it.

But I always think that William’s chaoses are far more entertaining when they form unintended consequences of a deliberate decision, rather than just being flukes.