Day 29: That Boy

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.