Day 72: William Leads a Better Life

The facts

“Well, I never will wanter use French verbs,” said William to his mother when she brought forward the time-honoured argument. “I don’t wanter talk to any French folks, an’ if they wanter talk to me they can learn English. English’s easy. It’s silly havin’ other langwidges. I don’t see why all the other countries shun’t learn English ’stead of us learnin’ other langwidges with no sense in ’em. English’s sense.”

  • Number: 6.4
  • Published: 1926 (1925 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws found a monastic order.


“Didn’t we oughter wear round-hoop-sort-of-things on our heads?” said Henry. They do in pictures. What d’you call ’em? Halos.”
“You don’t get them till you’re dead,” said Ginger with an air of wisdom.
“Well, I don’t see what good they are to anyone dead,” said Henry, rather aggrieved.

That exchange pretty much sums up the Outlaws’ approach to life as monks. The Williamcans (“Well, St Francis just put ‘cans’ on the end of his name”) seem less concerned with morals or ethics or doing good deeds than with the formalistic requirement that all saints leave home, sell their fathers’ possessions, wear dressing gowns and build buildings with surreptitiously-acquired bricks.

“Your temperature’s normal, dear,” said Mrs Brown.
William made a sinister noise to imply that the malady was too deep-seated to be shown by an ordinary thermometer.

The whole episode was inspired not by a church sermon, as are many of William’s bright ideas, but by a history lesson from a teacher too bored with Edward the Sixth to continue teaching it, and who instead told the boys about his recent holiday in Asisi.

The Williamcans are under the impression that saints – they seem somewhat hazy as to whether they are monks or saints – call not just everyone but everything ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, hence, “Brother rain!” “I should think it’s about sister tea-time,” and so on.

Strangely enough, they find that the religious life is not for them.