Day 102: William the Good

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.”