Day 136: William’s Birthday

The facts

So annoyed was William with his family that, in order to punish them, he lost his voice. This, of course, alone, would have been a reward rather than a punishment, but he insisted on writing all he had to say (which was a lot) on a slate with a squeaky slate-pencil that went through everyone’s head. They gave him paper and pencil, and he deliberately broke the point on the first word, and then returned to his squeaky slate-pencil to explain and apologise at agonising length. Finally, in despair, they sent over to the doctor for some medicine which proved so nauseous that William’s voice returned.

  • Number: 12.6
  • Published: 1930 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William’s Happy Days
  • Synopsis: William’s birthday features a lot of dogs.


Although William’s birthday has apparently zero impact on his age, it is still an important occasion for him, and he is embittered that he has to live through it without Jumble (away at the vet’s), without the “two more dogs” he requests as a present, with his much-despised weekly dancing class, and with the presence of Ethel’s latest (and much-despised) admirer, Mr Dewar, at tea.

His mother’s present to him was a dozen new handkerchiefs with his initials upon each.
During morning school he took a gloomy satisfaction in initiating one of his new handkerchiefs into its new life. In the course of the morning it was used to staunch the blood from William’s nose after a fight in the playground, to wipe the mud from William’s knees after a fall in a puddle, to mop up a pool of ink from William’s desk, to swaddle the white rat that that William had brought to school with him, and as a receptable for the two pennyworth of Liquorice All Sorts that had been Ginger’s present to him. At the end of the morning its eleven spotless brothers would have passed it by unrecognised.

Interestingly he did not seem especially embittered about having to go to school on his birthday – perhaps because he regards school as more of a play opportunity than a place of learning – but when he gets home, his grievances return.

“Now, William,” said his mother anxiously, “you’ll go to the dancing-class nicely this afternoon,
won’t you?”
“I’ll go the way I gen’rally go to things. I’ve only got one way of goin’ anywhere. I don’t know whether it’s nice or not.”
This brilliant repartee cheered him considerably, and he felt that a life in which one could display such sarcasm and wit was after all to a certain degree worth living.

Unfortunately, Mr Dewar chose today as an opportunity to give Ethel two dogs. William, on his way to dancing class, saw the two dogs and naturally assumed that his family had relented and bought him his requested present after all.

He takes the dogs to dancing class. They cause chaos. He takes the dogs past a field of sheep. They cause chaos.

Mr Dewar gets the blame, however, and William is, not unreasonably, rather pleased by this.