William’s Crowded Hours

The facts

Their last holidays had consisted of a glorious possession of an empty house and garden. The agent in whose hands it was lived in the next town, and never visited it, and people in general didn’t seem to care whether the Outlaws took possession of it or not. Indeed people in general seemed to prefer that the Outlaws should take possession of it. People’s attitude in general appeared to be that if the Outlaws were there they could not be anywhere else, which, held the general attitude, was all to the good.
Even the Outlaws, who looked at their misdeeds through the rosiest of rose-coloured spectacles, realised that their tenancy had not actually improved the property. But William had said that their occupation of it was a kindness to its owner.
“We can’t possibly do it any harm,” he had said, “an’ we’ll keep it aired for him with breathin’ in it.”


Robert has had the misfortune to fall in love (this week) with Eleanor, whose rich uncle, Colonel Fortescue, has decided that a handsome young man who once saved his life would be a better suitor. He does not like Robert.

Meanwhile, the Outlaws also have business with Colonel Fortescue. Before he had moved to the village, they had treated his house as their own. And, discovering that they left Ginger’s telescope behind, they politely knock at the front door and request its return.

Colonel Fortescue seized William and executed severe corporal punishment upon his protesting and wriggling person.
William’s first thought after this outrage was to put its retribution into his father’s hands. But William’s father’s attitude was disappointing. He merely said that he would thank Colonel Fortescue personally the next time be met him.

This does not end happily, but they do not let it distract them from enjoying recent snowfall, so they build a snowman and dress it in Robert’s clothes, because he is ill in bed and so presumably would not mind having his clothes used for this purpose.

This is where a lot of things happen at once. The Outlaws can’t resist throwing snowballs at Colonel Fortescue. Colonel Fortescue sees that the attack upon his person came from the direction of the figure wearing Robert’s clothes. He hits the figure wearing Robert’s clothes. It falls to the ground and does not show any signs of recovery.

William manages to turn the situation to Robert’s advantage – with unusual selflessness, he does not even try to regain his telescope. Or, if he does, it’s not recorded.

The facts

They bad reached a bend in the path and there, just in front of them, by the side of the path, was an elderly man of military appearance who was fast asleep in a bath chair.
“He’s dead,” said Ginger cheerfully. .
“He can’t be,” said-Douglas. “He’s breathin’.”
“P’raps he’s dyin’,” said Ginger still more cheerfully. “P’raps if we wait a bit, he’ll stop breathin’.”
They stood round the bath chair, watching and waiting expectantly.


The Outlaws are certainly creative. When they come across a sleeping old man sitting peacefully in the woods, after eating the remains of his picnic, William suggests a new game: “Let’s have a ninquest on him. I’ll be the judge.” (“It isn’t a judge when it’s a ninquest,” Ginger cuts in. “It’s a coronationer.”)

“If you’re a doctor you’re supposed to have passed exams in tellin’ whether people are dead.”

When William tires of his judicial role (and Ginger from his role as murderer, Douglas from his role as policeman and Henry from his role as doctor), they decide, of course, to sell the old man on to an acquaintance of theirs, Victor Jameson, for threepence.

When the slumbering major’s family comes looking for him, William frantically asks Victor to reverse their transaction. But Victor has already sold him on.

The facts

“Well,” said the tramp confidentially, “it’s more difficult than people think. It’s not generally known in fact that being a tramp as difficult to get into as many of the other professions.”
“If you’ve gotter pass examinations in not washin’ an’ in eatin’ like you do,” said William, “I bet we’d soon pass ’em.”
“Well then, all I can say is that you’re lucky to have met me. I’m the head of the whole tramp profession an’ no one can get into it ‘cept through me.”

  • Number: 13.8
  • Published: 1931 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Wonderful Tramp
  • Book: William’s Crowded Hours
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws need some seed capital in order to start up as professional tramps.


Sandy White is quite an experienced confidence trickster, so why he’s wasting his time with extorting eight shillings from the Outlaws is something of a mystery.

But I suppose he must have found it entertaining, convincing them that he was a senior figure in the tramps’ regulatory body and that if they wanted to be tramps when they grew up, they would each have to pay a two-shilling pupillage fee to him straight away.

“Two shillings!” said Mrs Brown indignantly. “I
never heard of such a thing, William. Whatever do you want two shillings for?”
“It’s something to do with my future,” said William mysteriously.
“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Brown. “You know I don’t believe in fortune telling, and two shillings is an outrageous sum to charge for it anyway.”

That said, perhaps two shillings to enter a profession wasn’t so bad:

“How much money would you have to spend on me being a doctor if I wanted to be one?”
“Several hundred pounds, I believe,” said Mrs Brown vaguely.
“Well,” said William with an air of one who is about to confer a great favour. “I’m goin’ to save you all that money. If you give me two shillings now you needn’t spend all that money making me a doctor.”
“But no one was going to make you a doctor, dear,” said Mrs. Brown. “It’s never even been suggested.”

The Outlaws’ fundraising method of choice this time is, at yet another village fair, to sell off (without her consent) some old photographs they find in Ethel’s bedroom. Somewhat to their surprise, these products prove a riproaring success – perhaps the fact that they are all love tokens signed by various young men in the neighbourhood, who have since moved onto other femmes fatale and cannot afford to have such lasting mementos of their ‘Ethel phase’ visible to the public. So they hastily buy them all.