Day 60: William the Money-maker

The facts

Dear Sir or Maddam,
On Satterday we are going to have a Wembley no thte one in London but one here so as to save you fairs and other exspences there will be natifs in natif coschume with natif potts and ammusments and other things which are secrits till the day entranse will be one penny exsit free ammusments are one penny hopping to have the pleshure of your company,
Yours truley,
The Wembley Comitty
PS It is a secrit who we are.
PPS It will probly be in the feeld next the barn but notises will be put up later.

  • Number: 5.6
  • Published: 1925 (1924 in magazine form) – not to be confused with the 1928 story, 9.4, of the same name
  • Book: Still William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws launch “a nexhibition” modelled on Wembley.


The Outlaws need some money, and although William’s fundraising stratagems invariably end in total disaster, Henry’s reaction to this latest one says it all: “I’d rather be in it even if it goes wrong. I’d rather be in a thing that turns out wrong than not be in anything at all.”

So, inspired by Ginger’s mother’s visit to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, they black up (again) and each impersonate a different variety of “natif”: William a South African, Ginger an Australian, Henry a Canadian, Douglas an Egyptian (“Talk Egyptian, native.” “Bonus, bona, bonum, bonum, bonam, bonum”) and a self-appointed Violet Elizabeth Bott “a Nindian”.

“How do you know?” William said. “You ever been there? You ever been to a Red Indian climit? Well, I din’t know you’d ever been to a Red Indian climit. But I’m very int’rested to hear it. It’s very int’restin’ an’ funny you didn’t get killed an’ eat, I mus’ say.”
William’s weapon of sarcasm always proved rather bewildering to his friends.

But the Outlaws’ exhibition isn’t just voyeurism for racists. There are also the rides to consider:

There were three amusements. The first consisted in climbing a tree and lowering oneself from the first branch by a rope previously fastened to it by William. The second consisted in being wheeled once round the field in a wheelbarrow by William. The third consisted in standing on a plank at the edge of the pond and being gently propelled into the pond by William. The entrance fee to each was one penny.

Blacking up aside, this is an entertaining story because it shows that William’s utter bafflement towards the adult world is not quite the same as total contempt. He sees bits of it that he wants to emulate, assumes he can emulate.

The only difference is that he is undeterred by dozens of failures which would exhaust any grown-up’s spirit.

This story definitely marks yet another failure for William. Yet after some deliberation, I’ve nevertheless labelled it as William comes out on top. Why? Because he remains cheerful and optimistic at its ending. Sure, the exhibition totally fails to impress its audience, makes barely a dent in the Outlaws’ financial troubles, and they get chased off ‘their’ field by an enraged farmer who is under the bizarre impression that it is actually his field.

But they make tuppence and go for lemonade. How is that not a victory?