Day 201: William and the Policeman’s Helmet

The facts

William became deeply interested when he heard that Ronald Markham possessed a real policeman’s helmet. William’s eyes opened wide when he heard of it. A policeman’s helmet. A real policeman’s real helmet. It had always been one of his ambitions to try on a real policeman’s real helmet. Perhaps Ronald would let him try it on. Surely Ronald would let him try it on. He might even lend it to him for an indefinite period, so that he could swagger about in it before an admiring crowd of friends and enemies… There wasn’t really any reason why Ronald shouldn’t lend it him. It was the sort of thing that people often did in stories. Perhaps he, William, would save his life, and he’d ask him what he’d like in return, and he’d ask for the loan of the policeman’s helmet, and then he’d give it him. In stories, people were always saving other people’s lives and being asked to choose anything they liked in return. He’d had rotten luck so far in saving people’s lives. He’d never had a decent chance.

  • Number: 18.5
  • Published: 1936 (same year in magazine form, originally titled William Plays Policeman)
  • Book: Sweet William
  • Synopsis: Robert’s friend owns a policeman’s helmet, and William’s life will be but an empty shell until he possesses it.


William is supremely bored at Sir Gerald Markham’s Christmas party, since the only company of his own age is Walter Markham, “whose ambition in life was to become a schoolmaster, because it would give him so many opportunities of doing good”.

So while the grown-ups play an intricately costumed version of charades, and while Walter sits contentedly reading the Encyclopædia Britannica, William sneaks off to try on the policeman’s helmet which he knows to be sitting in a bedroom upstairs.

Of course, it is at precisely this moment that a masked and armed robber arrives on the scene – and, being mistaken by an admiring crowd for a particularly successful actor in the game of charades, freely allowed to load the Markhams’ silver into his sack and escape into the night.

But then they see, through the darkness, “a cop”…