confiscated items and asset recovery

 The facts

“What’s a right of way?” asked Ginger.
“It’s weighin’ things right,” said William. “That new man at the sweet shop doesn’t even try to. He stops puttin’ them on soon as the scales begin to wobble ’stead of goin’ on till they go down with a bang same as he’s s’posed to by lor. I once told a p’liceman about it but he didn’t take any notice. He was prob’ly in league with him.”


Bored of all the weeding which seems to come their way during Bob-a-Job Week, William and Ginger take on a different sort of task: a friendly old lady is being terrorised by some yobbish older boys whenever she crosses through their garden (using an ancient right of way) to reach her bus stop.

The Outlaws quickly manage to lock the yobs into a bedroom in their house – but then a rather interesting siege situation develops, because the room in which they are locked has a large number of heavy tiles in it, and plentiful windows through which the yobs can throw them so as to keep the Outlaws in the house as well. They are trapped.

“l’d’ve made my will again if I’d known… I made a new one last week but I forgot to leave my c’lection of insects to the British Museum.”

“We ought to try one of those war escapes,” William said. “They dug tunnels. They dug tunnels from where they were imprisoned to outside of it. If we could dig a tunnel from inside the house to ole Miss Risborough’s garden…”
“How?” challenged Ginger. “Kin’ly tell me how to dig a tunnel through people’s floor-boards comin’ out into other people’s gardens. You tell me.”
“Oh, shut up!” said William testily. “There were other ways… Some of ’em got out in a wooden horse.”
“All right,” said Ginger, “find a wooden horse.”

They succesfully escape, bringing back with them a copper jam saucepan of the old lady’s which had been stolen from her… but then it’s back to weeding. Hey ho.

 The facts

“Well, what’ll we do now?” said Ginger. “We’ve done about everything you can do in a garden.”
“An’ some of the things you can’t,” said William with a certain modest pride.


Roxana has presented Robert with a hideous American tie “with men playing baseball all over it”, which he feels bound to wear in order to secure her affections, and yet horrified of wearing because of its garishness.

William thinks it is the most exciting item of clothing he’s ever seen, and takes the first opportunitiy to borrow it. At school, he uses the tie to cultivate for himself a reputation as an expert on all things American – only to see the tie confiscated by Mr Vastop, a supply teacher and adversary imaginatively nicknamed “Ole Fathead”.

William’s face was now so expressionless that his homely features might have been hacked out of wood. He stared glassily in front of him.
“I’ve got a very bad mem’ry,” he said. “It’s a funny thing but I’ve got a sort of feeling that if you gave me back that tie of Robert’s I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else. It’d drive everything else clean out of my head.”
Mr Vastop’s face darkened. “I told you…” he began severely, then stopped. “It’s in my bedroom,” he went on. “I’ll get it.”
He went from the room. William turned his expressionless face to Ginger and slowly lowered one eyelid.

Breaking into Mr Vastop’s house to recover it (of course), the boys find various interesting things – including “copies of Mr Vastop’s testimonials, which William read with incredulous surprise” – but no sign of the tie.

Fortunately, Mr Vastop slightly overreacts to William and Ginger’s presence in his home, and they are able to turn that overreaction to his advantage…

 The facts

“Professor Golightly,” the headmaster said, “is one of the most distinguished scholars of the age. We cannot let him go away with the impression that our children are devoid of intellectual interests.”
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t,” said William. “I’m jolly well devoid of ’em an’ I don’t know anyone that isn’t.”
“Dunno what good they’d be to us anyway,” said Ginger. “I want to be a juggler when I grow up.”

  • Number: 28.2
  • Published: 1952 (1950 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William enters an essay-writing competition.


The village’s schoolchildren are competing in an essay-writing competition judged by a Professor of History, nephew of a local headmistress.

William’s first draft, prepared on behalf of all the Outlaws, read:

Bony prince charly
He came bekause they playd skotsh chunes on bag peips he dansed with ladies and fort a battel and fel into a bogg and then there wasent ennything elce to do so he went hoam in a bote.

“Let’s go’n’ write that hist’ry essay.”
Reaching Ginger’s bedroom, they sat on the floor in silent concentration.
“Well, come on,” William said at last in a tone of irritation. “Think of somethin’, can’t you?”
“Let’s all have a think about hist’ry,” said Henry. “There’s Victoria.”
“That’s a station,” said William.
“It’s a person as well,” said Henry.
“Well, I’m not goin’ to write about that,” said William. “They’d get muddled up, wonderin’ which I was talkin’ about.”

Meanwhile, Joan has had her mother’s birthday present confiscated at school, and beseeches William to recover it from the headmistress’s house.

And while he’s in there, he meets the Professor of History, and they form something of an affinity…

Fairly touching on the whole. (And as a bonus, Hubert Lane gets a bit of come-uppance as well.)