Day 235: William and the Begging Letter

The facts

“Are you sure there wasn’t a letter for me?” William asked his mother despondently.
“Of course there wasn’t, dear,” said his mother patiently. “I keep telling you there wasn’t. Whoever do you expect to write to you? It isn’t your birthday or anything.”
“You wouldn’t think anyone’d be too mean to give a bit of money to a pore ole man with no legs an’ nothin’ to eat, would you?” he went on bitterly.
“No, dear,” said Mrs. Brown,”but what’s that got to do with you?”
“Nothin’,” said William hastily.

  • Number: 21.8
  • Published: 1939 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William the Beggar
  • Book: William and Air Raid Precautions
  • Synopsis: William needs some funds, and realies that illness can be lucrative.


It’s comforting to know that spam emails of the “I’m a poor person in Nigeria” variety are not entirely a new phenomenon.

William’s attempt at a begging letter is true genius, and it is only the misfortune that he sent it to Lieutenant-Colonel C H Pomeroy – father of Robert’s latest girlfreind – that led his money-making plan to unravel.

Dear sir,
I am a pore man out of work with eighteen children who are all very ill. My wife is very ill. I am very ill. My mother and father are very ill. If you do not send some money we shall all dye. Besides being out of work and very ill I am def and dum. All my children are def and dum. My wife is def and dum. My mother and father are def and dum. Please send a lot of money to get us all cured. It is very expensive getting cured of being def and dum.
Yours cinserely,
William Brown

Things go really wrong, though, when Pomeroy’s daughter supposes Robert to be the culprit and, affectionately determined to scare him out of a life of crime, sends a begging letter of her own…

(I’m particularly fond of Douglas’s astonishment in this line: “Grown-ups never want to do anythin’ int’restin’ with their money. Why, I knew a grown-up once what paid to learn French. Paid to learn French! Gosh!”)