Day 254: Too Many Cooks

The facts

“For heaven’s sake, William,” said Mrs Brown, “take that great stick out of the room. I’m sick and tired of picking up the sticks you leave all over the place. I can’t think why you bring them in at all.”
“What stick?” said William, surprised, then : “Oh, that!”
Whenever William went out, he secured a stick from wood or hedgerow in order to wave it about or slash at hedges with it or make lunges at imaginary enemies or use it as jumping pole or walking stick, according to its length. He did this so automatically and took the process so much as a matter of course that he was always genuinely surprised when the presence of these appendages was pointed out to him.
“Take it into the hall if you must have it.”
“Yes, I mus’ have it,” said William firmly.

  • Number: 24.1
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: William tries to acquire some off-ration lemons.


Mrs Fountain is a cookery writer who has recently moved to the village. She is expecting an important magazine editor to lunch and wants to impress him with a recipe delicious despite its wartime austerity. For this, she needs some lemons – and as she is kind enough to feed the Outlaws sweets and take an interest in their games of Red Indians, the Outlaws resolve to do her a good turn:

”Mother, have you got any lemons?”
Lemons?” said Mrs Brown as if she could hardly believe her ears. “Lemons? I hardiy remember what they look like.”
“There’s a picture of ’em in the ’cyclop’dia,” said William helpfully.

“You wouldn’t like your mother to get put in prison, would you?” asked William.
Violet Elizabeth considered the question. “Yeth, I think I would,” she said at last cheerfully. “I could thtay up ath late ath I like if thee wath in prithon. I’ve alwayth wanted to thtay up ath late ath I like.”
“But you wouldn’t get any pocket money,” said William cunningly. He remembered Violet Elizabeth’s greatest weakness. “You wouldn’t be able to buy any acid drops.”
Violet Elizabeth’s face fell. “Oh, don’t let her be put in prithon, then, William,” she pleaded. “I do tho love athid dropth.”

He has a stroke of luck when Violet Elizabeth tells him that her mother has “a whole bocth full” in the bottom of her wardrobe, and so begins a complex plan to get hold of them.

Unfortunately, the ‘box of lemons’ is not quite what it seems…