“I’ll do it for you,” volunteered William.
“Oh William, you couldn’t!” said Mrs. Brown in undisguised horror.
“Why couldn’t I?” challenged William.
“You’d make a mess of it. You make a mess of everything.”
“I don’t,” said William indignantly. “I jolly well don’t. There’s lots of things I haven’t made a mess of. There’s… well, I can’t think of anythin’ at the minute, but I bet there is lots of things I haven’t made a mess of if I’d got time to think of ’em.”
- Number: 24.8
- Published: 1942 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William Carries On
- Synopsis: William collects money for charity… but is then tempted to invest it.
I have a very vivid memory from my childhood of my mum coming home after a stint as volunteer doorknocker for Marie Curie Cancer Care, with blood dripping from her hand following a letterbox-related injury.
Mrs Brown’s reluctance to let William take her shift doorknocking for a slum-supporting charity is less out of fear for his wellbeing and more out of fear for everyone else’s, but she eventually relents, and William goes forth to collect donations. What could possibly go wrong?
William tried to rehearse the forthcoming scene with his mother and to prepare his explanations and excuses. “Yes, I got the half-crowns all right, but I bought a dog with them…” “Well, you see, this man told me that it was an Abyssinian Retriever an’…”
No, it was no use. He couldn’t make it sound convincing even to himself. He had not only let his mother down. He had robbed the poor and needy of eight half-crowns.
Only eight houses in, he gets distracted by a beguiling tramp who offers to sell William his (allegedly valuable) dog (“All you’ve getter do is to go into the pet shop with the little dawg an’ say, ’Ere’s Honest Jim’s Abyssinian Retriever, an’ come out with fifty pounds in your ’and”), in exchange for the charity takings, because William could sell the dog on at considerable profit.
“On the verge of tears”, William tries to rectify his terrible decision, but fortunately fate intervenes instead…