Day 245: William – the Highwayman

The facts

“Why, I bet cyclin’ over that ground did it good , same as ploughin’ or somethin’. Bet I saved ’em trouble, cyclin’ over that ground. An’ I bet everyone was sick to death see in’ those ole plants day after day. They oughter be jolly grateful to me for knockin’ ’em down so’s they could put in a few new ones.” He sighed deeply. “All grown-ups are mean, but I bet my fam’ly’s about the meanest of the lot.”

  • Number: 23.2
  • Published: 1941 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger take control of some valuable geological specimins.


William and Ginger are both aggrieved: William has had his bicycle confiscated after using it to destroy some plants, and Ginger dropped a half-crown out the window of a train, and was then further penalised when he pulled the emergency brake in a bid to recover it (“A man came round to see my father about it las’ night an’ said they’d overlook it this time. Said they’d overlook it. I like that! It oughter be me overlookin’ it. I bet I could’ve found that half-crown in two minutes if they’d let me look for it”).

So embittered are they that they resolve to become highwaymen to wreak revenge on society.

“You’ve gotter have a black horse to be a highwayman,” objected Ginger.
“You needn’t,” said William. “A bicycle’d do.”
Ginger considered the question again in silence. “They’ve gotter have masks,” he said at last.
“They needn’t,” said William, to whom the career of highwayman was beginning to seem not only attractive, but the obvious solution of all his problems. “I’ve seen pictures with crim’nals in, an’ they jus’ wear handkerchiefs over their noses. It’s better than masks. It’s not so old-fashioned.”

The first person they hold up is General Moult, who is too deaf to comply with their demands. The second and third ignore them. The fourth is a little girl who very sweetly offers William the threepence she is grasping – but “William’s scheme had somehow not included the taking of pocket money from little girls. He waved it aside.” But he is prepared to accept from the little girl her uncle’s briefcase of valuable geological samples.

He promptly sells them on to Ethel for her rock garden, just before the Browns welcome a guest for lunch. The guest is an eminent professor of geology…