Day 100: William Joins the Waits

The facts

“For Christmas, Uncle Charles is givin’ me a silly baby penknife. It’s only got one blade, an’ I heard him tellin’ mother that I couldn’t do any harm with it. Fancy,” – his voice quivered with indignation – “fancy anyone givin’ you a penknife what you can’t do any harm with.”

  • Number: 8.9
  • Published: 1927 (1926 in magazine form)
  • Book: William in Trouble
  • Synopsis: William, Ginger and Douglas sing their way to better Christmas presents.


This hundredth William story is actually the prequel to the 85th story, William Plays Santa Claus, 7.4. In William Plays Santa Claus, Mr Solomon, Sunday School superintendant, was making his way to the Browns’ house to complain about William’s behaviour during his evening of Christmas waiting (nighttime carol-singing).

Now we find out what William did…

Aunt Jane seemed almost stimulated by the thought of the pack of wolves howling around her lonely hillside house.

He had discovered that his Uncle Charles was to present him with that most undesirable Christmas present of a harmless penknife. Ginger had been led to expect a copy of Kings and Queens of England (“Goin’ wastin’ their money on things like Kings an’ Queens of England, ’stead of giv’n it us to buy somethin’ sensible”), and Douglas a green tie.

William ingeniously manages to convert the civilised evening of carol-singing into a ruthlessly efficient programme of conmanship. By the end of it, all three relatives’ nerves are in tatters (blackmailed by a dozen boys’ tuneless ‘singing’ – all except Ginger’s deaf aunt who is convinced by William that her cottage is surrounded by wolves who can only be scared off by the sight of a green tie), but all three presents are destroyed at the hands of the Outlaws – and much more preferable cash gifts follow instead.

Geek note: during the discordant singing, it is recorded that “Ginger, who had not moved with the times, sang ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’”. But can a boy who never ages really be blamed for not moving with the times?