Day 126: William Adopts an Orphan

The facts

“Have you got a little boy?”
“Yes,” said William’s mother.
“Then you know how they twine themselves round your heart?”
“Y… yes,” said William’s mother rather doubtfully.
“Is your little boy in bed now?”
“Yes,” said William’s mother, whose listening ear had noted the cessation of bangs and bumps from William’s bedroom that meant that he was at rest. “Will he be asleep now?”
“I expect so.”
“Do you go and gaze upon him when he’s asleep?”
“Not generally.”

  • Number: 11.6
  • Published: 1930 (1929 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bad
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws find a jolly fine orphan.


When a lecturer visiting the Outlaws’ school, to whom they are reluctantly forced to listen by the eagle eye of a teacher, makes a passionate appeal for the boys to support a local orphanage, William is galvanised into action.

Determined to do his “sociable juty”, he unfortunately misunderstands the lecturer’s plea for families to “adopt an orphan” (in the sense of sponsoring one who would continue to reside in the orphanage) with a plea for his family to “adopt a norphan” (in the sense of bring one to live with them). “He said it in lecturing sort of langwidge, but that was what it meant.”

Douglas therefore drew up a notice whose final form was: “Wanted an orfun/ awfun/ orfon/ awfon.”
“I bet he won’t think much of us not knowin’ how to spell it,” Ginger said doubtfully.
Douglas returned and wrote slowly and carefully at the foot of the notice: “we gnow whitch is wright.”

When this proposal is firmly rejected by Mrs Brown, he first comes up with the altruistic plan to adopt an orphan himself and hide “it” under his bed; this then morphs into a second, less altruistic plan: “I say! I know what I’m goin’ to do. I’m goin’ to
try’n’ get one that looks like me an’ let him go to school ‘stead of me an’ I’ll stay away” (“Yes, an’ then when you grow up an’ they find you don’t know anythin’ they’ll put you in prison,” is Henry’s reaction).

But when they actually manage to find an orphan (“a jolly fine orphan”, no less), things go slightly pear-shaped…