Day 77: William the Philanthropist

The facts

“If you don’t shut up speakin’ without bein’ spoke to,” William said, “we’ll chuck you out.”
“If you do,” said Violet Elizabeth serenely, “I’ll thcream an’ thcream an’ thcream till I’m thick,” and added with pride, “I can!”

  • Number: 6.9
  • Published: 1926 (1925 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Conqueror
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws, plus one, take a lead from Robin Hood.


“Well anyway,” said William, “who asked you to come here?” He felt that this was unanswerable, but Violet Elizabeth answered it: “I athed mythelf,” she said with dignity.

This story is basically one in which Violet Elizabeth, rather than William, is the architect of the chaos.

“’Straordinary how some people in this world likeeto make a fuss over every single little thing!”

She persuades the Outlaws to rob from the rich and give to the poor, her contribution being a pearl necklace of her mother’s (“worth several thousand pounds”) which William promptly sells to the village shop for sixpence, which he donates to the poor in the form of the village drunkard (“He’th gone for a nithe drink of lemonade” said Violet Elizabeth).

The chaos comes in two waves: first, Lady Markham, an aristocrat visiting Mrs Bott, ends up, by one of those Williamesque twists of fate, buying and wearing the pearl necklace, and is thus suspected of its theft.

And the Outlaws, having departed somewhat from the Robin Hood model, bring Mr Bott a live grass snake which they offer to sell to him to use as an ingredient in that Bott’s Digestive Sauce which made him rich.

I feel a little much was made of the slightly over-implausible events of this one, but the scene in which the rural policeman could not bring himself to touch the suspected, yet powerful, Lady Markham has certain echoes of today.