Day 222: William and the Ebony Hairbrush

 The facts

“What’s eb’ny?” said Ginger.
“It’s a sort of black wood,” said William.
“There isn’t such a thing as black wood,” objected Ginger. “Wood’s brown, same as dining-room tables, or white, same as kitchen tables. There isn’t any ‘other sort.”
“Yes, there is,” said William. “There’s eb’ny.”
“I ’spect it’s brown wood painted over black,” said Douglas.
“No, it’s not,” said William. “It’s black wood. It’s eb’ny.”
“It can’t be. Who’s ever heard of an eb’ny tree?” said Ginger. “I bet you heard wrong. I bet it was em’rald or somethin’like that.” “’Course it couldn’t be. Em’rald’s green.”
“I bet it’s em’rald painted over black, then.”

  • Number: 20.6
  • Published: 1938 (1937 in magazine form) – originally titled William Helps the Police
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: William commits a crime, covers up a crime, and fights a crime.


When Robert’s girlfriend gives him an ebony hairbrush for his birthday (identical to her own father’s one, of which Robert is an admirer), William is staggered to find that the Outlaws refuse to believe in the idea of black wood.

So, obviously, he has to ‘borrow’ it to show the Outlaws that ebony is real.

William· always found a journey along a straight road rather dull, and had to introduce some diversion in order to enliven it. The diversion he introduced on this occasion was that of balancing the hairbrush on his head.

Unfortunately, on his way to return it he slips and the hairbrush (which was balanced on his head at the time) falls into a puddle.

Luckily he knows where he can find an identical one to swap it with, and it is while he is procuring Mr Barron’s ebony hairbrush that he witnesses the Barrons’ house being burgled.

But when the police arrive, they dust the scene for fingerprints and all they find are a set of Robert’s, on the hairbrush…