Day 356: William and the Good Old Days

The facts

William, Ginger and Henry had not intended to join the meeting. They had come to the house in order to call for Douglas. But Douglas, it turned out, had not yet returned from an appointment with the dentist, so they decided to wait for him. Ginger and Henry would have loitered fidgeting in the doorway, but William, who liked to be in anything that was going on, had made his way at once to the front row.

  • Number: 38.2
  • Published: 1970
  • Book: William the Lawless
  • Synopsis: William tries to give a retired army officer a taste of how life used to be.


The Outlaws are compiling a Railway Museum. What they really want for this Railway Museum is a guard’s lamp. And Major Reading, a retired military gentleman, has one. They can’t afford to offer him any money for it, but they try to give him an experience that he’d like.

“Well, I got the trivial thoughts out of my mind all right,” said Douglas. “Then I started thinkin’ how I’d like to have the dentist in the chair an’ me have a go at him with that drill thing.”
“That’s not very upliftin’,” said William. “What did you think, Ginger?”
“Well, I got the trivial thoughts out of my mind, too,” said Ginger. “Then… well, I started thinkin’ about those two trees by the road an’ I thought if I climbed up one of them I could sort of swing myself from the middle branch of that one on to the middle branch of the other an’ climb down its trunk.”

So when they overhear him saying to someone in conversation, “I’d give almost anything to have an hour or two of the old days back,” they know their task.

“What’ll we do, then?” asked Ginger.
“Give him an hour of danger, discomfort, an’ challenge,” said William simply, “an’ he’ll get so ’zilarated with zest that he’ll give us the guard’s lantern.”
“He mightn’t, you know,” said Henry.
“It’s goin’ to be one of the biggest muddles we’ve ever got into in all our lives,” said Douglas.

It doesn’t entirely go to plan, but remarkably (and slightly implausibly) they do get their hands on a guard’s lamp!