Day 86: William and the White Elephants

The facts

“I’m having a White Elephant stall,” said Mrs Brown.
“And where you goin’ to gettem?” William said with interest.
“Oh, people will give them,” said Mrs Brown vaguely.
Crumbs!” said William, impressed.
“You must be very careful with them, William,” said his father gravely, “they’re delicate animals and must be given only the very best buns.”

  • Number: 7.5
  • Published: 1927 (1926 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Outlaw
  • Synopsis: Helping out at a fête, William (astonishingly) takes things a little too far.


William, having agreed to assist his mother at the Conservative Fête (‘Why?’ we ask ourselves), feels very let-down when he learns the true nature of a white elephant stall.

“Never seen white ’uns before,” said Henry.
“Haven’t you,” said William airily, “they’re… they’re the same as black ’uns ’cept that they’re white. They come from the cold places, same as polar bears.”

When he accidentally sells the Vicar’s wife’s coat, he chases after the woman who bought it, knocks on her front door and announces to the maid, “’Scuse me, but a lady’s just come into this house wearin’ a white elephant.”

Boxes on ears follow, but eventually William persuades the garment’s new owner (an entertaining who Mrs Brown considers vulgar) that she has been summoned to serenade the fête, and proceeds to engage in a series of artless attempts to part her from her purchase (“You sort of look as if you’d sing better without a coat”).

Miss Poll’s routine, in front of the assembled Conservatives, does seem slightly affectedly vulgar, but an amusing twist at the end makes up for it.