“What’s the matter?” William said gruffly.
She raised blue, tear-filled eyes. “My daddy’s out of work,” she said.
“What d’you mean?” said Douglas, “d’you mean he’s got nothin’ to do?”
“Yes,” said the little girl, “nobody’ll give ’im any work to do, an’ he’s got to stop at home all day.”
“Coo!” said Ginger feelingly, “I wish I was him.”
- Number: 7.8
- Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William the Outlaw
- Synopsis: The Outlaws attempt to find work for an unemployed man.
This is literally the third story in a row in this book to rely, for its denouement, on the coincidental availability of a very specific costume: a Tudor dress in 7.6, a Communist commander in 7.7, and now a set of “Charles the First clothes”. So the allure of the ploy is beginning to pall.
This story sees the Outlaws on a quest to procure employment for a local unemployed man to whose daughter they have taken a shine. They have various plans. William wants to see him hired as “a motor-car driver” (“shuvver”, Ginger corrects him) or “a sort of man what looks after people’s clothes” (“valley”, Ginger corrects him).
Henry suggests that they try to find a vacancy as a doctor, lawyer or clergyman, but is firmly rebuffed by William’s observation: “Those are special sorts of people. They start turnin’ into those before they leave school.”
“When are we goin’ to have a car?” William demanded innocently.
“Not while I’m alive,” answered his father.
William considered this in silence for some minutes, then asked: “How soon after you’re dead?”
His father glared at him and William cautiously withdrew into silence.
Douglas thinks their client would make a good male nurse for a lunatic… and he even knows where to find a lunatic: “I acted like I was goin’ queer in my head. But I couldn’t sort of seem to make ’em understand I was actin’ queer in the head. They seemed to think I was actin’ ordin’ry.”
William, though, finally comes up with the goods (almost): “bein’ drawed”. He’s been sketched by a local artist who has been commissioned to illustrate a short story about a young boy ruffian (“Fancy writing a story about a boy,” he exclaims with no sense of irony), and the artist agrees to pay the unemployed man to model for him – on condition that the unemployed man wears Civil War-era clothing.
Fortunately, Robert has just such an outfit, for a party to which he is hoping to escort the artist’s daughter. William’s complicated plan goes wrong, but a twist at the end means that the consequences aren’t quite so disastrous as they might have been…