Day 118: The Outlaws Fetch the Holly

The facts

“Pirates,” suggested Ginger.
“Robbers,” suggested Douglas.
“Smugglers,” suggested Henry.
William shook his head. “We’ve played them so often,” he said. “Let’s think of somethin’ quite diff’rent. I know!” His
freckled face lit up with inspiration. ”
I know… Arabs!
What?” said the Outlaws.
Arabs!” said William excitedly.
“Arab chiefs fightin’ each other in the desert with camels an’ things.”

  • Number: 10.8
  • Published: 1929 (1928 in magazine form, originally titled Fetching the Holly)
  • Book: William
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws procrastinate an errand for the Vicar’s wife.


The Vicar’s wife, who clearly has a total inability to learn from experience, arms the Outlaws with a treasured wheelbarrow and sends them out to collect holly with which she can decorate the Vicarage for Christmas.

The Outlaws instead decide to use the wheelbarrow as a camel in their game of Arabs.

“Mells’ Wood’s borin’,” objected Ginger. “No one minds you goin’ there. It isn’t even a trespass
“Crown Wood’s better,” suggested William.
Crown Wood had the allurement of (almost) impenetrable barbed wire barriers, frequent notice boards that warned trespassers of prosecution, and a ferocious keeper armed with a gun and a dog that, the Outlaws firmly believed, would rend them limb from limb if ever he caught them.

It so happens that the woods in which they are trespassing happen to be owned by a highly eccentric professor who, seeing William – blacked up and dressed in flowing robes – fall from the sky (drop out of a tree), naturally assumes him to be a visitor from Mars and welcomes him into his home.

William is happy to play the character of a visitor from Mars (“Flam gobba manxy pop gebboo”), at least until his father arrives looking for him. The professor introduces the Martian visitor to Mr Brown.

Astonishingly, William (just about) gets away with this. But he still has to face up to the Vicar’s wife and explain the absence of any holly…