Day 147: The Outlaws and the Missionary

The facts

William was the only one of them who had any money. “I’d saved it for a new pistol,” he explained, “an’” (putting the fourpence very firmly back into his pocket) “an’ this fourpence is for the pistol when it comes, not for any ole savages. I’d ‘ve spent it las’ Saturday if he’d had a pistol in the shop, so I count it as spent ’cause it’s only waitin’ till the pistols come in.”

  • Number: 13.7
  • Published: 1931 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Missionary
  • Book: William’s Crowded Hours
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to raise money for “ole savages”.


As with The Outlaws Deliver the Goods, 10.6, here the Outlaws try to raise money for a cause not because they consider it worthy but because honour demands that they raise more than their competitors.

The bottles of ginger beer had all gone in less than an hour. But then a crowd of enraged customers ran them to earth, demanding their money back. It appeared that all the bottles had exploded either on the way home or as soon as they reached home. One customer had been hit in the eye by the cork. Another had had her coat ruined. The father of another had been caught by a piece of flying glass. The baby brother of another had been drenched in ginger beer. One cork had smashed an electric light bulb, another a valuable vase. The customers brought indignant parents in their train – the parents whose vases and bulbs had been broken and whose babies had been drenched in ginger beer.
When they had gone, the Outlaws sat and looked at each other blankly. “Well,” said William bitterly, “talk about savages!”

This time, the cause is not an extension to their school but missionaries to minister to “ole savages”. And the Outlaws’ chosen method is not the sale of lemonade, but the sale of their hair (Henry having overheard his aunt talking about the plot of Little Women the week before).

But when this simply results in them being humiliated by Mr Theobald the barber, who finds the whole situation riotously amusing – and after making a slight vengeful amendment to the sign outside his shop reading THEOBALD HAIRDRESSER – they decide to manufacture and sell ginger beer.

This goes disastrously wrong, but they do convince Douglas’ to buy their entire stock because, although she detests both boys and ginger beer, she is “keen on missionaries an’ savages an’ things”. They deposit the unwanted mixture in her back garden (“a muffled report from the greenhouse, followed by the sound of breaking glass, reached them as they shut the gate”) and proudly count out their seven shillings and sixpence.

It’s just unfortunate that William decides he can increase this sum with just a quick visit to a slot machine in a visiting fair.

Somehow they stay cheerful, though, so this one can count as William comes out on top.