Day 143: William and the Young Man

The facts

“’Scuse me, but what do you want to go to Maple Court for?” asked William.
“I’m giving a lecture there,” said the Scotland Yard man.
Jolly clever thing to say, of course, but they probably had special lessons at Scotland Yard in thinking of things to say like that.

  • Number: 13.3
  • Published: 1931 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William Stays to Tea
  • Book: William’s Crowded Hours
  • Synopsis: William is enthralled by a young man’s tales of his life as an international criminal.

Verdict

Anthony is a young university student staying with his aunt in the holidays. He takes a shine to William, partly due to William’s own merits and partly in order to spite his holier-than-thou aunt.

Unfortunately, William completely believes all Anthony’s stories about being a famous international criminal, and, despite William’s pretence at being “a Scotland Yard man”, when somebody who he supposes to be a real Scotland Yard man arrives on the scene, his loyalty to his new friend overcomes his ‘professional’ duties and he does his best to get rid of the police officer.

The young man had told William that, in common with many other famous criminals, he was called Alias.

Of course, the Scotland Yard man is in fact a lecturer in English literature giving a talk to the local literary society, so when William gleefully diverts him to the Temperance Society in a neighbouring town, his lecture on The Drinking Songs of Britain does not go down terribly well.

Although William is roundly punished for his role in the affair, he does gain a valuable life lesson about trust:

William looked from the Vicar to the young man and a horrible certainty together with a horrible doubt entered his head. The horrible certainty was a certainty that the sleuth was not a sleuth, and the horrible doubt was a doubt whether the young man was really a criminal.

…plus ten shillings from Anthony and the suggestion that they go into crime together for real when William finishes school.

And the lecturer gets an entertaining story he can tell for the rest of his life.