The headmaster’s nephew had a beautiful conscience. It was his beautiful conscience that annoyed the Outlaws most. His beautiful conscience was always making him tell his uncle anything that he thought his uncle ought to know. And the things which he thought his uncle ought to know were just the things which the Outlaws thought his uncle ought not to know. For instance, Bertie thought that his uncle ought to know that the Outlaws were keeping white mice in their desks, while the Outlaws on the other hand did not consider it at all necessary for his uncle to know this.
- Number: 7.10
- Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form, originally titled A New Page in History)
- Book: William the Outlaw
- Synopsis: William is determined to secure a place in the village paegant at the expense of the headmaster’s nephew.
Although all the individual stories are very good, taken individually, this book is bizarrely repetitive. We have another story which hinges on historical costumes, and another story which features the Outlaws desperate to get one up on an insufferably virtuous child.
In this story, the village is holding a paegant in which Mrs Bertram was to play Queen Elizabeth – and she selected little Bertie, the Outlaws’ nemesis, to play her page. The Vicar’s wife insisted on a strict ban on any other children taking part, and the scene in which the women of the village ruminate on how terrified they are of William is fairly entertaining.
The Vicar’s wife cleared her throat and spoke mysteriously. “One or two occasions in this village have been spoilt… wrecked by the presence of certain children.”
“The children of this village,” said Mrs Franks still with something of the Vicar’s wife’s mysteriousness in her tone, “seem, I don’t know why, to bring bad luck to anything they take part in.”
Someone seemed to murmur the two words “William Brown” in the background and then they all changed the subject.
William rashly promises in front of the whole school (most of whom detest Bertie as much as him) to take his place as page. This is, of course, due entirely to jealousy and not at all to any real desire on William’s part to participate: “Had William been asked to be a page in the pageant in the first instance his indignation and scorn would have known no bounds. But the fact that children were expressly excluded had filled him with as great an indignation as the enforced inclusion of him in any capacity would have caused him.”
Things come perilously close to the wire, but in the end, of course, William succeeds, thanks to Bertie’s credulous belief in hypnotism.
Quote that may be of interest to Operation Yewtree: “The Outlaws cherished a deep respect for the headmaster’s right arm. They had come into pretty frequent contact with it, they were good judges of its strength and they knew that it was not to be unduly provoked.”