Day 20: The May King

The facts

“We’re goin’ to have a May Queen,” remarked William to his family at dinner, “an’ I’m goin’ to be a swain.”
His interest died down considerably when he discovered the meaning of the word swain.
“Isn’t it no sort of animal at all?” he asked indignantly.

  • Number: 2.8
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William is determined that, if forced to act in a May Day ceremony, he will have the starring role.


William sets foot in the world of electoral corruption in this story (slightly) when his class at school* votes for which girl should be their May Queen in the May Day celebrations.

Evangeline Fish was keen to be elected.

“I’m not good at holdin’ trains,” said William. “I don’t like holdin’ trains. I’ve never bin taught ’bout holdin’ trains. I might do it wrong on the day an’ spoil it all. I shan’t like to spoil it all,” he added virtuously.

“I’ll give you two bull’s eyes if you’ll vote for me,” she said to William.
Two!” said William with scorn.
“Six,” she bargained.
“All right,” he said, “you can give me six bull’s eyes if you want. There’s nothing to stop you givin’ me six bull’s eyes if you want, is there? Not that I know of.”
“But you’ll have to promise to put down my name on the paper if I give you six bull’s eyes,” she said suspiciously.
“All right,” said William. “I can easy promise that.”
Whereupon she handed over the six bull’s eyes. William returned one as being under regulation size, and waited frowning till she replaced it by a larger one.
“Now, you’ve promised,” said Evangeline Fish. “They’ll make you ill an’ die if you break your promise on them.”
William kept his promise with true political address. He wrote “E Fish – I don’t think!” on his voting paper.

Of course, William’s participation in the May Queen was involuntary and involved his involuntarily being dressed in smart clothes and made to – in his view – debase himself in front of a large audience.

But then he takes a shine to Bettine, another girl in his class, and decides that he and she should be May King and Queen. And he’s determined to make it happen…

*interestingly, William’s school seems to vary between being mixed and being single-sex…