acting out history

The facts

“It’s not jus’ an ordin’ry Western,” said William. “It’s bloodcurdlin’ an’ nerve-shatterin’. It says so outside the cinema.”
“William, it sounds horrible,” said Mrs Brown with a shudder.
“But that’s what it’s meant to be,” said William in exasperation. “Victor Jameson’s seen it in London an’ he says it’s fab. It curdled his blood an’ shattered his nerves.”

Verdict

This is a really excellent story: William is desperate to see the latest, highly popular, Western at the local cinema, but a visit from his Aunt Felicia is in the way.

“It’s a prior engagement, William,” said Mrs Brown.
“I don’t care what it is,” said William. “I think it’s jus’ tyrrany.”

William turned to another of his favourite day-dreams. Suddenly (by what means he never could determine) he leapt to the loftiest pinnacle of fame, acclaimed and honoured by the highest in the land. His parents stood humbly in awe of him, but he was gracious and affable. He forgave them for their harsh treatment. “It’s all right,” he said when they apologised abjectly for not allowing him to see ‘The Masked Ranger’. “Don’t give it another thought. It was a little hard on me but don’t worry about it. any more.” He threw out his arms in an expansive gesture. “I’ll take you both to a party at Buckingham Palace tomorrow an’ I’ll take you for a voyage round the world nex’ summer holidays.”

So bitter is he that, on hearing from Henry about the Piltdown Man hoax, the Outlaws decide, out of sheer malice, to prank a local historian. Miss Radbury specialises in documentary research, so William resolves to create some fake historical letters to fool her.

“How could you forge old letters?” said Ginger.
“Write letters with bits of hist’ry in ’em an’ put old dates at the top, like January the third 1500 or somethin’ like that.”

They are just pondering the question of how to make the paper look old, when their friend Miss Thompson is about to throw away a load of old letters from her family’s recent past. They intercept them – but, of course, need to make some adjustments…

“Tell you what!” The light of an Idea gleamed in William’s face “If there isn’t any hist’ry in ’em let’s put a bit of hist’ry in ’em.”
He opened an envelope, took out the letter and scrawled across the bottom of the last sheet: “P.S. Someone told me ithere’s a battle going on at Trafalgar. I wonder whose going to win. Nelson’s got a wound in bis eye and can’t see signals.”
They set to work with energy.
An account of a Church Bazaar ended with the words: “P.S. Christopher Colombus has jus’ set off to discover America. I hope he gets there all right.”
An account of a local fair ended with the words: “P.S. I saw in the paper this morning that Charles the First has been executed. We’ll have to wait till 1660 for the Restoration.”
Henry, whose energies were chiefly taken up in supervising the spelling of the other three, tried to confine his historical references within certain roughly defined limits. “The Black Hole of Calcutta took place yesterday and tomorrow the six hundred are going to ride into the Valley of Death.”
William’s references spanned the whole field of history with wild abandon. “Henry VIII got married to the third of his six wives this morning.” … “I went to Lendon in a horse-coach last week. It took hours and hours. I shall be jolly glad when someone  invents railways.” … “I was helping to put out the· fire of London all yesterday. I feel rotten this morning. I think I must have caught the plague.”
Douglas confined himself to the only historical film he had seen: “Someone told me this morning that Richard the Third was thinking of getting the princes murdered in the Tower if he could find a good murderer. He’s swopped his kingdom for a horse and got into a muddle.”
Ginger who had recently read a book called ‘Scenes from English History’, gave a brief account of his experiences in the Crusades (which included the Battle of Agincourt).

As it turns out though, Miss Radbury is delighted with the letters… because one of them has a Penny Black on it!

Oh – and William rather takes to Aunt Felicia after all.

The facts

An apple core, thrown by William and aimed at the drain-pipe, sailed through the open kitchen window to land in the middle of a half-made shepherd’s pie.
“It was a jolly good shot, axshully,” said William. “Right in the middle of that pie.”
“But you weren’t aiming at the pie,” said Henry.
William knit his brows. “I’m not sure I wasn’t,” he said.
“You said the drain-pipe.”
“I might have changed my mind.”

Verdict

Having read a book about daring wartime escapes, the Outlaws come up with a plan: Henry and Douglas will lock William and Ginger into a (supposedly) vacant house, and the latter two will “do a war escape out of it”.

William and Ginger surrounded their ‘prison’ with critical interest.
“I bet I could do somethin’ with those stag horns,” said William. “If I could find a fur rug I might go out disguised as a stag.”

After William liberally helps himself to some snacks he finds lying around his new surroundings, Ginger reminds him, “We’re s’posed to be gettin’ out of this house, not settlin’ down in it.”

And their escape attempt commences.

William tapped the wood and listened thoughtfully. “Sounds to me like one of those secret rooms where clergymen used to hide up in the olden days.”
“When did they?” said Ginger.
“Bronze Age or Stone Age or some time,” said William vaguely.

But thereafter things proceed along much the same lines as William Goes for a Nice Little Walk, 30.2.

 The facts

“I was thinkin’ it’s time they came back. Civil wars, I mean. Can’t think why they stopped havin’ them. They’re much better than all these abroad wars. Cheaper, too, ’cause you’ve not got to waste money on tickets goin’ out abroad to ’em, an’ you could come home to dinner when you wanted to. Why, it’d save money, havin’ a civil war. An’ there wouldn’t be all this messin’ about with foreign langwidges. Everyone’d understand what everyone else said. There’s no sense in foreign langwidges, anyway. They had civil wars in hist’ry an’ it’s a pity they ever stopped.”

Verdict

Excited by a history lesson about the War of the Roses, William affixes the following sign to the Old Barn:

a sivil war will brake out this afternun at three oklock
fre to ennyone bring weppons.
cined William Brown.

William did not notice an old gentleman in formal morning suit coming down the path till a hand descended on his shoulder and a voice said, “What are you doing there, my boy?”
William looked up at his captor then bared his teeth in an ingratiating smile. “Me no spick English,” he said.

By good fortune, the Hall has been let for the summer to the Young Conservatives so a ready-made target for the civil war is available.

Discovered creeping about the grounds of the Hall, William pretends to be a miscellaneous foreigner, but to no avail…