acting out history

The facts

William’s bugle had just returned to public life after one of its periodic terms of retirement into his father’s keeping.

  • Number: 2.4
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William appoints himself Knight and Ginger his Squire, and searches for a damsel in distress.

Verdict

One of the shortest William stories, at just over 2,000 words, but following the classic and well-worn formula of William’s attempted good deed.

This time, his teacher reveals to him the concept of the Knight and the Squire roaming round the countryside doing good deeds, and the boys naturally decide to revive the tradition.

“You ought to have brought sumthin’,” said William severely. “You’re the squire. You’re not much of a squire not to have brought sumthin’ for me to eat.”
“An’ me,” put in Ginger. “If I’d brought any I’d have brought it for me more’n for you.”

They pass an open window and hear, emanating from within, the threatening words: “And how long will you keep me in this vile prison? Base wretch that you are!”

The fact that people don’t talk like this, even in fictionalised 1920s villages, didn’t occur to them, so William takes the first opportunity to lock the ‘base wretch’ into a coal-cellar.

It really messes up the play rehearsal.

I’m beginning to notice something of a William version of The Seven Basic Plots emerging, something I might try to classify at some point – but somehow the predictability of the principles of many of Richmal Cromopton’s endings (‘Obviously they’re doing amateur dramatics’) somehow doesn’t impair (i) the suspense of finding out the exact details of William’s inevitable cock-up, and (ii) how enjoyable the stories still are.