acting out history

 The facts

“That’s what we’ll do, then,” said William in the tone of one who has solved a problem to the entire satisfaction of everyone concerned. “We’ll take treasures off foreigners an’ bring ’em back for the country.”
“How’ll we give ’em to the country when we’ve got ’em?” said Ginger. “It’s a long way to Parliament an’ we don’t even know its address.”
Frowning, William considered this objection, then the frown cleared from his face.
“I bet the Mayor of Hadley’d do,” he said. “He can take ’em up to London with him nex’ time he goes. He’s called Kirkham an’ I know where he lives. He’s jolly nice. He once bought me an ice-cream.”

  • Number: 29.6
  • Published: 1954 (1953 in magazine form) – originally titled William Goes Patriotic
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws are seized with Coronation fervour.

Verdict

In the aftermath of the Coronation, the Outlaws are determined to do their bit to help the country, in the spirit of the Elizabethans of days of old.

Strangely, William is under the impression that if he performs this task well enough he’ll become ruler of “Elizabetha”, but in any event the Outlaws all set to it with a will. And come across unexpected success…

The story itself is fairly uninteresting, though.

 The facts

“Queen Elizabeth wasn’t very int’restin’,” said William. “She didn’t do anythin’ but go trampin’ about in puddles over people’s coats. Gosh! I bet they got into rows when they got home.”
“She beat the Armada,” said Henry.
“No, she didn’t,” said William. “Nelson did that.”
“Drake.”
“Well, Drake, then. But she didn’t. I ’spect she jus’ swanked about in an ATS uniform, same as Ethel did in our war, but she didn’t do any fightin’. I don’t want to write a play about a woman, anyway. I don’t like women an’ I don’t see why I should write plays about them.”

  • Number: 27.2
  • Published: 1950 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William the Rebel Leader
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to kidnap the Chief Constable.

Verdict

William decides to write a historical play about Perkin Warbeck; since the only information William has about Perkin Warbeck is (via Henry) that he was “a rebel”, William outlines the play thus: “All right, I’ll write a play about him an’ I’ll be him an’ the rest of you can be policemen.” Then he sets about writing it on a piece of paper “so grubby that it could only be called ‘blank’ by courtesy”.

It reads:

seen one pallis king seeted enter perkin warbeck disgized as george washington.
king. hello george washington cum in I’ll ask my mother if thou can stay to tea theres creem buns and sum jelly left over from sundy.
…”You see , he doesn’t know he’s a rebel,” explained William in parenthesis. “He thinks he’s jus’ an ordin’ry visitor.”
george washington (throing off disgize). I am not george washington thou villun I am perkin warbeck and I have cum to waid in thy blud.
exit king run after by perkin warbeck with ax.
Seen two a corpse enter rebbles.
Rebbles. Theres a pretty shady corpse over yonder lets sit on it.
…”What do they want to sit on a dead body for?” said Henry.
…”I can’t help you bein’ so ign’rantthat you don’t know that ‘corpse’ means ‘wood’ in plays an’ po’try” said William crushingly. “If I’ve got to write plays for people that don’t know any English, I might as well stop writin’ them altogether.”

William took up his stand on a packing-case in the old barn, and the audience drifted slowly in. There was generally an audience when the word had gone round that William was going to make a speech.

But writing about rebellions soon begins to pall when the boys realise how much more exciting it would be to organise one of their own. To this end, they decide to demand from the adult world the restoration of the privileges that have been so cruelly wrested from boykind (“goin’ down underneath the earth messin’ about with coal an’ goin’ up chimneys”).

Their method is to kidnap the Chief Constable, a chess opponent of Henry’s father, which somewhat echoes William Spoils the Party, 5.11. But the Chief Constable isn’t at all displeased to have an opportunity to inspect the contents of the garage in which he finds himself locked…

 The facts

“I once got eight out of ten for hist’ry. At least,” added Ginger, with a burst of honesty, “it looked like eight.”
“It turned out to be three,” Douglas reminded him.
“I once had to write out the date of the battle of Waterloo a hundred times,” said William, “so I ought to know a bit of hist’ry.”
“What was the date of the battle of Waterloo?” Henry challenged him.
William hesitated.

  • Number: 27.1
  • Published: 1950 (1949 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bold
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws need to borrow some ‘hist’ry clothes’.

Verdict

About time Violet Elizabeth got her name into the title of a story!

This story also marks the appearance of Archie Mannister. He was technically first seen in William and the Twins, 12.10, as a kooky paranormalist painter sharing Honeysuckle Cottage with his kooky twin sister, but from this point on a slightly different version of him becomes a recurring character, admirer of Ethel and victim of William’s generosity.

“We’ll come into your studio an’ sit down a bit if you like, Archie,” said William, realising that, in Archie’s present mood, it devolved upon him , William, to play the parts of both host and guest.

This time, the Outlaws need to work their way into his good books so that he will lend them his “hist’ry clothes” for a play they’re putting on, and they conclude that the best way to do this is for them to find a tramp to model for a painting he’s working on; meanwhile, Violet Elizabeth decides to help out by ‘cleaning’ Archie’s kitchen. When a rich aunt comes to visit events take an interesting turn…