bonfire night

The facts

“We’re goin’ to have a jolly good bonfire,” said Frankie. “My mother’s given us a whole cupboard that’s got worm in an’ all the bits of the old fence that’s got dry rot.”
“We never have any luck with worm or dry rot,” said William wistfully. “I once tried puttin’ a worm into one of our chairs ’cause I thought they’d give it me for the bonfire if it’d got worm in it, but I mus’ have put in the wrong sort of worm ’cause I only got into a row an’ the worm got out of the chair.”


William’s friend Frankie Parsons has a little girl staying with him. Serena is horrified at the idea of the Parsons’ Guy [Fawkes] being burnt, because “he’s got such a nice face and I know he wouldn’t try to blow up the House of Commons”. So she hides it in a suitcase in William’s box room.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Ginger. “Jus’ look at your coat, William. It’s covered with green stuff.”
“So’s yours,” said William. “It’s only that green mud that grows on trees. I ‘spect it’ll brush off all right.”
“Well, I’ll go home and have a bash at it,” said Ginger.
“G’bye,” said William. “I’ll go an’ have a bash at mine, too.”
He darted to the foot of the stairs, but Mrs Brown laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“What on earth have you got on your coat, William?” she said.
“Tree stuff,” said Wiiliam, giving an ineffectual wriggle. “Stuff off trees. There’s nothing’ wrong with it. It’s part of nature.”

William, with his sense of fair play and sportsmanship, sets out to return it – but a little too late, because Archie has just collected the suitcase, which he was expecting to contain items for sale at a bring-and-buy.

A huge chase across the countryside follows, until the Guy encounters a ventriloquist…

 The facts

“Gosh! didn’t he carry on!” said William, “Sayin’ I wasn’t fit to be a member of a civ’lised community! Well, I jolly well don’t want to be a member of one. I’m jolly well sick of civ’lised communities. I’m jolly well sick of tryin’ to help civ’lisation an’ the yuman race. All I get for it is my bow an’ arrow took off me an’ no fireworks. That shows civ’lisation’s all wrong an’ l’m jus’ about fed up with it. I’m jolly well goin’ back to the days before there was any civ’lisation. I bet we’d all be a jolly sight better off if we all went back to bein’ savages same as those ole Markie was tellin’ us about that lived in trees.’
“Tree-dwellers,” said Ginger.
“Yes, them… Well, I’m jolly well goin’ back to bein’ one. I’d sooner live in a tree than a house any day.”


A new neighbour, Mr Redditch, is making Mr Brown’s life hell both at home and away from it (he is a fellow member of the local golf club and a fellow commuter to London). This makes Mr Brown extremely irritable, and in a particularly sore moment he bans William from marking Bonfire Night.

“You see,” the man from the Insurance Company explained to William, “this chap staged a burglary because he wanted to get the insurance money. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” said William, adding zestfully – for William liked his drama laid on thick – “He’s prob’ly the head of a gang of international crim’nals. Prob’ly Scotland Yard have been huntin’ for him for years. He’s prob’ly a smuggler as well. An’ a spy. He’s prob’ly foiled the best brains in the Secret Service.”

It’s while he and Ginger are occupying a tree in Mr Redditch’s garden while he’s (supposedly) away on holiday that they witness Mr Redditch sneaking around and behaving rather oddly.

They don’t immediately twig [yes I did have to make that pun] how odd it is, but in their entirely altruistic attempt to help him, they do manage to let his insurance company know; and his insurance company is very grateful.

The facts

“It seems wrong to a great man like Guy Fawkes,” said Douglas in a tone of righteous indignation, “lettin’ people forget him jus’ ’cause of the war.”
“He wasn’t a great man,” Henry reminded him. “He tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.”
“Well, that’s where the Gov’nment lives, isn’t it?” said Douglas, “an’ to hear my father talk when his Income Tax comes in you’d think it was a good thing if someone did blow it up.”

  • Number: 24.6
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to organise a wartime-suitable alternative 5 November.


The war means that Bonfire Night cannot take place with its usual festivities. But the Outlaws are undeterred and decide to go ahead with a firework-free re-enactment instead. They even deign to include a girl:

“Hello, Joan,” said William. “We’re havin’ Guy Fawkes’ day to-morrow without a bonfire. Would you like to be in it? You can’t be Guy Fawkes,” hastily, “because I’m him.”
“Nor the Gov’nment nor executioner,” said Ginger, “’cause I’m them.”
“Nor the p’liceman,’ said Douglas, “’cause I’m him.”
“Nor the judge,” said Henry.
“Can I be his mother?” said Joan.
“He didn’t have a mother,” said William.
“He must have done,” put in Henry.
“Well, I mean she didn’t come into it,” explained William. “She didn’t blow anything up.”
Joan considered. “Did he have a wife? Did she do anything?”
The Outlaws looked nonplussed. “Someone in history had a wife,” volunteered Ginger.

“What’ll we do to get rid of the Gov’nment?” said Ginger, and added “Gadzooks!” with an air of conscious erudition.
“Nay, marry anon gadzooks!” said William, rather overdoing it. “We might miss it. Then we’d all get shot. I tell thee what! Let’s blow it up.”
“Hearken unto me,” began Joan.
“That’s too Bible,” interrupted Henry. “He’s not out of the Bible, Guy Fawkes. He’s out of history.”

They are particularly keen to make the most of Joan because she is facing the prospect of being whisked off to a boarding school in Scotland run by a relative of her mother’s (kind of the feminine equivalent of Finding a School for William, 7.5).

As it happens, the relative has a nice little chat with Joan, at the very moment that Joan – in the character of Mrs Fawkes – had swapped clothes with her husband to allow him to escape prison. And the relative finds ‘Joan’ to be not the right sort of girl at all…