“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.”
“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.
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”.
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…
“What were they like?”
“Filthy ragged little urchins. I took it for granted that they were children from the East End of London who’d come out into the country for the fruit picking… And yet – it’s odd,” she added thoughtfully.
“What’s odd?” snapped Mrs Bott.
“There are two boys here who are extraordinarily like them. They can’t be the same ones, of course, because these are quite well-dressed and clean, but-they are extraordinarily like those two little urchins.”
“Show me them boys,” said Mrs Bott between her teeth.
But William and Ginger had not waited for the end of the conversation.
William and Ginger are going to pick gooseberries to help the war effort as part of a school group, but they miss the train and have to make their own way to the (unknown) gooseberry farm.
“Did you enjoy the day?” asked Mrs Brown.
“Yes, thanks,” said William, deciding that it would serve no useful purpose to describe the various complications the day had offered.
Inevitably they go to the wrong farm and abstract the wrong gooseberries – and Mrs Bott is not happy.
Sadly the story itself is a bit overlong and thematically rather similar to the immediate previous story, Feasts for Heroes, 25.11 (in the sense of ‘boys try to do a wartime favour but end up doing it in the wrong location’) and William’s Invention, 14.9 (in the sense of ‘boys do something outrageous to Mrs Bott but serendipitously help her out and so get away with it’).
“I’m goin’ to see if anyone’s in,” said William. “I’m goin’ to knock at the door.”
“What’ll you do if someone comes?”
“I’ll ask if Mr Jones lives there,” said William promptly. “I always do that if I want to find out if anyone’s in a house.”
“S’pose Mr Jones does live there?”
“He never has yet.”
- Number: 25.11
- Published: 1945 (1944 in magazine form)
- Book: William and the Brains Trust
- Synopsis: The Outlaws try to organise a celebratory tea for a decorated war hero.
Henry meets a girl whose father has gone up to London to be decorated by the King for his military achievements, only to come back to a larder empty due to the ration. Considering this to be “jolly hard lines”, and considering it to be his patriotic duty to improve on the situation, Henry enlists the Outlaws’ help.
“It’s not stealin’,” said William. “It’s takin’ it from people what don’t need it an’ oughtn’t to have it to give it to people what do need it an’ ought to have it. It’s what Robin Hood did an’ no one ever thinks it was wrong of him. There’s plays an’ poems wrote about him.”
“Well, I bet if anyone catches us they won’t write plays an’ poems about us,” said Henry.
They patriotically obtain eatables, table decorations and other essentials from various houses around the district – from one in particular, which had a sumptuous tea set out until the Outlaws relocated it.
Unfortunately, the only flaw in Henry’s plan is that he mis-heard the name of the house of the gallant officer…