Day 259: Guy Fawkes – with Variations

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…