Day 278: William the Bold

 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.”
“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”.

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…