Day 82: William the Outlaw

The facts

“I’ve a good mind to be a Member of Parliament when I grow up,” threatened Douglas, “jus’ to make all schools have a holiday in the afternoons.”
“The rotten thing about it is,” said William, “that by the time we’re in Parliament makin’ the laws we’ll be makin’ it for other people an’ too late to do us any good.”
“An’ it seems hardly worth botherin’ to get into Parliament jus’ to do things for other people,” said Ginger.

  • Number: 7.1
  • Published: 1927 (same year in magazine form, originally titled No More School)
  • Book: the eponymous William the Outlaw
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws play truant and decide to leave home and live off the land.

Verdict

It was really difficult selecting the quotes to use for this story. The conversation between the Outlaws about the merits (or lack thereof) of afternoon school (“An’ mornin’ school”, as Henry observes) is full of gems.

They gazed from the school building (grim and dark and uninviting) to the sunny hills and woods and fields that surrounded it. At last William spoke.
“Seems ridic’lous to go in,” he said slowly.
And Ginger said, still with his air of unctuous virtue, “Seems sort of wrong to go when we reely don’t believe that we oughter go. They’re always tellin’ us not to do things our conscience tells us not to do. Well, my conscience tells me not to go to school this afternoon. My conscience tells me that it’s my juty to go out into the fresh air gettin’ healthy.”

Eventually they decide to set up a new life as true outlaws, living wild on Ringer’s Hill.

But, unsurprisingly, they soon begin to regret their choice. The steps they take to disguise their location backfire, and they end up receiving a lecture on the area’s volcanic history from an eminent professor: “It was like a nightmare. It was far worse than Geometry.”

From that point on, though, the story begins to follow, more or less, the lines of William Leads a Better Life, 6.4. The boys can’t light a fire, can’t find food, get cold and wet and decide that home comforts, even at the expense of having to attend afternoon school, may be worthwhile after all. No doubt true, but a little disheartening and perhaps obvious.

Geek note: William declares himself to be “11 and nearly three-quarters”. So now we have a more precise age for him, throughout all the decades of stories, than just ’11’.