Day 145: William and the Temporary History Master

The facts

With a howl of fury Mr. Renies flung himself upon William, but William was already half-way downstairs.
“I’m practisin’ bein’ Charles II fleein’ after the battle of Worcester,” he called over his shoulder as he ran.

  • Number: 13.5
  • Published: 1931 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William Gets His Own Back
  • Book: William’s Crowded Hours
  • Synopsis: William’s supply teacher makes the error of targetting William.


This is a very silly story all-round.

In The Cat and the Mouse, 5.12, William perpetrates an outrage in a supply teacher’s house. So in a sense there’s nothing new this time.

Except the whole concept of Mr Renies is ridiculous. His method of teaching history is to have boys act out its most notable scenes; and when he tires of this, he amuses himself by deliberately choosing inept and/ or inappropriate boys. William is the most inept and inappropriate boy in the class, so William becomes the butt of the most jokes. “Well, Brown, suppose you come out here and give us your idea of Charles the First before the House of Commons demanding the arrest of the five members.”

It isn’t until Mr Renies confiscates William’s watch that he really makes an enemy of him, though. And his real mistake is offering William an opening for revenge by saying (in a rather sinister, Operation Yewtree manner, really): “You must come round to my house some evening, my friend, and we’ll practise some of these roles together.”

William interprets this invitation rather broadly, so he contrives to get rid of Mr Renies’ maid in order to leave the premises free for him to recover his watch. He finds a whole drawer-ful of confiscated items. “He decided that he might as well take them all. He would give their property back to Ginger and Henry and Douglas and sell the rest to their owners.”

For a boy to go to a master’s house, eat his supper, ransack his drawers, hide in his cupboard, then lead him a dance over the countryside, was surely a crime unknown before in the annals of school life.

But while there, he absent-mindedly eats Mr Renies’ (magnificent) supper, so he then needs all his wits about him to escape from the situation unscathed. “I was practisin’ actin’ that king that died of a surfeit of lampreys. I couldn’t find any lampreys so I jus’ had to eat what I could find. I didn’t die of it either but that wasn’t my fault.”

He manages to turn the situation to his advantage. Although it is all very, very silly.