The facts

“I’m a gold-digger,” William said to the kitchenmaid. “I’ve got ship-loads an’ ship-loads of gold. At least, I will have soon. You shall have a whole lot of nuggets. Look here.” With a princely flourish he took up a knife and cut off three buttons from the middle of his coat and gave them to her.
“When I come home rich you show me the buttons an’ I’ll remember and give you the nuggets. See? I’ll maybe marry you,” he promised, “if I’ve not married anyone else.”
The kitchenmaid put her head round the pantry door. “’E’s loony,” she said. “It’s lovely listening to ’im talkin.’”

  • Number: 1.3
  • Published: 1922 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Running away from home, William takes a position as servant in a local mansion. But there’s a dinner party that evening.


I don’t know whether William just looks very generic, but he seems to spend an awful lot of his time being mistaken for other people.

In this story, he runs away from home to make his fortune as a gold prospector, embittered at having had his whoopee cushion confiscated by his French teacher. And, at the first house at which he calls to beg for provisions, he is assumed to be “the new boots” (servant boy) and given some knives to clean.

“I’d like to meet your son,” said the host.
“You probably will, sooner or later,” said Mr Brown gloomily. “Everyone in the neighbourhood meets him sooner or later. He does not hide his light under a bushel. Personally, I prefer people who haven’t met him. They can’t judge me by him.”

His performance is as bad/ comical as could be expected, though he managed (just about) to stay on the good side of the householders until he decides to use the whoopee cushion – which he had confiscated back from the French teacher – at their dinner party.

And one of the guests at the dinner party happens to recognise William.

Perhaps the most astonishing part of this story is that anyone could seriously intend to hire someone who very obviously looks like an 11-year-old boy as a servant!

The facts

“She’s different from everybody else in the world,” stammered Robert ecstatically.
How’s she different from anyone else?” William demanded. “Is she blind or lame or sumthin’?”

  • Number: 1.2
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: Robert is smitten by a visitor to the village. But she’s more interested in William…


William’s attitude towards Robert’s love life tends to be either well-meaning – trying to find him a wife – or, less commonly, malicious – gathering material to use as ammunition in future arguments.

This story is unusual, then, because William and Robert simply clash due to unfortunate circumstances. Robert is anxious to make a closer acquaintance of Miss Cannon. So is William. To Robert, she is the embodiment of every womanly virtue. To William, she is one of the only adults he knows willing to talk to him about hunting and  cannibalism, and to play Red Indians with him.

“You must come again some time,” said Robert weakly but with passion undaunted.
“I will,” Miss Cannon said, “I’m longing to see more of William. I adore William!”

Each is totally unable to understand the other’s fascination, to the point of William’s outburst (unfortunately in the presence of Miss Cannon): “Is no one else ever to speak to her jus’ ’cause Robert’s fell in love with her?”

William is victorious in the end, of course. But he’s only won the battle, not the war. Because in the final words of the story, Robert sets the scene for fifty more years of fraternal strife: “It’s not peace, it’s an armistice—that’s all.”

The facts

“You young ruffian,” Mr Brown roared, “what do you mean by charging into me like that?”
“I wasn’t chargin’, Father,” William said, meekly. “I was only jus’ comin’ in at the gate, same as other folks. I jus’ wasn’t looking jus’ the way you were coming, but I can’t look all ways at once cause—”
“Be quiet!” roared William’s father. Like the rest of the family, he dreaded William’s eloquence.

  • Number: 1.1
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William’s aunt gives him a shilling, which he spends on a visit to the cinema. The films he sees give him many ideas…


The first William story in the entire series of 38 books* combines many elements that recur throughout his reign of terror.

The being-carried-away-by-a-film theme. The trying-to-help-around-the-house theme. The pretending-to-be-ill-to-get-sympathy theme. The attempting-to-repair-sister’s-love-life theme. The relentless-pursuit-of-sweets theme. The zeal-to-reform-others theme. Even the affectedly-manly-flirting-with-the-girl-next-door theme.

William glanced cautiously around and slunk down the road. Then he doubled suddenly and ran down a back street to put his imaginary pursuers off his track. He took a pencil from his pocket and, levelling it at the empty air, fired twice. Two of his pursuers fell dead, the rest came on with redoubled vigour.

The story itself, indeed, mirrors the structure of William’s experience at ‘the pictures’. It is a series of short episodes which take place one after another with relatively little connection.

William’s cinema showed, as was then traditional, a number of short films including comedy, romance, tragedy etc., and his activities for the rest of the story follow that structure as he attempts to re-enact each piece of movie magic.

It’s a very silly tale, and probably too crammed to be considered one of the best in the series, but as the opening shot for the next five decades of William books, it did its job.

*although not the first to be published: you’ll have to wait until Day 14 for that one!