acting out fiction

The facts

“What’s a stone’s throw?” said Ginger. “My aunt’s goin’ to live in a new house an’ the estate agent said it was a stone’s throw from the shops.”
William picked up a stone. “I’ll show you what a stone’s throw is,” he said. He meant to throw the stone along the road but Jumble, taking the action as an invitation to a game, leapt up exuberantly and flung him off his balance. The stone soared over the hedge into the garden they were passing.
There came the sinister sound of breaking glass.
“Gosh!” said William with horror. “Let’s get off quick.”

  • Number: 32.4
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger accidentally imprison a man on his roof.


Helping dust books for a friendly old lady, William and Ginger become enchanted by the derring-do and kind hearts of the stars of Don Quixote, and promptly rename themselves Don William and Sancho Ginger (Jumble becomes Rosinante).

When they overhear the chairs of both local political parties mentioning that Mr Honiton, a newcomer to the neighbourhood, is “sitting on the fence”, they naturally misunderstand the word ‘fence’ and go to inspect his house. The inspection goes slightly wrong, and a near-naked Mr Honiton gets locked out on his balcony, and is not unreasonably furious with the Outlaws.

William examined the pallid liquid that half filled a saucepan on the gas cooker. “Shouldn’t be surprised if that’s not melted silver.”
“Smells like chicken soup to me,” said Ginger.
“Well, nat’rally he’d disguise the smell,” said William.

However, when he climbs down the drainpipe – at William’s slightly overenthusiastic encouragement – he is most interested to see the copy of Don Quixote which, having been ‘borrowed’ by the boys, fortuitously escaped from an unscrupulous book dealer…

 The facts

As William approached Ginger’s house, he gave the ear-splitting ‘yodel’ that was the secret signal between them – a signal calculated to attract the attention and shatter the nerves of everyone within a radius of two miles.
“Hello,” said Ginger, coming down to the gate. “That was a jolly good one.”
“My yodel?” said William complacently. “Yes, I thought it was, too. I’ve been practisin’ it all this week. ’Least, I did till my family stopped me.”

  • Number: 28.5
  • Published: 1952 (1951 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws determine to un-haunt a cottage


The Browns’ housekeeper, Mrs Peters, has handed in her notice because her route to work takes her past a cottage she believes to be haunted. And this gives Dolores, Robert’s latest, an idea of the perfect stage for her new one-act play…

This probably wouldn’t cause too much trouble except for William’s resolve to “unhaunt” the cottage in question, and Violet Elizabeth’s resolve to join in the enterprise (“Oh, pleathe, William,” she said earnestly, “if ith a teeny weeny little ghotht, may I have it for my dollth houthe?”).

“I’ve got a jolly sight more money than you think I’ve got. I’ve got some in the post office that an aunt put in for me when I was born.” There was in William’s voice the bitterness that always invaded his spirit when he thought of the fortune standing to his name in the records of the government. “It’s five pounds an’ I’m goin’ to buy an aeroplane with it when I get it, if I ever do get it” – his bitterness increased – “if the post office hasn’t spent it all by then. I bet it has. Always havin’ cups of tea an’ biscuits. Jolly nice for me goin’ in to buy stamps an’ things an’ seein’ ’em all havin’ cups of tea an’ biscuits out of my five pounds. They mus’ have used about half of it by now…”

His plan is lifted from a play what he once saw: “It was about a man with a name like Dr Foster what sold his soul to a ghost with a name like Methylated.” Because Dr Foster (Faustus) successfully caught a ghost by drawing a circle around it, so too will William. For added certainty, Ginger is going to use the Chinese technique of “using bangs” (Violet Elizabeth plans to “give it a thauther of milk”).

 The facts

The visitor was a large fat man with a round jolly face and a jovial manner. He wore spectaclesand had a head that was completely bald except just at the back. One look at him, in fact, told William that here was the villain from the film miraculously come to life.

  • Number: 19.3
  • Published: 1937 (1936 in magazine form, originally titled William the Spy-Hunter) – not to be confused with the 1926 story, 8.10, of the same name.
  • Book: William the Showman
  • Synopsis: William takes on a suspected spy.


William was obsessed with spies before he went to see the film; after he came out, his whole life revolved around his determination to root out the various spies he believed to be inhabiting every corner of his village.

“Hello,” said William in a propitiatory manner. “I say, it’s nice for you having a father in the army,”
he went on, with what he fondly imagined to be a master-stroke of finesse.
The girl took another bite from her apple and still stared at him without answering.
“Oh, I believe it’s the navy he’s in, isn’t it?” went on
She removed a small caterpillar from her apple in silence then went on eating.
“Now I come to think of it,” said William, “I believe I heard he was in the air force?”

When Mr Brown welcomes an exalted business partner to dinner, a partner he is determined to impress, and William sees that said businessman looks exactly like the spy from the film, things are bound to go wrong.

Unlike in William and the Spy, 13.1, though, when he stalked a geologist who turned out to be perfectly innocent, Mr Brown’s friend actually may not be as innocent as he seems.