bets and dares

The facts

“He’s from Africa,” said William proudly. “I bet he’s shot no end of lions.”
“That aunt of yours what came from Africa,” Ginger reminded him, “hadn’t even seen one.”
“I know,” said William, “but she came from a tamed part. It’s called Cape Town, is the tamed part, but this cousin of my father’s comes from the wild part. The wild part’s called Rhodesia, an’ he comes from that. It’s full of lions an’ elephants an’ buffaloes an’ things, an’ I bet this cousin of my father’s has shot ever so manany. He’s prob’ly an explorer as well…”

  • Number: 22.6
  • Published: 1940 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William is underwhelmed by an African visitor who doesn’t kill lions.


William is excited to hear that Mr Tice will be visiting the Browns from Rhodesia. Assuming Mr Ticehurst to be a hard-fisted and indomitable bushman (he pictured “a sort of Goliath whose path through life was littered with the dead bodies of wild beasts and even of his enemies”), William fully expects to enlist his help in vanquishing the Hubert Laneites once and for all.

The Outlaws blamed William for their downfall.
“Him!” said Ginger scornfully for the hundredth
time. “I bet those elephants never saw him at all. I bet
they thought he was a rabbit.”

“It was, therefore, a distinct shock, when the long expected guest arrived, to find that he was a small insignificant-looking man, wearing spectacles.”

All-in-all, an interesting twist on the adults who William supposes to be friends subgenre.

 The facts

Lucinda drew her lollipop out of her mouth and handed the stick to him. “You can finish it if you like,” she said.
”Thanks awfully,” said William gratefully. He put the stick into his mouth, detached what was left of the lollipop, crunched it up, and swallowed it.
“You ought to have made it last longer that,” said Lucinda reproachfully.
“I don’t like making things last,” said William.

  • Number: 20.1
  • Published: 1938 (1937 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: William makes a new friend – who he has to fight.


In one of his classic to-impress-a-girl moves, William agrees to fight a red-haired boy who has just come to the village, and who has dared to spurn the affections of Lucinda, of whom William is rather fond.

But, imagine William’s shock and horror, when he goes to beat up the red-haired boy, that he is actually rather nice. Ralph owns rabbits. Ralph likes roaming the countryside. Ralph is a perfect friend for William, so William is racked with guilt at the thought of having to assault him.

“Would you like to come round an’ see the back
garden?” said Lucinda.
‘”Thanks,” said William, and followed her round to
the back of the house.
Here was a paradise of packing-cases, old tin cans,
flotsam and jetsam of builder’s materials, and the bare trodden earth that was William’s ideal of a “garden”.
“Gosh!” he ejaculated. “I wish ours was like this.”

‘Fortunately’, William and Ralph so enrage the holidaymakers at a local summer camp that Ralph is soundly beaten by them. William tells Lucinda that he is responsible for the injuries, and that he did indeed carry out her quest of bravely fighting Ralph.

It doesn’t quite go his way though.

The facts

“Well, you see,” said Ginger, “this monster’s in this lake, and no one can catch it.”
“I bet I’d jolly well catch it if I was there,” said William.
“Oh, you can do everything, can’t you!” retorted Ginger.
“I can do pretty nearly everything,” admitted William modestly.

  • Number: 17.10
  • Published: 1935 (1934 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Detective
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws attempt to capture a prehistoric monster.


This was a very topical story when published. That very month, the so-called “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster had caused a public stir, and the news even reached the ears of the Outlaws.

And so it came to pass that Ginger, Henry and Douglas dare William to find and capture his own lake monster.

Even William’s fertile imagination could not conceive that a pond on whose surface ducks and geese swam unmolested in large numbers, and in whose deepest places cows stood and ruminated at their leisure, could conceal a prehistoric monster.

William really gets on his high horse in this story:

“Worms are prehistoric,” said Henry, who was disconcertingly well informed. “I read about it in a book. Once everything was worms. There was nothing but worms. We were all worms.”
“Oh, shut up talking nonsense!” said William impatiently. “I bet you were a worm all right, but I jolly well wasn’t.”

But rather to William’s surprise, they do actually discover a monster in a local lake – the very lake on whose shores Robert is attempting to wow his new lady-love Melissa by feeding her interest in ghosts.

These two threads of story come together to Robert’s disadvantage.