miss milton

The facts

“Is he the man?” whispered Henry to William.
“Yes, he is,” said William.
“He looks pretty strong,” said Douglas. “I don’t think it’d be any good tryin’ to kidnap him.”
“’Course it wouldn’t” said William. “We’ve got to think out somethin’ better than that.”
“Somethin’ subtle,” said Henry, pronouncing the word as spelt.


Serious business in this story, in which Henry warns:

Anyone might wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses goin’ up all over the place an’, once they’ve started, it’s too late to stop ’em ’cause of these plans.”
“What plans?” said William.
“They make plans for buildin’ houses” said Henry. “Sort of drawings of them, you know, an’ they take them to a meeting of the mayor an’ corporation an’ they pass them an’, once these plans have been passed, no one can stop ’em building them.”
“Can’t people go to this meetin’ an’ stop the mayor an’ corporation passin’ them?” said William.
“Yes, they could, but ordin’ry people don’t go to meetings ’cause they’ve not got time, so the nex’ thing they know is they wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses all round ’em and all the fields an’ woods gone.”

The visiting lecturer from whom Henry learnt about the evils of developers used the Outlaws’ beloved Old Barn as an example of a picturesque structure vulnerable to the ravages of housebuilding.

But the boys are having none of this. “The first thing to do is to keep a look-out,” William determines.

“You tell him about the hauntin’, Henry, an’ Ginger about the tomb an’ I’ll do the black magic, an’ I bet we get him so scared that he’ll never make any more plans for the rest of his life.”
“I bet he won’t listen,” said Douglas.
“Yes, he will,” said William. “I’ll be specially polite so he’ll have to.”

So imagine their horror when they see a man sketching the building and measuring it up with a tape measure!

They immediately begin a campaign to scare him away, loosely based on the curse of Tutenkhamen’s tomb, and, in parallel, bribe his granddaughter to tell him where he keeps his plans, so that they can destroy them. (The bribe is a donkey which gets them into all sorts of complications.)

Fortunately, the Old Barn is safe.

The facts

“There’s goin’ to be nothin’ left for us to do when we grow up,” said William gloomily.
“How d’you mean?” said Ginger.
“Well, they’ll have done everythin’,” said William. “They’ll have climbed every mountain there is an’ got on to the moon an’ dug down into the middle of the earth an’ come out at the other end. I bet they’ll even have found the Loch Ness monster. There’ll be nothin’ left for us to do.”
“There’s explorin’,” said Douglas after a moment’s thought.
“They’ve explored everywhere,” said William, his gloom deepening. “They’ve explored Egypt an’ Africa an’ India an’ Canada. They’ve not even left us the North Pole or… or the Isle of Man.”

  • Number: 34.4
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: William tries to save his family from a witch who makes voodoo dolls.


The Outlaws decide to “go explorin’” close to home, heading down a path they’ve never used before.

“Gosh, we might find anythin’” said William.
“Savages,” suggested Ginger.
“Cannibals,” said Douglas.
“Picts an’ Scots,” said Henry.
“Prehistoric monsters,” said William.
“Flying saucers,” said Ginger.
“We might find ’em all,” said William optimistically.

Miss Tyrral’s face broke into laughter. “So it was you all the time, not an earth spirit.”
“An’ it was you, not a witch,” said William half regretfully.

But what they actually encounter is a witch-like old woman, and, being uncharacteristically gullible, they assume her actually to be one.

They return for another look, notice a cat on the windowsill, and conclude: “Gosh, she’s changed herself into a cat. She’s a witch all right. That proves it.”

But then, genuinely troublingly, they find her making wax images of William’s family (a book Henry takes out from the library observes that this is a common witchy behaviour). When Mrs Brown is taken ill with a cold, that is naturally ascribed to magical causes.

Astonishingly, though, the woman herself feels she’s been being haunted by odd boy-like spirits with ugly faces. Hmm…

The facts

“A new girl’s only got to come to this place,” said William, “an’ Robert starts bein’ keen on her. He was nuts on Biddy Needham till they went on this caravan holiday, then they sort of got fed up with each other and he started on this new one. He might be someone on the films, the way he carries on. Bluebeard or Henry the Eighth or someone.”


This is a seriously weird story.

Robert is enamoured by Celia Green, a newcomer to the village. And, unusually, William is a little enamoured by her younger sister Anthea.

Anthea, Celia, Robert and, as it happens, Henry have all been at a meeting of the Literary Society where they heard from a ‘detective journalist’ about here work:

“She pretended to be somebody she wasn’t jus’ to see how other people sort of acted an’ then she wrote an article about it an’ got money. Once she went out as a charwoman, jus’ one day each to diff’rent people an’ she told them all the same yams about her husband knockin’ her about (she hasn’t got a husband really an’ I bet he’d make off pretty quick if she had) an’ her little girl havin’ some terrible disease an’ her son stealin’ valu’bles an’ havin’ the p’lice after him.”
“She was tellin’ lies,” said Douglas sternly.
“No, it’s not lies if it’s detective joum ‘lism,” said Henry. “If it’s detective joum’lism, it’s… well, it’s jus’ detective journ’lism.”

Robert had noticed something cold and distant in Celia’s manner. “I haven’t done anything to offend you, have I, Celia?” he said humbly at last.
“You never do anything at all,” said Celia. ”That’s the trouble. You’re so hopelessly ineffectual.”
Robert thought of his triumphs on the tennis courts and rugger field but wisely forebore to mention them.

Celia and Anthea are both enthusiastic about the whole idea – not enthusiastic to follow it themselves, but they happily shanghai their men into having a go.

William had performed upon the back door of The Briars the loud and lengthy tattoo with which he was wont to announce his presence.
Miss Devon opened the door. William fixed his most ferocious scowl on her.
“I’m lost,” he said.
“Oh dear! Poor little boy!” said Miss Devon. Her face beamed with compassionate kindness.
“Lost out of a car,” said William.
“Oh dear!” said Miss Devon again. “I suppose your parents stopped for a little halt and you wandered off.”
“Yes,” said William, regretfully abandoning kidnappers and deciding to follow whatever lead she gave him. He’d probably be able to make something of it.
“Where were they going, dear?”
“I forget,” said William.
“Where is your home?”
“Outer Hebrides,” said William.

Although Robert also decides to play this rather aimless prank on Miss Devon, the story as a whole doesn’t really go anywhere. Which is a shame, because it’s bookended by a rather fun sub-plot about William turning his house’s water tank into an aquarium.