mistaken identity and impersonation

 The facts

“My mother was mad on Thursday,” said William.
On Thursday William, bent on perfecting himself in his chosen career as a diver, had donned a home-made diving suit, consisting chiefly of trays and saucepans from his mother’s kitchen, with the addition of a few empty tins from the dustbin and a length of garden hose from the tool-shed, and dropped from the tree that overhung the pond into its murky depths.
He had been rescued by a passer-by and taken home, sodden with pond water and encrusted with slime, having left a good part of Mrs Brown’s kitchen equipment behind him. “No,” he continued regretfully, “I’ll have to wait till she’s forgotten about Thursday before I start practisin’ bein’ a diver again.”

  • Number: 29.5
  • Published: 1954 (same year in magazine form) – originally titled William’s New Friend
  • Book: William and the Moon Rocket
  • Synopsis: William and Hubert end up impersonating the same French exchange student.


The eponymous “Little  Yubear” is none other than Hubert Lane, who (by an odd chain of events precipitated, naturally, by William) ends up being mistaken for a French exchange student.

Hubert, who is not aware that he is a French exchange student and believes himself to have been invited into the host family’s house to eat as many buns as he likes, acts in a way that the daughter believes to be very odd but that the mother blithely dismises as “probably a French custom”. His search through their drawers for cream buns was explained away as, “The French are a nation full of intellectual curiosity. It’s a well-known fact.”

“I did that jolly well, didn’t I? I’ve got a jolly lot of tact. I’ve a good mind to be one of those men in the government called dip-something.”
“Dipsomaniacs?” suggested Ginger vaguely.
“I ’spect so…”

William ends up swapping places with Yubear, but when Mrs Brown offers to host him, things take a turn for the awkward…

Day 291: William’s Secret Society

 The facts

William was silent for a few moments; then, with a burst of inspiration: “We’ll have a Secret Society.”
“Gosh, yes!” said Ginger. “That’s a jolly good idea.”
“An’ we’ll have passwords an’ disguises,” said William, “an’ put up a notice an’ have a meetin’ in the old barn an’ I’ll make a speech.”
“You can’t make a speech about a Secret Society,” said Henry. “If it’s a Secret Society it’s gotter be secret.”
“Yes, I s’pose so,” said William regretfully. He prided himself on his powers as a public orator and did not like to let slip any opportunity of using them.

  • Number: 28.7
  • Published: 1952 (same year in magazine form; not to be confused with the 1923 story, 3.7, of the same name)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: William takes on a suspected Russian spy.


Of all William’s plans and schemes, his creativity in this story I think surpasses all others. Faced with the prospect of an evil Russian spy in their midst, William does not demur from the danger like Douglas (“I think we’d better be a bit careful of atom bombs: they’re s’posed to be dangerous”) but instead gets right in.

His technique?

“We’ll take you to it,” said Henry. “It’s this way… over the stile.”
They entered the old barn. William sat in an impressive attitude on a packing case. His appearance had been copied faithfully (or rather as faithfully as possible) from the picture of Stalin in Henry’s encyclopaedia. He wore a golfing blouse of Robert’s that engulfed his figure, Ethel’s jockey cap, and a large straggling moustache that Robert had once worn in some amateur theatricals and that fell off whenever he moved.
Mr Kellyngs stood staring at him, open-mouthed with amazement. William rose to his feet with an air of dignity.
“Hail, Comrade!” he said, holding his moustache on with one hand and making a sweeping gesture with the other. “I’m Stalin come over to England to fetch thy papers about the atom bomb. I’m flying back to Russia ’ere nightfall an’ I’ll take them along with me. Thee will be well paid for thy trouble, but I haven’t any change on me at present. I’ll send thee a postal order from Russia when I get there. Hist! Not a word! Give me the papers and begone!”

An elaborate oath of secrecy was administered and a still more elaborate system of signals devised by which the Outlaws were to indicate to each other various degrees of danger – no danger, middling danger, special danger, deadly danger, pressing need for reinforcement and even the immediate calling in of Scotland Yard. And then suddenly things seemed to fall rather flat.
“Well, what’re we goin’ to do?” said Ginger.
“We’ve settled what to do,” said William a little irritably. “We’re goin’ to put down crim’nals.”
“They live in the underground,” said Ginger.
“You’re thinkin’ of the underworld,” said Henry. “It’s somethin’ quite diff’rent.”
“We ought to be a bit careful,” said Douglas. “They slash with razors.”
“I bet I’d get a crim’nal before he’d time to pull his razor out,” said William. “I’m jolly strong. Look! You can feel my muscle goin’ up an’ down when you put your hand on my arm. Gosh! It’s enormous.”

Of course, it turns out that Mr Kellyngs isn’t a Russian spy, but he ends up fairly grateful to the Outlaws anyway…

The facts

“It seems wrong to a great man like Guy Fawkes,” said Douglas in a tone of righteous indignation, “lettin’ people forget him jus’ ’cause of the war.”
“He wasn’t a great man,” Henry reminded him. “He tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.”
“Well, that’s where the Gov’nment lives, isn’t it?” said Douglas, “an’ to hear my father talk when his Income Tax comes in you’d think it was a good thing if someone did blow it up.”

  • Number: 24.6
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to organise a wartime-suitable alternative 5 November.


The war means that Bonfire Night cannot take place with its usual festivities. But the Outlaws are undeterred and decide to go ahead with a firework-free re-enactment instead. They even deign to include a girl:

“Hello, Joan,” said William. “We’re havin’ Guy Fawkes’ day to-morrow without a bonfire. Would you like to be in it? You can’t be Guy Fawkes,” hastily, “because I’m him.”
“Nor the Gov’nment nor executioner,” said Ginger, “’cause I’m them.”
“Nor the p’liceman,’ said Douglas, “’cause I’m him.”
“Nor the judge,” said Henry.
“Can I be his mother?” said Joan.
“He didn’t have a mother,” said William.
“He must have done,” put in Henry.
“Well, I mean she didn’t come into it,” explained William. “She didn’t blow anything up.”
Joan considered. “Did he have a wife? Did she do anything?”
The Outlaws looked nonplussed. “Someone in history had a wife,” volunteered Ginger.

“What’ll we do to get rid of the Gov’nment?” said Ginger, and added “Gadzooks!” with an air of conscious erudition.
“Nay, marry anon gadzooks!” said William, rather overdoing it. “We might miss it. Then we’d all get shot. I tell thee what! Let’s blow it up.”
“Hearken unto me,” began Joan.
“That’s too Bible,” interrupted Henry. “He’s not out of the Bible, Guy Fawkes. He’s out of history.”

They are particularly keen to make the most of Joan because she is facing the prospect of being whisked off to a boarding school in Scotland run by a relative of her mother’s (kind of the feminine equivalent of Finding a School for William, 7.5).

As it happens, the relative has a nice little chat with Joan, at the very moment that Joan – in the character of Mrs Fawkes – had swapped clothes with her husband to allow him to escape prison. And the relative finds ‘Joan’ to be not the right sort of girl at all…