william as third wheel

The facts

“I’ve got a… sort of power over people,” said William.
Angela’s incredulity was fading into puzzled admiration. “Oh, William,” she said, “have you? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“There were reasons,” said William. “I… well, I don’t like people to know about this power I’ve got.”
“I suppose they’d always be wanting you to do things?” said Angela.
“Yes,” said William, thankfully accepting the explanation.

  • Number: 22.4
  • Published: 1940 (1939 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William comes across to rival girls hunting for seashells.


On a beach holiday, William meets Adela and Angela, two immaculately-attired schoolgirls who are, as bitter rivals, collecting seashells in order the better to impress their much-idolised schoolteacher Miss Twemlow.

Bored out of his mind by the absence of other boys to play with, he sets himself two goals: find an orange shell for each girl; and reconcile them.

They both liked talking about Miss Twemlow, so it would be much better for them to talk to each other about her than to him. He wasn’t interested in Miss Twemlow. He imagined her, in fact, as a mixture of Violet Elizabeth Bott and a Pantomime Dame.

But when Miss Twemlow arrives at the seaside resort with her fiancé, William makes a rash promise and acquires a new mission: take the fiancé away somewhere so that the girls have unfettered access to Miss Twemlow.

The facts

The rest of the day was merely boring. The boatman would not let William try to row. His father would not let him try to fish. He got hopelessly entangled in a spare rod; he accidentally dropped overboard a box of flies that were unobtainable locally; he-was bitten in the hand by a trout that he thought was dead, and thereupon gave a yell that put every other fish for miles around upon its guard. He disgraced himself completely and finally by standing up to stretch away an attack of pins and needles, and overbalancing upon his father’s rod and breaking it.

  • Number: 15.8
  • Published: 1933 (1932 in magazine form)
    originally titled William Goes Fishing
  • Book: William the Rebel
  • Synopsis: William accompanies his father on a fishing holiday.


Every year, Mr Brown decamps on a trip to an eccentric, ultra-masculine fishing community. And this year, due to lack of alternative childcare arrangements, William gets to go with.

William doesn’t take long to cause chaos for his father, have several near-death-experiences in the water, and make a mortal enemy of Archie, the young man who is the unspoken leader of the fishermen.

William is not the only child-of-a-fisherman present, though. Claribel, a very attractive young woman, has caught Archie’s eye, so William has a clear option for revenge.

Somehow the story leaves one wanting more though.

The facts

It wasn’t till Ginger’s grown-up brother got married that William began to see possibilities in that part of Robert’s character that before he had looked upon with unmixed contempt. For Ginger’s brother left home and went to live at least ten miles away from home. No longer did he claim to exercise elder brother tyranny over him. Moreover, upon marriage, he had presented Ginger with his old push bike, watch and a wireless set, all of which had been replaced by wedding presents. Ginger’s life seemed now to William to be one of vast possessions and untrammelled liberty and William had decided to leave no stone unturned to get Robert married as quickly as possible before his bicycle, watch and wireless should be completely worn out.

  • Number: 11.4
  • Published: 1930 (1929 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Bad
  • Synopsis: William attempts to get Robert married… and then to ruin his date.


William’s attempt at jocular man-to-man conversation with Robert is so cringeworthy (“She’s jolly pretty, isn’t she? I mean, if I were grown up – say nineteen – I’d want to marry her before I got so old she wouldn’t have me”) that fortunately he soon gives up on it.

His original plan, to marry Robert off and thus remove him from his life (see also William the Match-Maker, 5.8, in which he has the same plan in relation to Ethel) spectacularly backfires. It turns out that William does not possess the necessary skills for the crafting of aphrodisiac poetry:

Your teeth are wite,
Your eyes are blue and round.
I should like to marry you,
Your loving Robert Brown.

“I bet I’ll be famous all over the world by the time I’m your age,” said William.
“Yes, famous for your dirty collars, perhaps,” said
Robert crushingly.
“Well, it was clean on this morning,” said William.
“Nothing’s touched it but the air. I can’t help air being dirty, can I?”

This is so lacklustre that I haven’t even tagged this story as attempted good deeds! Especially because, so embittered by Robert’s reaction to his endeavours at shidduch, William persuades the Outlaws to join him in “bein’ robbers an’ terrorisin’ the countryside”.

His first victim, inevitably, is Robert. Who does end up paying for his earlier anger. And the Outlaws go to the fair with the proceeds…