william reforms

The facts

To William, it seemed funny without Robert and Ethel. It seldom happened that Robert and Ethel were away from home at the same time. When William first heard of these arrangements his spirits had risen. The prospect of home life without an elder brother and sister to snub him and order him about was an exhilarating one. But, oddly, when it came it turned out to be disappointingly flat. He found that he missed the snubs and ordering about; missed, most of all, the state of warfare that generally existed between himself on one side and Robert and Ethel on the other. Life seemed dull and uneventful without it.

  • Number: 32.8
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: William tries to release his parents from their rut.


An inspirational speaker, whose main ‘thing’ is that people should liberate themselves from the force of habit, totally transfixes William, and he determines to break his parents free from their shackles.

For instance, his father always mows the lawn on Tuesdays, so to prevent this instance of habit, he hides the lawnmower. Likewise, Mrs Brown always does her sewing on Tuesdays, so William hides her sewing basket.

William beat the knocker again. “Can I have a drink of water, please?” he said, then, remembering the expression that his mother’s daily help had used yesterday, added, “I’ve come over queer.”
The door slammed shut. William knocked again, then tried desperately hard to think of an opening gambit. And suddenly inspiration answered his call. He had read a story last week, and, without stopping to consider whether they were appropriate to the occasion, he used the words with which the hero had used to gain admittance to the castle.
“May I shelter from the storm here, my good man?”
The householder gave a strangled scream of rage and flung himself on William with the fury of despair.

Meanwhile, he gets involved in a broiges between the speaker (who is renting a cottage nearby) and the little girl whose family ordinary lives there, said broiges involving him in a series of repeated unwanted doorknockings at said cottage. When all of these attempts fail to distract the homeowner, William decides “to smoke him out”.

All his plans – the smoke, the lawnmower, the sewing basket – fail. But then again:

“How did you get on?” said Ginger. “Did you get anyone out of their ruts?”
“No,” said William morosely. Then his mind went again over the events of the afternoon and he brightened. “Yes, I did. I got myself out of mine.”

The facts

“My mother dothen’t want peath with Mith Milton,” said Violet Elizabeth. “Thee thayth thee’th a nathty dithagreeable old woman.”
“Well, she won’t feel like that when Miss Milton’s rescued you from a train.”
“But I don’t want to be rethcued from a train,” persisted Violet Elizabeth, bringing the conversation round to its starting point.

  • Number: 24.7
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: William seeks to reconcile to feuding villagers.


William has something of a religious awakening after hearing a passionate wartime speech from an unnamed houseguest: “He said we’d gotter prepare for the peace bymakin’ up our own quarrels. He said it would bring peace nearer.”

So he sets out to reconcile Miss Milton and Mrs Bott, who have been refusing to speak to each other for several months (for unspecified reasons probably linked to the fact that they’re both insufferable).

“I’d gone to all that trouble to make ’em friends to get the war over an’ they went on at me as if I was ale Hitler himself,” said William. “I couldn’t help ole Violet Elizabeth gettin’ stuck in that loft, but everythin’s gotter be my fault.”

He fails, but not before creating a whirlwind of chaos that draws in multiple branches of the Milton family, the Vicar’s wife and a lawsuit for kidnapping…

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.