“Gosh! Wasn’t it awful yesterday?” said William as the four Outlaws walked slowly down the village street.
“Never stopped for a single second,” said Ginger.
“Nearly as bad as the one in the Bible,” said Douglas.
“Just rained cats and dogs all day,” said Henry.
“I wouldn’t have minded cats an’ dogs,” said William. “Cats an’ dogs would have been rather excitin’. Gosh! Think of ’em all tumblin’ down from the sky!” He gave his short harsh chuckle. “We’d have to have umbrellas made of iron to keep ’em off.”
The others considered this picture with rising spirits.
After William had over-indulged in some supernatural fiction, the Outlaws decide to find a ghost. Fortunately, just at that moment, they hear a villager refer to another resident as “a ghost” so immediately go to investigate. They wonder at what he can have done so heinous as to justify being sentenced to eternal life as a ghost:
“P’raps he robbed a bank.”
“Or forged a will.”
“Or didn’t pay his income tax.”
“Or let his motor insurance run out.”
“My mother promised me sixpence if I’d sit quiet for an hour,” said William. “I found a book of ghost stories in the bookcase an’ I read it.”
“Did you get the sixpence?” said Henry.
“Well, I got fivepence halfpenny,” said William. “I started talkin’ about ghosts in the middle.”
For some reason they become convinced that the ghost is seeking to destroy some incindiary political papers, and try to find them before this can happen.
But they manage, instead, to find some rather interesting papers belonging – or, strictly speaking, not quite belonging – to a local author.
An apple core, thrown by William and aimed at the drain-pipe, sailed through the open kitchen window to land in the middle of a half-made shepherd’s pie.
“It was a jolly good shot, axshully,” said William. “Right in the middle of that pie.”
“But you weren’t aiming at the pie,” said Henry.
William knit his brows. “I’m not sure I wasn’t,” he said.
“You said the drain-pipe.”
“I might have changed my mind.”
Having read a book about daring wartime escapes, the Outlaws come up with a plan: Henry and Douglas will lock William and Ginger into a (supposedly) vacant house, and the latter two will “do a war escape out of it”.
William and Ginger surrounded their ‘prison’ with critical interest.
“I bet I could do somethin’ with those stag horns,” said William. “If I could find a fur rug I might go out disguised as a stag.”
After William liberally helps himself to some snacks he finds lying around his new surroundings, Ginger reminds him, “We’re s’posed to be gettin’ out of this house, not settlin’ down in it.”
And their escape attempt commences.
William tapped the wood and listened thoughtfully. “Sounds to me like one of those secret rooms where clergymen used to hide up in the olden days.”
“When did they?” said Ginger.
“Bronze Age or Stone Age or some time,” said William vaguely.
But thereafter things proceed along much the same lines as William Goes for a Nice Little Walk, 30.2.
“So what’s your story about?” asked Ginger.
“Well, it’s jolly excitin’,” said William. “It’s about a gang of international diamond smugglers an’ they all pretend to be members of a golf club, but really this golf club’s a sort of blind. It’s the headquarters of this smugglin’ gang. They only pretend to play golf. Really they’re smugglin’ diamonds all the time.”
Ginger considered this in comparative silence. “Sounds like all your other stories to me,” he said at last.
“Well, it isn’t,” said William indignantly. “It’s abs’lutely diff’rent. It’s diff’rent from every other story I’ve ever written in all my life.”
Somewhat overawed by a visiting and erudite friend of Robert’s, William is converted to the ‘school of nature’ in which the most important characteristic of fiction is that its characters appear genuine and natural.
So, in his latest story about smugglers, William names the characters after residents of the village, and invents a detective, Meredith (“red hair an’ a bit of a limp”), to pursue them.
The doors burst open.
William charged through one, brandishing his fire extinguisher, and Ginger charged through the other, hurtling his trolley before him. But, unfortunately, no rehearsal had been possible and their sense of direction misfired. They charged across the room full tilt into each other. William directed his fire extinguisher into Ginger’s face and Ginger drove his trolley with all his might against William’s solid form. The two struggled on the floor amid the wreckage of the trolley.
“Fire!” shouted William.
“Murder!” shouted Ginger.
So, of course, when a young man with red hair an’ a bit of a limp arrives in the village, William naturally assumes that his work of fiction has, remarkably, turned out to be fact.
They do what they can to save poor Meredith from the evil clutches of Miss Golightly (headmistress of the girls’ school and archvillain of William’s story), but it turns out that the two of them are actually quite happy to meet…