“Prehistoric people lived on wild animals,” said William, “an’ we’re goin’ ‘back to bein’ prehistoric… We’ll need wild animals’ skins to dress in, too.”
“There won’t be any wild animals,” said Ginger. “They’ll all have got wiped out by this atom bomb.”
“There might be a few left in the Zoo or somewhere,” said William. “Stands to reason. If a few yumans get left a few animals might, too.”
“They’d be tame ones if they came out of the Zoo,” said Henry.
“Well, we could start with ’em tame an’ train ’em up to be wild,” said William.
Henry has read a book about a small group of atom-bomb survivors who are forced to found a new civilisation. “Gosh! I’d like to do that,” says William. “I could make a jolly sight better one than the one we’ve got now. I’ve seen pictures of prehistoric times an’ they look smashin’.”
“So it’s a Play Centre and you’re the organiser?”
“Yes,” said William. “It’s a Play Centre an’ I’m the organiser.”
His voice was deeply magisterial, his expression earnest and authoritative. He was no longer a survivor of an atomic war. He was an organiser of a Children’s Holiday Play Centre.
The man’s eyes roved over the crowd of screaming scuffling children.
“They all seem to be doing different things,” he said.
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on doin’ diff’rent things,” said William.
“Two of them seem to be having a wrestling match.”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on havin’ a wrestling match,” said William.
“Rather noisy, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on bein’ noisy,” said William. “It’s good for ’em.”
“Free expression, I suppose!” said the man.
“Oh yes, it’s all free,” said William.
Henry’s rather touching contribution is to bring a telephone directory (“I thought we ought to have a bit of education”) and a painting of William Gladstone (“It’s art”).
The problem comes when all the children of the village hear of the impending disaster and implicitly believe in it – some expecting an atom bomb, some a flood – and so converge on the Outlaws looking for salvation.
But just then a TV crew arrive looking for a children’s holiday play centre to film for a documentary… along with all the local parents, who are determined to track down the Pied Piper who has stolen away their offspring…
“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.
“And, to crown all,” Ethel raged to Archie, “you’ve got to bring that object home in the car with us.”
“What object?” said William, mystified.
“You,” said Ethel tersely.
- Number: 31.1
- Published: 1958 (not to be confused with the 1935 unpublished story, 18.0, of the same name
- Book: William’s Television Show
- Synopsis: Archie gets a job (to an extent).
Goaded by Ethel that he “couldn’t hold a proper job for a week”, Archie vows to prove her wrong and obtain gainful employment.
Sure enough, before the week is out, the village gets used to the sight of Archie putting on a suit and catching the 8:15 train to work every morning.
One day, while he’s out, William and Ginger espy a shadowy figure making its way around his cottage; upon establishing that Archie owns nothing valuable enough to steal, William concludes:
“He was out after…” – William looked slightly self-conscious as he repeated the phrase he had come across in one of Robert’s books – “He was out after bigger game.”
“What bigger game?”
“P’litical,” said William. “International secrets an’ such like.”
“We’d better go in armed, ’cause they’ll prob’ly be desperate. I’ll take my water-pistol.”
But imagine their surprise when they discover that the intruder looks exactly the same as Archie! It must be his twin brother…