Anything might happen at the seaside. William saw himself rescuing a drowning man (it would be someone important – perhaps the Prime Minister)… carelessly netting a sea serpent… unmasking a villainous plot to steal naval secrets along the coast. He would become world famous
for all these exploits. A grateful country would reward him handsomely. He would shower gifts on his family: an American kitchen for his mother, a golf course for his father, a sports car for Robert, a mink and diamond head scarf for Ethel.
For himself he would buy a lion cub and a lighthouse.
When William sets his mind to find some hidden treasure, he literally means, to find some hidden treasure; not to look for some, but to find some.
This proves a helpful distraction for him from troubles at home, namely the extended stay of a depressed Aunt Florence who refuses to leave the house. But he eventually gets drawn in when he hears of her yearning for “a lead from Providence”, some sort of heavenly sign that she can carry on living. He resolves to find her such a sign – or, in default of finding one, to produce one.
“Did you tell Hubert Lane that we were goin’ to look for smugglers’ treasure in that cave?” said William, his voice sinking so deep that it was almost a growl.
The radiance of Violet Elizabeth’s smile remained undimmed. “Yeth, I did, William,” she said. “I did. I met him yethterday and he thaid you were a nathty horrid boy and I thaid you weren’t. I thaid you were a brave boy and I told him you were going to climb up the rock and find the thmugglerth treathure and I thaid that he couldn’t do that ‘cauthe he wathn’t brave enough.”
“Oh,” said William, touched and a little disconcerted.
Hubert Lane humiliates them over the matter of the treasure, but in the end things turn out alright…
“I think it’s time Jumble did something with his life,” said William.
“Gosh! You’d think he’d done enough,” said Ginger. “He ate that beef steak pie your mother made lastweek.”
“Well, he thought she meant him to eat it,” said William. “Gosh! He wouldn’t have minded givin’ her a few dog biscuits.”
After ruling out the careers of regimental mascot, greyhound (which I feel is more of a species than a job title), St Bernard (ditto) and more, the Outlaws decide to train Jumble as a police dog.
“Ginger an’ me’ll go an’ c’mit a crime,” said William, “an’ you an’ Henry give Jumble my cap to smell an’ he’ll track us down an’ he’ll have got started on his p’lice dog training.”
There’s another problem on the horizon, though, because Robert has been persuaded to be the magician at the birthday party of his beloved’s brother, and is guaranteed to make such a hash of it as to embarass the Outlaws for the rest of their days.
Both strands come together when William commits a sample crime, for Jumble’s training, and its victim turns out to be a Hungarian refugee circus performer…
Inside the saucepan were the smoked remains of a couple of sardines, three sausages, a handful of patent cat food, a dollop of custard, four pickled walnuts, the scraping of a tin of golden syrup, half a bottle of sour milk, a soupçon of Gentleman’s Relish, a dash of mouldy mint sauce, some cheese and bacon rinds and the tail end of a bottle of Henry’s father’s tonic – the whole blended and cooked by William. It formed a meal from which all four would have turned with loathing and disgust had it been offered them in their own homes, but they consumed it – sitting round the small clearing in the wood, eating in tum from the screw-top of an old honey jar that did service as a spoon – with undiluted pleasure.
“When I’m grown up,” said William, “I’m goin’ to start a rest’rant an’ I’m goin’ to cook mixtures same as I do here an’ people can eat ’em sittin’ on the ground same as we do an’ I bet everyone’ll want to come to it. It’s tables an’ chairs an’ knives an’ forks that spoil ordinary grown-up meals. I bet I make my fortune an’ when I’ve made it I’m going to…”
“Well, what’ll we do now?” said Ginger, knowing that William, once launched on the subject of his future careers, was not easy to check.
Robert and Ethel have awarded a coveted (albeit ridiculously minor) child’s role in the Dramatic Society play to Hubert Lane, and William is livid: “Gosh, it’s worse than Cain an’ Abel!”
But unfortunately, in the ensuing fight with Hubert, Jumble is kidnapped/ dognapped, and held ransom by the Hubert Laneites.
“Your hair looks as if it had been dragged through a hedge backwards,” said Ethel.
“It has,” said William, casting his mind back over the events of the morning.
William tries to get his revenge by kidnapping Hubert’s aunt, but he ends up with the wrong old lady held hostage.
But it turns out that she was just the old lady he needed to meet…