“The archaeologist got the idea that there must be a Roman villa somewhere on the estate and he’s been turning the place upside down to find it,” said Robert.
“Gosh! I wouldn’t take all that trouble over any ole Romans,” said William, adding with disgust, “They talked in Latin. They must have been dotty. I’d sooner bury them than dig ’em up any day.
‘Mensa’ an’ ‘dominus’ an’ all that rubbish!”
When William fails to persuade his family to give him any money to spend at the fair, despite the use of his famous ‘shame’ technique (“It might be the last fair I ever get the chance of goin’ to: lots of people in hist’ry died young. Well, the little princes in the Tower did”), he morosely gives up and goes to spy on Robert volunteering at a local archaeological dig. Robert’s main motivation is not the discovery of Roman remains, but the discovery of Hermione Monson, the archaeologist’s daughter. Anyway, very few Roman remains seem to be turning up.
“It’s fantastic,” said Hermione. “It’s too fantastic for words. He’s the most frightful-looking boy I’ve ever seen in my life and he springs up from nowhere with his pockets full of the most fantastic Roman finds and he just stands there chewing currants!”
When William tires of spying, he goes for a wander and comes across a friendly old man building a new garden path. In the course of their labour, they come across a few obstacles: old, worn coins; fragments of pot; bits of old mouldy jewellery…
William gets his sixpence.
“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…
“All right,” said William. “I don’t want to stay here anyway. I don’t want to go on wastin’ my time tryin’ to help people that don’t want to be helped an’ that don’t know what’s an excitin’ party an’ what isn’t.” He rose with dignity from his seat on the hearthrug. “An’ I wouldn’t help you now, not if – not if you came on your bended knees beggin’ me to.”
He withdrew from the room, much impressed by his parting
speech. “Huh!” he said to himself, as he slid down the banisters and landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. “I bet they’re feelin’ small.”
Ethel and Robert reluctantly admit William into their plans for an anniversary party for their parents – and begin to regret their decision when his suggestions include “an animal show with Jumble an’ a stag beetle an’ Henry’s tortoise”.
When William nevertheless goes ahead and buys a white rat for the purpose, it causes chaos throughout the village… but Mr Brown doesn’t mind too much in the end.