“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…
“My mother was telling me about this thing she once went to where people had to get things from all over the village an’ they had clues written in poetry to tell them what they’d got to find. It was called a scavenger hunt.”
“We won’t call it that,” said William. “We’ll call it Treasure Hunt. It’s easier to spell.”
He took the pencil stump and wrote ‘Tresher hunt’.
With the long summer holidays spread out in front of them – both exciting and daunting – the Outlaws decide to open an adventure holiday centre for local children.
For its inaugural treasure hunt, William chooses various objects from around the village that he is going to send his campers to fetch. But the dry run the Outlaws perform causes such chaos (including the accidental borrowing and destruction of a letter from Robert to his best beloved) that a rethink is called for.
Henry had had the idea of a blindfold race using plant pots instead of handkerchiefs and, while testing the effect, had got his plant pot so firmly wedged over his head that it had had to be broken by William and Ginger, leaving a cut across his forehead and a blackening eye.
“Did you take the dog back?” said William.
“Well, not quite,” said Douglas.
In the meantime, William has to re-create Robert’s letter… He can’t actually think of any nice things to say about the recipient, Diana, but he knows some unpleasant thinks Ethel has said about her and cleverly inverts them:
Dear Dianner, I hop you are well. Thank you for asking me to cum to the sowth of france with you I will cum to the sowth of france with you. I don’t think that your conseated and die your hair or that you look a site without makeup or that your a harfwit and I wouldent mind being seen ded in that hat with fethers and I no weel have a jolly good time in the sowth of france. with luv, Robert Brown.
“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…