Day 288: William and the Returned Traveller

 The facts

“You don’t mind me havin’ another carrot or two, do you, Archie?” said Ginger, putting a handful of carrots into his pocket. “They make you see in the dark, an’ if we’re kidnapped we may have to find our way out
through underground passages an’…”

  • Number: 28.4
  • Published: 1952 (1951 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Tramp
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws discover that Archie leads a life of crime.

Verdict

Archie rather leads the Outlaws on in this story: when he forgot to declare an expensive bottle of perfume he brought back from France for Ethel, he imagines himself to be being followed by undercover customs agents.

He concocts a ridiculous plan, involving a scarecrow, to evade detection, and invites the boys to join him. But the boys, (rightly) deciding that his plan is too ridiculous, (wrongly) come up with a ‘better’ stratagem of their own. They swap the offending perfume for methylated spirits, but in doing so find a print of Baldovinetti’s Madonna and Child, conclude that it must be the original and that Archie must be an international art thief. They resolve to help him escape, in gratitude for the milk chocolate he recently gave them.

“I bet there’s nothin’ of it left by now,” said William, who had long experience of the erection of wigwams
from inadequate materials.
“Well, let’s prospect for gold, then,” said Ginger.
“We nearly found some las’ time we tried. I bet there is gold in some of those streams in the wood.”
“Y… yes,” said William, “but my mother was mad when she found I’d borrowed her vegetable sieve for it.”

Things all become rather confused, especially when a real diamond theft works its way into the mix.

The series of misunderstandings (caused by the Outlaws) between Archie and Ethel is particularly fine.