Whittaker’s Diary: The Astonishing Case of the Absent Adolescent
Posted on September 30 2018
As rain returns to a dry and dusky Britain, the verdant hills and rich fields that surround the Abbey have finally awakened from their hot and humid slumber to carpet the land once more in a sea of rolling green. However, there was more than just the rain to be grateful for.
It began, as a great many stories at the house unfortunately do, with Mrs Badwater the cook’s nine-year-old son Timothy gaining access to a box of matches, which had carelessly been left within a locked bureau in a firmly bolted room. Unable to resist their siren call, Timothy then proceeded to set fire to a nearby hay bale – which might have been bad enough, I grant you, had the bale in question not then rolled down the hill beside it, taking out the potting shed, the orangery and igniting the hedge that Mr Crumple the Gardener had spent five years crafting into the shape of a dachshund.
This, as it turns out, was the burning straw that broke the camel’s back, and with her legendary patience finally at an end, Mrs Badwater announced that she was enrolling Timothy in General Guggenheim’s School for Spirited Boys - a decision that left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, military school might indeed provide Timothy with the kind of discipline he so sorely required, on the other, it would also likely provide him with greater access to firearms than I was entirely comfortable with. On hearing this news, however, the wayward child in question rather comprehensively vanished.
After a detailed search of the house and grounds that yielded nothing except three bottles of Mr Rumfiend the Gamekeeper’s gently sparkling elderflower wine, which, judging by the torn fabric stuffed in the top, our pet arsonist was intending to use as makeshift Molotov cocktails, we were left with no choice but to deploy more advanced methods.
So, while Mrs Badwater carried a tray of her wonderful coconut Lamingtons throughout the house in an attempt to draw her elusive offspring out, I consulted Felix, her Ladyship’s driver and vigorously part-time inventor on the subject of suitable traps. After several early drafts, including one that looked suspiciously like a spike-filled bear pit, I finally settled on the Repeat Offender 4000 - an ingenious combination of suspended fishing net, a long length of hessian rope and a remote control cannibalised from the ride-on lawn mower. For it to succeed however it would require suitable bait.
With the trap assembled on the library’s spacious ceiling, we placed beneath it all the things we knew from all-too-painful experience that Timothy would find irresistible – fireworks, lighter fluid and dry kindling. Then, secreting ourselves amidst the poetry section, a place we knew Timothy feared to tread, we settled down to wait.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long, and before I could even finish the first page of a delightful compilation of WH Auden that I found on the shelf beside me, a shadow slipped quietly into the room, creeping slowly toward the puddle of ignitable substances. Then, as it reached out a grubby paw to touch them, Felix activated the trap, dropping the net gracefully across the fugitive firebug.
With Timothy now safely handed over to General Guggenheim, there is nothing left to do but retire to my room and lose myself in the pages a good book – in this case, J.D Salinger’s timeless classic, The Catcher in the Rye.
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