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By Sarah Hapgood

The following morning Joby was to get his first trip up to the house. So were the dogs, and Hillyard fully expected to get some tart remarks from Joby about gong up in The Contraption (as the rusty trolley-bucket had been nicknamed) with them. Joby though was in a good mood. He and Kieran had decided to move back into their cabin, and had comforted themselves against the cold with hot-water bottles and extra blankets. Joby was prepared to put up with the lack of a fire in order to have Kieran all to himself for a precious few hours.

When they reached the house the dogs went wild, running around the ground floor of the house, barking with delight at finding all this unaccustomed extra space to run around in. Adam deliberately stopped Joby in front of the striking painting of the house in the hallway.

“Yeah it’s alright”, said Joby, and Adam had to concede that that was as much art appreciation as he was going to get out of Joby.

“You could do better”, Joby added.

“Well that’s very kind of you, old love”, said Adam “But this is very distinctive”.

Joby grunted and headed to the kitchen to inspect his nemesis, the stove. He stood looking at it in silence for a little while.

“I’ve seen worse”, he said, eventually.

“Heavens, you are in a good mood today”, said Adam.

“We’re not moving up here all the time”, said Joby “It’s just a sort of extension to the ship”.

“That’s the idea”, said Adam “I don’t think any of us relishes the thought of being here overnight”.

“We can use it a bit during the day”, said Hillyard “As a change of scene, and exercising the animals. And we can take some of the stuff down to the boat”.

“That’s a point”, Joby said to Adam “We’d better make a start on inspecting the food cupboards”.

“I can do that”, said Adam “I’d rather you went and kept an eye on Patsy”.

Joby took the main staircase up to the first floor. He didn’t feel able to negotiate the steep back stairs with his dodgy leg. The first thing that struck him about the upstairs was the acute echoing coldness of it. The rooms were large with high ceilings, and had floor-to-ceiling windows in many places. The floorboards creaked under his feet as he hobbled from room to room.

He located Kieran, along with Bengo and Bardin, in a room at the north-eastern corner of the house, overlooking the naked rolling hills and valleys at the back of the house. One of the dogs (Alphonso) was with them. He was standing there patiently, panting, with his tongue lolling out. Kieran and the two clowns were passing each other a pair of binoculars.

“Have you found something out there?” said Joby.

“Look at this”, said Kieran.

In the very far distance, at the end of a deep valley, appeared to be a tower-like structure of some sort. It looked like a black chess-piece that had been left behind on an empty board.

“It’s a long way off”, said Kieran “We can see it because there’s nothing else around”.

“Yeah, but what is it?” said Joby.

“It could be another house”, said Bengo “Like this one”.

“I suppose if we were up here after dark we might see if it showed any lights”, said Bardin.

“Perhaps some other night”, said Kieran “When we’ve got more used to this place”.

The worst of the winter weather came on, with heavy snow and extremely cold temperatures. The house was used during daylight hours, as it had some things they were lacking on the boat, such as a fitted bath-tub. The only approximations that they had to a bath on the galleon were Julian’s old hip-bath, and the tin-bath which Toppy did the laundry in.

So it was mainly to heat the hot water for the bath that they got the boiler going up at the kitchen, whilst Bardin took the clowns outside to work on defrosting the exterior pipe-work. Adam and Joby managed to light the boiler with more ease than they had anticipated, and the red glow behind the iron bars helped to make the kitchen less of a forbidding place.

“I was expecting a ton of soot to fall down on us”, said Joby, straightening up.

“That could still happen”, said Adam “At some point we’ll have to get Hillyard to clean the flue out”.

Kieran could be heard approaching the kitchen along the passageway. He was shouting in what sounded like the most ridiculously exaggerated Irish brogue ever.

“What on earth’s the matter with Patsy?” said Adam.

Kieran burst into the room shouting “Begorrah! ‘Tis a fine morning to be sure! And I am a privileged peasant to be allowed in the company of such foyne men as your good selves”.

“Is there some point to this, old love?” said Adam.

“Whatever it is”, said Joby “Pack it in!”

Kieran shut up, but kicked one of the kitchen chairs instead.

“What one earth’s brought on this hackneyed old cartoon Irishman act?” said Adam “I feel like we’re all appearing in ‘Finian’s Rainbow’, it’s horrible”.

“Focking Julian, that’s what’s doing it!” said Kieran “And I don’t mean literally!”

“Are you going to explain?” said Adam.

“I’m putting some water on to boil for a cup of tea”, Joby sighed, heavily “Whatever this is I spect it’s gonna take forever to explain!”

“Bardin had asked me to clean up the fireplace in the library”, said Kieran “So I was doing that, and Julian was pacing around behind me like some caged lion, and then he complains I’m doing it all wrong, and that I’m a simple-minded Irishman!”

“Is that all?” said Joby “So what? He’s always calling me gypo boy!”

“I get far worse than either of you”, said Adam “I get called a pathetic, hand-wringing old pansy! Just ignore him. He’s snarling because Bardin wouldn’t let Hoowie come up here today”.

“Well he would be easier to deal with if Hoowie was here”, said Kieran, who had calmed down a bit by now.

“Hm, I bet that’s why he’s playing up so outrageously”, said Adam “Just to make that point”.

“And he’s probably chewing the furniture ‘cos I won’t let him get his hands on you”, said Joby to Kieran.

“Shall I go and make meself scarce somewhere else in the house then?” said Kieran.

“No, stay here, where I can keep an eye on you”, said Joby “Go and sit by the stove and keep giving it a poke now and again to keep it going”.

Kieran walked past him, and Joby gave him a ringing slap on his behind.

“You wait til I get you home”, said Joby “I ent half gonna give you a damn good hiding!”

“Why wait til then?” said Adam “I don’t mind if you do it now!”

“No I wanna make sure Julian don’t burst in”, said Joby “And be able to take me time”.

Bengo came in through the back door, and slammed it behind him.

“Oh Bengo really, do be careful”, said Adam “You’ll make the fire smoke”.

“Sorry”, said Bengo, pulling off his coat and gloves in a huff “But Bardy’s just driven me mad. He ordered me, In Front Of The Other Clowns, to get back indoors, as I was no use to them out there! I will never forgive him for that, not ever!”

“You’ll have forgotten it by tomorrow”, said Joby.

“It seems like everybody’s getting huffy at the moment”, said Adam “I’ll be glad when there’s more hot water to run the bath. That might at least calm everyone down”.

“It’s this house”, said Kieran.

“Oh don’t start all that”, said Joby.

There was suddenly a very audible male sigh.

“Did we all just hear that?” said Adam.

“Yeah”, said Joby.

“It came out of nowhere”, said Kieran.

“OK let’s keep it in perspective”, said Adam “We used to occasionally get this sort of thing at Midnight Castle, and we lived with it there”.

Julian came in.

“What are you all looking like that for?” he said.

“We just heard a strange noise”, said Bengo “It sounded like a sigh”.

“Probably the arthritic plumbing”, said Julian.

“I suppose it might have been that”, said Adam, cautiously.

“It wasn’t the plumbing”, said Kieran, jabbing at the stove with the poker.

“Don’t start getting carried away with all your blasted whimsy”, said Julian.

“Did you want something?” Adam butted in.

“Other than to be a pain the neck”, Joby muttered.

“I was getting lonely in the front room”, said Julian, in a tone of voice that would have been quite piteous (if it had come from anyone else) “You had all abandoned me”.

“Well perhaps you should be nicer to us, old love”, said Adam.

“Fat chance of that happening!” said Joby.

The strange, deep sighing sound happened again. Bengo clutched at Adam.

“Did that sound like the plumbing to you?” Kieran barked at Julian.

“Yes!” said Julian “It could be an air-lock somewhere in the pipes”.

Bardin burst in through the back door, briefly letting in a sharp blast of cold air.

“Well we’re getting somewhere with the pipes”, he announced “We pulled a massive block of ice out of the drainpipe”.

“It can’t have been massive if it was stuck up the drainpipe”, said Joby, pedantically.

“It was pretty big”, said Bardin.

The lid on the kettle began to rattle as the water came to the boil, causing them all to jump.

“God, you’re all so jumpy!” said Bardin.

“You jumped too”, said Bengo.

“Only because you startled me”, said Bardin.

“Alright, that’s enough you two”, said Adam “Bardin, I think you should take some tea out to the other clowns”.

Bardin clearly baulked at the idea of doing waitress service.

“I think it would be a nice gesture”, Adam insisted “Particularly as they’ve been working out in the cold”.

Mid-afternoon, as the sun was setting, they cleared the house of the rest of its food stores, plus some more essential portable items (such as shovels and a pickaxe), and took them down to the galleon.

Once the food had been safely stored in the hold, Adam said to Bengo and Joby that he was giving them the rest of the day off.

“Farnol and Umbert can do the supper”, he said “In fact they volunteered”.

“I’ll have to spend time with Bardy”, Bengo protested.

“You are married, old love”, said Adam, and then he proceeded to walk along the corridor with Joby “I hope they don’t come to blows”.

“In an hours time it’ll be ’oh Bardy’s adorable, he’s got such a sweet little face’”, said Joby “Drive us all mad”.

“Well I’m going to have a nap”, said Adam “I find that house very draining. I suggest you do the same”.

“Eventually”, said Joby “Gonna give Kieran a good hiding first”.

“Don’t be too rough with him”, Adam laughed “Remember he’s only little”.

“I’ll be rough with him alright”, said Joby “By the time I’ve finished his arse’ll be as red as a billiard ball!”

“How - many - times - have - I - told - you”, said Joby, punctuating each word with a hard slap on Kieran’s bare buttocks “Not - to - get - worked - up - about - anything - Julian - says”.

“He winds you up too!” said Kieran, his voice partly-muffled by a cushion he was burrowing into.

“Shut up”, said Joby “Not your place to speak out of turn”.

He had lit several candles around the small cabin, not just for light and atmosphere, but to generate some heat, as Kieran had no clothes on. The old sofa was turning out to be a very useful place to put Kieran over his knee, and now Joby wouldn’t be without it. He paused to rest his hand on Kieran’s fiery arse.

“Sometimes I don’t know why I bother chastising you”, said Joby “You never behave yourself so I’m starting to think it’s a waste of time”.

Kieran looked up in alarm.

“You wouldn’t stop would you?” he cried “Oh Joby, please don’t. I need you to keep me in order”.

“Blimey, have I found a good strategy at last?” said Joby “You’re just gonna have to make a better job of behaving!”

He spanked Kieran some more, until his behind was red enough for his satisfaction. Afterwards, he swaddled Kieran in a spare quilt, and poured them both a whisky. Kieran’s behind was throbbing deliciously.

“Course I’m not gonna stop”, said Joby, joining him on the sofa “I enjoy it too you know! I can’t get enough of feeling up your pert little bum. I’d do it even more if Adam didn’t keep me chained up in the galley so much!”

“I’m here at your disposal anytime you want me to be”, said Kieran “In me bare arse, or in me kinky knickers, whatever pleases you”.

“You’re a little bugger”, said Joby, kissing him on the cheek “A very naughty little bugger”.

“I was today wasn’t I?” said Kieran “But that obnoxious public school eejit winds me up so much”.

“I keep telling you”, said Joby “He’s jealous. You’re the perfect spankee, and I won’t let him get his hands on you. It must be like an alcoholic having a bottle just out reach!”

“He’s got Hoowie!” Kieran protested.

“Yeah, but Julian’s an insatiable old sod”, said Joby “He always wants more. Plus he always thinks you get away with too much. The amount of lectures he’s always given me about how I should grind you under me iron-foot all the time, or some such cobblers”.

“Why does he think I get away with things?” said Kieran “I don’t get away with anything!”

“He can’t tame you”, said Joby “Hoowie adores him like a devoted dog, the clowns do in their own way, even Adam does on the quiet, though he’ll never admit it. You don’t. You might be submissive for a while to get a spanking out of it, but that’s all”.

“No, hang on a minute”, said Kieran “It’s not just me. Hillyard doesn’t adore him”.

“He does, in his own way. He often says how great he thinks Julian is“.

“What about you then?”

“I hope I don’t adore him!” said Joby “But I listen to him I guess, and he likes that. Julian needs attention all the time. He can’t get a hold on you Kiel, except by force, and I think that pisses him off sometimes”.

“Ransey doesn’t adore him”, said Kieran, desperately trying to find someone else.

“No”, said Joby “But Ransey does respect him, in spite of all the name-calling sometimes. Whereas you, you’re a chronic winder-upper, you’re only obedient when you’re getting your bum smacked, and you probably always look like you’re laughing at him”.

“But I respect everybody on this ship”, said Kieran “I’ve always respected Julian’s courage. But I can’t help extracting the urine sometimes, I’m Irish, it’s a part of me!”

“Alright, I’m not having a go at you”, said Joby “I’m just explaining how he probably sees it. Plus he fancies the crap out of you, he always did. I remember that stunned look he gave when he first clapped eyes on you. You’re bloody sexy, you’re beautiful, and you can’t get enough of being spanked. Course he loses it when he’s around you sometimes! Wise up, Murphy O’Reilly!”

There was a tentative scratching on the cabin door.

“Oh blimey”, said Joby “Unless the boat’s on fire, go away!”

There was an agitated muffle of voices outside the door. Joby sighed, got up and unbolted the door. He found Bengo and Bardin outside. Bardin was holding a bottle of brandy.

“No thanks, no clowns today”, said Joby.

“Well we thought that as we had the night off”, said Bengo “That it might be nice to have a pre-dinner drink. We’ve brought our own cups”.

He held up two battered tin tooth-mugs.

“Classy”, said Joby “Well seeing as you’ve brought your own booze as well, come in. And watch the candles. Don’t knock ‘em over”.

Bardin handed Joby the brandy and sat down next to Kieran on the sofa.

“I suppose I’d better get dressed”, said Kieran “Seeing as we’ve got company. Or at least put me dressing-gown on”.

“Don’t go to any trouble on our account”, said Bardin.

“I think it’s time I restarted your therapy sometime soon”, said Kieran, shamelessly dropping the quilt and exposing his red backside to the awed delight of his visitors.

“You don’t look as though you’d be able to sit down to administer it!” said Bardin.

“Try me”, said Kieran “I’m a professional”.

“You won’t be able to get mine looking like that”, said Bardin.

“Is that a challenge?” said Kieran.

“Remove all the starch first, Kieran and then you’ll be able to”, said Bengo.

“Ah but the starchy knickers are such a turn-on”, said Kieran.

Somehow the four of them managed to squeeze onto the sofa.

“We’re talking about my underwear again”, said Bardin.

“A topic of perennial fascination”, said Kieran “I’ll come along and see you in the morning, and we’ll get the old chastising therapy going again”.

“I shall be busy tomorrow”, said Bardin, waspishly “Got to go up to the house again”.

“No you’re not”, said Bengo, who had the advantage of sitting on Bardin, pinning him into place “Ransey reckons we’re gonna get clobbered by shit-loads of more snow overnight, so it’ll be awful trying to get up there. I’ll make sure he’s ready for you, Kieran. All washed and laundered”.

“We haven’t finished using the bath!” Bardin protested.

“Too cold to have a bath”, said Joby “Leave that to the spring”.

“Actually”, said Kieran “Thinking about it, I really do think that Bengo should take over Bardin’s therapy”.

“His spiritual therapy?” said Bengo “Oh no I couldn’t. I wouldn’t know where to begin. That’s your department, Kieran”.

“No I mean the physical stuff”, said Kieran “The chastising“.

“Hah”, said Bardin “Too much for you am I? Thought so”.

“Shut up, Bardin”, said Bengo.

“I just think it’s more appropriate for Bengo to do it”, said Kieran.

“Ooh”, said Bengo “I don’t know what to say”.

“Blimey”, said Joby “It’s like Oscars night”.

“He’ll never remember”, said Bardin “Left to his own devices he’ll keep forgetting”.

“Oh no I won’t”, said Bengo “I’ll do anything to stop you getting in a tizzy all the time, particularly over that rotten old house”.

“We might get stranded here in the snow for quite some while”, said Kieran “So we might as well cope the best way we can. I don’t see the point of constantly haring about. Anyway, the house will still be there”.

“Whether we like it or not”, said Joby.

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