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The caves at the western tip of the island were inspected and deemed to be satisfactory. This part of the island was completely uninhabited, and yet it had a desolate beauty all of its own. Its eerie quietness convinced most of the Indigo-ites that this would be a good place to hide, if that unwelcome situation should arise.
“No good if they send air-buggies over though”, said Hoowie, who seemed to have adopted the role of the grim prophet of doom in an Ancient Greek tragedy “We wouldn’t have time to get round there and hide”.
“Oh will you stop prattling on about air-buggies!” said Bengo, jabbing him sharply in the stomach with his elbow “You’re getting on my nerves!”
Bardin sent a letter to the Governor, which - by Bardin’s standards anyway - was a miracle of tact and diplomacy. In it he said that Kieran was sometimes a victim of his own passion and idealism, and this could be awkward in a situation like the current one, which demanded subtlety and patience. He went on to say that, for the foreseeable future, Kieran would be keeping a very low profile on the island.
Unfortunately the islanders themselves seemed to have other ideas about this. They wanted Kieran to come and preach at their chapel! There was no resident spiritual leader on the island, not since the new regime had taken over in Lebicca. The small white-painted hut that had been their chapel was, to outward appearances, only used as a store-room, although the Indigo-ites were well aware that prayer meetings occasionally went on there in secret.
Secret prayer-meetings were one thing though, Kieran conducting public services was quite another. It was highly dangerous.
Julian was apoplectic with rage when he heard about it.
“Can you see what he’s done?” he raged at Adam “He’s whipped them up into a state of religious frenzy!”
“Julian”, said Adam, firmly “Them asking him to conduct a service is not the same as religious frenzy! This has always been a spiritual island, and no amount of militaristic, atheistic regimes is going to change that!”
“It doesn’t make what they want any the less dangerous!” said Julian.
“I agree”, said Adam “And Patsy doesn’t want to do the service. I think he finds their services a little too plain and no-frills for his tastes. He is a Catholic don’t forget”.
“How could I possibly forget!” Julian thundered, with such a surge of frustration that Adam smiled in sympathy with him.
“I just want to reassure you that he has no intention of conducting the service”, said Adam “And he’s absolutely sincere about that. Joby’s extracted a full promise from him on that score, and he won’t let Joby down”.
“Let’s damn well hope not!” said Julian, feeling only a very trifle mollified.
Bardin found himself having to draft another letter to the Governor, this time pointing out that if Kieran were to preach at the little chapel (something he was very disinclined to do) then it could only bring an immense amount of trouble to the island.
He despatched Rumble to deliver this message, but secretly he had little hope that it would have much impact. He feared that the islanders seemed only too ready to revive religious fervour.
The Indigo-ites were saved by a wholly unexpected stroke of luck. A rather odd-looking creature had been sighted swimming through the waters of the lake in the distance, and a spot of lake monster fever hit the island instead. For a short while at least, religion was abandoned in pursuit of it.
Ransey hadn’t been looking forward to his next chess evening with the Governor. He had a feeling that he might have to spend it making reassuring noises about Kieran. As it happened though, it turned out rather differently.
The Governor looked even more stressed, tired and haggard than usual. He offered Ransey a glass of wine before he had barely got through the library door.
“What’s up?” said Ransey, seeing no reason to beat about the bush “Something’s happened, hasn’t it?”
“N-news”, the Governor swallowed hard “News from Lebicca. The Government has started carrying out mass purges. I get a news bulletin regularly over the wire, and I got this one this morning. Firing-squads in the streets …”
“Steady”, Ransey caught him and sat him down in a convenient chair “Take some of the brandy”.
“One man shot for forgetting to water the flowers outside the council offices”, the Governor gave a mirthless laugh “Can you believe it? There isn’t a building left in that town that isn’t wrecked or peppered with bullet-holes, and they k-kill someone for neglecting to water the plants! Do you believe in mass insanity, Ransey? Because that seems to be what has happened!”
“I do in fact believe that such things can happen”, said Ransey “It sounds like the regime is going into freefall”.
“You must leave the island!” the Governor exclaimed, in what was for him an extremely rare burst of emotion “They will track down their outposts next, even forgotten ones like this. And it’s not safe for other reasons. The people here are already looking to Kieran as some sort of saviour, to lead them out of all this”.
Ransey didn’t speak. He merely looked totally horrified.
“You have to leave”, the Governor swallowed again, and managed to sound a little more calm “I will actually order you if I have to, but it must be done, and done soon”.
It was a hot, humid evening. Most of the Indigo-ites were sprawled on the main deck of the galleon in various states of undress. Conversation was desultory. Rumble idly plucked at the strings of his banjo. When Ransey and Hillyard rode out of the trees, after their visit to the Governor’s House, they thought the area had never looked more peaceful and beautiful.
“They’re back early”, Bardin looked at them lazily, from where he was lounging in a deckchair in his shorts.
“Something’s up”, said Adam.
“How can you tell, from here?” said Joby.
“I just can”, said Adam.
Toppy and Tamaz ran down to bring in the horses after Ransey and Hillyard had dismounted.
“We’ve been ordered to leave”, said Ransey, when he got onto the deck.
“Have we done something wrong?” said Adam.
“No it’s not as simple as that”, and Ransey went on to relate what the Governor had told him.
“You don’t mean to say we have to leave right now?” said Adam, sounding as though he had suddenly had an unwanted extra dinner guest foisted upon him.
“Adam”, Ransey sighed “You must understand he doesn’t want us to go, but the situation is getting highly dangerous”.
“Perhaps if we just went and hid in the caves for the night”, said Bengo, as if they should chuck a bone to the Governor to try and appease him.
“Oh get real”, said Rumble, as the other clowns tittered “One night’s not going to make much difference!”
“It was just a thought”, said Bengo, huffily.
“Well we can’t get very far tonight”, said Adam.
“What about ’The Spooky Isle’?” said Kieran “It would do for the time being, and we can hide the galleon out of sight there”.
“Let’s hop to it”, said Bardin, putting on his cap resolutely, which, combined with his shorts, made him look rather comical.
After all this fevered excitement, all this sudden exodus from Abbus Isle, and fleeing to the gloomy sanctuary of ’The Spooky Isle’, a period of limbo set in, a sort of Phoney War.
There was the island to explore of course. Compared to their base at the old monastery, it was far from satisfactory. There was no landing quay for one thing, which meant that every time they went ashore they had to use the skiff, and of course, this meant they couldn’t take the larger animals ashore for exercise.
“For that reason on it’s own we can’t stay here for long”, said Bardin.
His intention was that they should only stay a few days, and then try and make some kind of contact with the Governor. If he was still unyielding in his determination that they should stay away from Abbus Isle, then they would have no choice but to move on from the area altogether.
Anyway, of ‘The Spooky Isle’ itself there was little to recommend it. There was an old broken down hut with one wall missing, which had presumably once been used as a shepherd’s refuge, but other than that there was nothing on the island but densely packed trees. It was a dark, gloomy place, which even the strong Summer sunshine could do little to brighten.
Bardin spent 48 hours pacing around the ship, chewing over in his mind what they should do.
“I think we have to be sensible, old love”, said Adam, when he took him a drink into his cabin “If the Governor thinks it’s best if we leave altogether then we leave altogether”.
“But it feels like we’re running out on them!” Bardin protested.
“Nonsense”, said Adam “It’s not running out if we would clearly make the situation worse for them by staying!”
On Lammas Day they had a surprise visitation from the Governor, who came out to see them in his own private sail-boat. The news he brought with him was grim. He had received a wire from Lebicca. The regime there was sending out a deputation to check up on him. They could be arriving by air-buggy at any time. This settled matters once and for all. The Indigo-ites set sail without delay, this time in a southerly direction to yet another lake. This one was very beautiful, fringed by a more diverse mainland landscape than they had seen so far. There were wooded parts and rocky parts, and plenty of little lakeside beaches. Joby said it all reminded him of Loch Ness. Hoowie said it wasn’t far enough away from Abbus Isle for comfort.
“We should have got right away”, he said, pacing around Bengo and Bardin’s cabin like a whirlwind trapped inside the room “Right away from the area, what good’s just going into the next lake gonna do?”
“We’re sufficiently nearby in case the Governor needs us”, said Bardin, who was watering the pot plants arranged on the top of their sea-chest.
“And when that mob comes over in their air-buggy they’ll see us”, said Hoowie “We stick out like a sore thumb!”
“The Governor has assured me that their air-route will not lie over this lake”, said Bardin.
“How does he know?” said Hoowie “We could be jeopardising everything we’ve got just by trusting what he says! I‘m trying to help here!”
“Hoowie”, said Bardin “You could help our situation a heck of a lot right now just by leaving the room!”
“Come along, Hoowie”, sighed Bengo, and he pulled Hoowie out of the room by his wrist, as though he was taking one of the dogs for a walk.
“He’s one sarcastic sod”, said Hoowie, as he and Bengo slid to the floor in the corridor and sat there.
“I know”, said Bengo “His stage name should have been Mr Sarcastic. Mr Sarcastic and his sidekick, the stupid fat clown!”
“I didn’t get a chance to tell him my idea”, Hoowie pouted “When that lot get here, they’ll have to leave their air-buggy on the mainland. There’s nowhere to land it on Abbus Isle”.
“So?” said Bengo.
“We could go and sabotage it”, said Hoowie.
“And what good would that do?” said Bengo “The Governor would be stuck with them then!”
“I hadn’t got that far ahead in my planning”, Hoowie admitted.
“What are you doing?” said Adam, who had heard this conversation from the galley steps, and leaned over the rail to see them.
“N-nothing”, said Bengo, scrambling guiltily to his feet.
“Well go and help Joby with the supper”, said Adam “And Hoowie, I’m sure Julian can find something to keep you out of mischief!”
“We are going into a night-time blackout situation, for the duration of this crisis”, said Bardin, when everyone had finished eating supper that evening, but were still congregated round the dining-room table “When night falls there will be no lights whatsoever shown above deck”. “Does my cigar-butt count?” said Julian, facetiously “Just joking, dear heart. It’s awfully good for morale you know”.
“And below deck”, Bardin continued “There will be as limited a light show as we can get away with, for health and safety reasons. If you can, use bulls-eye lanterns instead of oil-lamps”.
“God how depressing”, said Joby.
“It has also been brought to my attention”, said Bardin, now sounding quite remorseless in his efficiency “That certain very reckless and irresponsible members of our gang are planning a sabotage campaign. I want that one nipped in the bud right away. At this present stage in time it could not possibly benefit anybody!”
Ransey, who had been already apprised of all this by Adam, cast a withering look in Hoowie’s direction. Hoowie slunk in his chair, suitably shame-faced.
“Right that’s enough for tonight”, said Bardin, rising to his feet “There may well be more tomorrow”.
“Can’t wait”, said Joby.
“Did you see the way Ransey looked at me?” said Hoowie, when he and Julian were leaving the room “It was awful!”
“Take no notice”, said Julian “He looks at me like that all the time!”
“What? Are you still in bed?” Bengo asked, breezing into Hoowie’s cabin the next morning. Hoowie was lying alone under his mosquito net. Julian was up on deck.
“It’s an easy life being a concubine isn’t it!” Bengo continued.
“Not round here it isn’t”, Hoowie grumbled “What’s all that racket going on overhead?”
“That’s what I came in to tell you”, said Bengo “I had an idea late last night, and Bardy rubbished it. But this morning he’s had a change of heart, and now we’re doing it”.
“Doing what?” said Hoowie.
“We’re going into camouflage”, said Bengo “I know what you’re thinking, how can we camouflage a galleon, but we’re gonna give it a go. Bardy’s got everybody mobilised”.
“Except me”, said Hoowie “He hasn’t asked me to join in”.
“That’s because he probably thought Julian had you clapped in irons this morning!” said Bengo.
Adam came into the room, carrying a mug of coffee and a corned beef roll.
“Bengo, I thought you were going to make some tea for the workers”, he said.
“Oh yes”, said Bengo, and he galloped from the room.
Adam set his load down on a convenient table.
“As the mountain won’t come to Mohammed”, he said to Hoowie “It’s been sitting on the dining-table waiting for you for half the morning”.
Hoowie didn’t say anything, he merely stared at Adam, sulkily.
“I suppose the absence of courtesy is because I grassed on you last night to Bardin”, said Adam “I wouldn’t normally have done that, but I couldn’t afford for you to go off on one of your madcap pranks, not in the current situation”.
“It wasn’t likely to happen was it!” said Hoowie “I couldn’t even have got out to the air-buggy, let alone anything else. I couldn’t operate the skiff all by myself!”
“No, but you might have coerced someone else to help you”, said Adam “You’re too much of a wild-card for me to take that risk. Now drop the sulky brat act at once. Julian’s not the only on around here who can dole out spankings you know. I’m a pretty dab-hand at them myself!”
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