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By Sarah Hapgood

That evening, Bardin sat in his usual place at the head of the dinner-table, making out endless lists, which he then drew big lines through and screwed up.

“This is hopeless”, he concluded.

“Well what is it you’re trying to do?” said Bengo, sitting nearby with his feet propped up on another chair.

“Work out a plan”, said Bardin “To take the bus into the forest”.

“Well what’s the problem?” said Ransey.

“Do we just go as the usual six?” said Bardin “Or do we go mob-handed?”

“Go as a small group on a preliminary scouting-party”, said Ransey “Go a short distance into the forest. See what happens. And then perhaps do the mob-handed bit. I don’t see what’s causing you so much angst”.

“I do”, said Bengo “Ever since HIllyard found those caravans in Hannah’s out-building, Bardin’s had some idea we could disguise ourselves as a travelling-circus”.

“That’s nuts”, said Ransey.

“I don’t see why”, said Bardin, defensively.

“Well it’s hardly being low-key is it!” said Ransey.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t try to be”, Bardin shrugged.

“What happens to the galleon in the meantime, whilst we’re off playing clowns?” said Julian.

“Hannah and Jonathan can keep an eye on it”, said Bardin “Or Jane and Cloris. Depends if they want to come with us or not”.

“If we’re going to do this, then let’s just do it”, said Julian “I don’t see the point of the preliminary stuff”.

He got to his feet.

“I’m going to bed”, he said “Think over it. And we’ll make some proper plans in the morning. I doubt there’ll be any need to draw up endless lists. Goodnight”.

“Finia will want to change these curtains”, said Joby, standing in one of the caravans, eyeing up the threadbare bright orange drapes.

“Well he can then”, said Hillyard “If he can bear to drag his skinny arse over here to have a look at them”.

“How are we all gonna fit into this caravan, Hillyard?” said Joby.

“Will you listen to him!” said Hillyard.

“What have I said now?” said Joby.

“I sometimes think all that time spent over a hot stove has cooked your brain!” said Hillyard.

“There is something you haven’t thought of, Hillyard”, said Kieran, who was standing in the doorway “How are you going to tow this thing? I don’t expect the horses are up to it”.

“We’ll use a land-rover”, said Hillyard, smugly.

“Don’t tell me”, said Joby “Hannah’s got one of those stashed away as well!”

A thorough inspection of the outbuildings yielded a double-decker bus, the caravan with the orange curtains, a land-rover, and an old-style gypsy wagon, which had also been left behind by a travelling-circus.

“Tell Bardin”, said Hillyard “It looks like he’s got his travelling-circus”.

“This is a potty idea”, said Ransey, appearing in the open doorway of a large double garage “It’s insane. This is no time to encourage Bardin to go resurrecting his old clowning days”.

“Why not?” said Hillyard “I think it’s a great idea”.

“Undercover as a travelling circus?” said Ransey “When the world is about to fall into the abyss?”

“ABOUT to fall?!” Hillyard exclaimed “If you ask me, it fucking fell arse-over-tit into the abyss years ago!”

“What’s all this row about?” said Bardin, appearing on the scene.

“I am just voicing my opinion that it’s a bad idea”, said Ransey.

“No, it’s a brilliant idea”, said Bardin “It’ll be the best fun we’ve had in years”.

“Which speaks volumes for the state of the world in recent years!” said Ransey.

“Oh get you”, said Bardin “Everyone’s a critic”.

“So what role will you be playing in Captain Bardin’s Flying Circus?” said Julian, when Adam joined him for sherry at sunset.

“None whatsoever, I have made that categorically clear”, said Adam “I am Chief Cook. That’s my role in this family, and that is how it shall remain. If Bardin wants my help with painting any boards and signage, I will do that, but I will not be prancing around in a leotard and tights for anyone”.

“No I can’t see that somehow”, said Julian “Reminds me of that show we all put on in Toondor Lanpin years ago”.

“Yes that was fun”, said Adam “Or the clowns’ circus in Magnolia Cove”.

“That wasn’t so much fun as sheer bloody terror!” said Julian “The yacht crowd think we’re all stark, raving mad y’know”.

“Yes I popped over there earlier”, said Adam “I haven’t seen Lord Robert so animated in a long while. I hope he doesn’t commandeer our ship whilst we’re gone”.

“We’ll soon sort him out if he does”, said Julian “Are any of them joining us?”

“I don’t think so”, said Adam “Jane told me that Hannah is panicking at the thought of everyone leaving again”.

“Well it’s going to happen one day”, said Julian.

“I’m not so sure, where the yacht’s concerned. Cloris has been talking of starting a new world here, and I can fully see her point. I think she doesn’t understand about why we’re doing this”.

“Because it won’t be much of a new world if we’re constantly worrying about what’s happening in the old one! We’ve got to find out once and for all. Living in constant fear and paranoia is no life at all”.

“FARNOL!” Bardin shouted down the corridor outside Julian’s cabin door, causing Julian and Adam to jump “I told you to wash all the coffee-cups”.

“Ah, they’re clean enough, Bardin man”, was Farnol’s reply.

“Bollocks to that!” said Bardin “How the hell are we going to put a show on, when you can’t even follow a simple direction like that!”

“I hope the outside world knows what’s going to hit it”, said Julian.

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