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By Sarah Hapgood

"Look at us all lined up with our own individual towels", Julian snarled "It's like being back at school!"

"I do wish you'd stop complaining, Jules", said Adam "This was all your idea".

"Well I thought it'd be a bit of fun", Julian protested "And it's nothing like it so far".

"We've only just arrived", said Ransey, impatiently.

They were shown into an area of the building which housed the large communal bath. The water was steaming away in an inviting fashion, and Pendor, fresh from his own ablutions, was walking around in a striped bath-robe.

"Toppy's sorting out some supper in the other room", he was saying "That gives you a few minutes to wash and brush up".

"A few minutes?" Julian whispered, in dismay.

He'd been looking forward to a hedonistic evening of lounging around in a steam-bath, nibbling at food, drinking wine, and ogling various scrumptious bits of naked male flesh. Instead it all promised to be about as sexy and languid as a hospital bed-bath.

Regardless of Julian's carping the others all tore their clothes off enthusiastically and jumped into the steaming water. It was so long since they had been able to immerse themselves in hot, clean water that it was bound to feel like an exciting luxury.

"Tell you what, Julian", Hillyard boomed "To liven things up we could play hunt the soap".

"Oh yeah?" said Joby "And what's the betting it turns up between your legs?"

"You should've had a bath like this installed at the H.Q when you were President, Kieran", Hillyard continued "It would've been more fun than that china hip-bath effort you had. I could've got in with you then to soap your back".

"Too risky", said Kieran "The Ministry might've suggested we held meetings in it. Male-bonding and all that".

It was about now that normally someone would've made a joke about Gorth, but it was startlingly conspicuous by its absence.

"Well I happen to think it's a nice change for you lot to all have to behave yourselves", said Ransey, pouring water over his hair.

"May I remind you that we've all been holed-up on a tugboat for most of the past year, and are so entitled to some luxurious fun?" said Julian "It also happens to be Christmas Eve".

"Jules, it's not is it?" said Adam.

"Yes, according to the pages in my log-book".

"But why didn't you say so earlier?"

"What would have been the point?" Julian exclaimed "We could hardly have dashed out and bought each other presents!"

"Christmas isn't the same without a few prezzies to unwrap", said Joby "Just to be able to tear the wrapping off something, doesn't matter what it is".

"Where Julian comes from they don't believe in wrapping presents", said Adam "His family's idea of a gift would've been the title deeds to Wiltshire in an envelope".

"Doesn't surprise me", said Joby, glumly.

"Oh don't tell me", said Julian "You counted yourself lucky if you got a bag of nuts, a satsuma and a lump of coal in your stocking! Why am I getting all the knock Julian stuff this evening? I've laid all this on for you haven't I?"

"I thought it was Pendor who laid all this on for us actually", said Hillyard.

"That means we've been at sea exactly one year tomorrow", said Adam, excitedly.

"Well done Ada, I knew you'd get there in the end", said Julian.

"We should have a little celebration", said Adam.

"I thought this was it", said Lonts "Or it could be if you'd all cheer up! This reminds me of the Winter Palace, do you remember the steam-bath there?"

"Yeah", Hillyard chuckled "High on cannibis, and Adam making a pass at all of us!"

"Don't go into all that", said Adam "Jules gets awfully jealous that he missed it all".

Toppy walked in and stood pointedly by the entrance, his white gloved hands crossed in front of him.

"I gather supper is ready", Julian sighed.

"Everybody out!" said Hillyard, rising out of the water like a whale.

Julian blatantly ogled Toppy, who responded by staring fixedly at the opposite wall.

"Jules, stop it", said Adam "You're terrifying the poor boy. Anyway, he's far too young. Jail-bait".

"God, he looks pornographic though", said Julian "Standing there like the perfect schoolboy. Wouldn't you just love to tear his immaculate clothes off him? And see what he looked like, wet and naked, his hair slicked back, skin glistening?"

"Shut up!" Adam swatted his bottom with a rolled-up towel "You're not head-prefect now you know".

"More's the pity", Julian sighed.

Supper had been laid out on a low table, with cushions scattered around it for seats. The room was lit by candles floating in shallow bowls of water. Pendor served more of his sweet wine, which Joby whispered to Kieran looked and tasted like paraffin. The food was good, fresh fruit and home-baked bread, but unexciting. Pendor though obviously had other things on his mind than simply entertaining.

"I've been in touch with my City contact again this evening", he said "And I have to tell you that the rumour is that some representatives of the New Church are after Kieran, and intent on taking him back to depose Tamaz".

"They've already contacted me", said Kieran "In the Village of Stairs".

"My news is a bit more up-to-date", said Pendor "They know you've headed up the Beyond River, and they're following you. They can only be a couple of days journey behind you".

Kieran slumped against the table. It was obvious to everyone what he was thinking, namely that he kept running and hiding, but he was always found and brought back in the end.

"I'm not a political person", he said "I never have been, this isn't right!"

"We could just keep going", said Ransey "Try and out-run them. Hope they get sick of following us. It's a long-shot I know, but we do have that couple of day's advantage".

"It's no good", Kieran groaned, putting his head in his hands "Why should we just keep running? We're not criminals, fugitives. It's so unfair".

"I can help, if you'll let me", said Pendor "You can outwit them by taking your boat off this river".

"How?" said Kieran, looking up in hope "I mean, there are no other estuaries marked on the map".

"This building's not on any map either, but it still exists", said Pendor "A tributary of the Beyond runs up the side of this house and into the hinterland behind me. It's reached via an old lock, which I keep camouflaged from the front. It was that which decided me to build here. Once through that lock no one but me knows where I am".

"Why are you helping us?" said Adam.

"To be honest I had no intention of helping you", said Pendor "Don't get involved is usually my motto. But earlier today your Captain made me see that us seekers after peace of mind have to stick together, or we'll always be made to conform. Now, it's too dark to take the Indigo through the lock tonight, but I don't see any problem in doing it tomorrow".

"Where does the river go eventually?" said Adam.

"No one knows", said Pendor "It's not marked on any map you see. All I know is it goes north. I haven't followed it far myself. I've just turned a bit of the immediate area behind me into a garden. I've always liked the thought of the river being there as an escape option though, in case anyone caused trouble for me here. Now I'm offering it to you".

Nobody was interested in debating whether they should trust him or not, they simply wanted to disappear, and he was offering them a way of doing it. Julian though, in spite of his preachings earlier about never looking a gift horse in the mouth, was about to do just that.

"I'm not after anything in return", Pendor sighed, standing with Julian away from the others "There's nothing you can give me that I need".

"You are so contented here there is nothing that you want?" said Julian, dubiously.

"S-Sometimes I get lonely", said Pendor, blushing shyly as he spoke "A companion, a partner, would be nice. P-Preferably a eunuch".

He looked across at Finia, who had worn his gold taffeta dress in honour of the occasion, and was now examining Pendor's expensive red goblets with rare but obvious signs of approval on his face. Julian bridled visibly and then did an extraordinary thing. He went across to Finia, picked him up in one arm and carried him out of the building. Taken completely by surprise, and annoyed immeasurably by his undignified exit, Finia kicked his legs frantically.

"It was just a suggestion", Pendor gasped "I didn't really think he'd be prepared to take me up on it. Only he asked and I said".

"I guess that means your offer to open the lock for us has gone?" said Adam, feeling his heart sink. He had wanted more than anything for them to disappear, to get Kieran out of Father Dalman's clutches.

"No I'll still help", Pendor sighed, miserably "I'll come aboard the Indigo tomorrow morning and go over everything with you. Toppy will operate the lock".

Adam spent a restless night back in the stuffy heat of his cabin, convinced that Pendor would renege on his deal after Julian's rudeness, and also terrified that Dalman and his cohorts would take them all by surprise by turning up early. Soon after dawn he got up and went into the galley, where he found Finia brewing a pot of tea. The boy looked exhausted and tearful.

"Has Julian been giving you a hard time?" said Adam, gently.

"I haven't done anything", said Finia, after blowing his nose vigorously "He scared me so much I put both my feet on either side of the cabin door to stop him carrying me in there! I was convinced he was going to hit me".

"Even Julian wouldn't be foolish enough to do that to you", said Adam "I think he was afraid you might be tempted to take Pendor up on his offer".

"Shit, if I didn't take Brinslee's offer why should I take Pendor's?" Finia exclaimed "I thought me and Julian understood each other after what happened at Magnolia Cove".

"I'm afraid Julian could win prizes at being obtuse", said Adam "He had no right to scare you though. I shall give him a hard time about it, don't fear on that score. I hope that tea isn't for him?"

"Automatic reflex", said Finia, looking at the two cups he had set out "I'm used to making one for him when I make one for myself".

"I'll take it into him", said Adam.

"Don't make a scene on my account", Finia sighed.

"He could also have blown our chances", said Adam "He needs lecturing on that score too".

He went into Julian's cabin. Julian was lying face-down on his bunk, his single sheet pushed up against the wall in a sweat-sodden heap.

"Your tea milord", said Adam, placing the cup on the wash-stand next to Julian's bunk.

"What are you doing in here?" said Julian, looking up blearily "Where's Finia?"

"Having a precious few moments away from you".

"Oh don't start the lectures", Julian sat up and sipped at the tea "He had it coming to him".

"Had what coming to him?" Adam exclaimed "He hasn't done anything!"

"He wore that dress".

"Well he's worn it countless times before, it doesn't usually start a civil war".

"Pendor was ogling him".

"You were ogling Toppy".

"That is not the point!" Julian snapped "If Finia wants me to be his guardian he has to take the rough with the smooth".

"Yes", said Adam, dryly "Particularly when you're completely off your chump!"

"Damnit Adam, you're a fine one to talk!" said Julian "If Pendor had suggested hijacking your little darling, you'd have dragged Lonts back here and possibly beaten the arse off him too. Likewise Joby would've got narked at Kieran under the same circumstances, and Hillyard with Bengo. It seems I'm the only one who's not allowed to show emotion! I nearly lost Finia once, I have no intention of coming close to it again".

"There are ways of handling these things, Jules", said Adam "What if Pendor had refused to help us after your little exhibition?"

Julian slammed his cup onto the saucer so violently that Adam flinched.

"Don't you dare lecture me about how to conduct myself whilst in a fit of jealousy!" Julian roared "That's like being lectured by Stalin on personnel management! Now get out of here, I've got things to do before Pendor turns up".

"Christmas Day", Julian wrote in his log "Goodwill is not exactly rampant. Finia isn't speaking to me, and my First Officer is probably plotting a coup with his adoring acolytes right at this very moment. I will be immensely relieved when Pendor appears, and we can get through that lock, as then the others can be reassured that their beloved Captain hasn't cocked it up completely for them".

"Just come to see if you wanted any breakfast", said Hillyard, walking into the room "We've all eaten, and Pendor will be visiting soon".

"Oh dear, are you the only one who's prepared to cook for me this morning?" said Julian, closing the log-book.

"They'll come round", said Hillyard.

"I doubt it", said Julian "Not with Finia walking around acting all martyred like a battered wife".

"They're not seeing you as I am at the moment", said Hillyard, appreciatively.

Julian had been leaning against the wall, completely naked. Hillyard moved up close to him and kissed him vigorously.

"I thought you were supposed to be a happily married man these days?" said Julian, eventually.

"Bengo understands me".

"A little genius obviously".

"He's not like Hirrid", said Hillyard "I wouldn't dare get into a relationship with him in the first place if he was. I can never promise fidelity to anyone ever again. I know myself too well".

Julian tore open the buttons on Hillyard's dirty shirt and slid it from his shoulders.

"Perhaps you know you just need something a bit more vigorous occasionally", said Julian "And you can't resist your little spurts of sex without responsibility".

"Can anyone?" said Hillyard.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to put it on ice for a while", said Adam, standing in the doorway "Pendor's here. Get dressed, Hilly".

"Yeah, sure", Hillyard stammered nervously, and picked up his shirt.

As he walked out of the room Adam cuffed him round the back of the head. Hillyard gabbled an apology and scuttled off before Adam could hit him again.

"If ever a couple were made for each other it's you two!" said Adam, storming up to Julian.

"I would have eyes for no one but you my little munchkin, if you didn't keep yelling at me every five minutes", said Julian "Anyway, with everybody else on this ship determined to revile me I felt I was owed a little comforting".

"I'll give you comforting!" Adam bellowed.

"Please do!" Julian laughed.

Adam gave a tut of annoyance and walked out.

"You're an early bird, Pendor", said Julian, when he finally got up onto the forward deck.

"One thing I learnt in business is you have to be up and at 'em at first light", said Pendor, sounding excited at his little adventure ahead "And time's crucial for you at the moment. There's no knowing when Dalman may turn up. I don't know how powerful his boat is compared to yours".

"Point taken", said Julian.

The entrance to the lock had been camouflaged by pieces of tree, leaving only the concrete gate-posts exposed, which looked simply like a small extension to Pendor's house. Toppy operated the wheel, and Hillyard and Bengo ran about on the narrow walkways, pushing at the thick wooden gate-heads. The Indigo was turned round and steered manually, with Lonts and Joby standing on opposite bulwarks, pushing off at the sides with the poles.

"I'll leave you to supervise, Adam", said Julian, turning to go below "I hope you can manage that simple task without too much trouble".

He gave Adam a hard slap on the bottom, which made Adam jump.

"He's getting worse", said Kieran, after Julian had gone "How the blazes do you put up with him?"

"We're not getting on too well at the moment", Adam sighed "I think he's still upset over Etyn's death, but he won't talk anymore about it. And he's also still angry with me because I thought I was going to die. Poor Jules, I'll try and talk to him later".

Pendor had created a beautiful secluded garden at the rear of his extraordinary house. With its covered walkways, smooth lawns, climbing plants and little bridges, it reminded Julian painfully of his house in the jungle. The landscape beyond the garden was surprisingly flat and clear, a lush savannah stretching ahead for quite some distance to mountains in the very far distance. It all appeared to be empty of any buildings, or anything that must signify the presence of human habitation.

As it was Yule, Pendor offered them supper once more, this time on his back lawn. When evening came they took the wind-up gramophone ashore, along with a selection of their stock of rum, as insurance against having to drink too much of Pendor's wine. Pendor didn't join them for much of the festivities, as socialising too much didn't agree with him, but he left Toppy to act as butler. Julian also showed signs of refusing to appear, and for the first part of the evening stayed closeted by himself in his cabin.

"I wish you'd come and join us, Jules", said Adam, walking in on him at around nine o'clock "It is Christmas".

"I don't feel very festive", Julian sighed.

"What's wrong?" said Adam, stroking his arm in a soothing fashion "Please tell me".

"I've been looking through the log-book", said Julian "Going back to when I made the first entry this time last year. I've made a bit of a hash of being Captain haven't I? Two deaths on my hands for a start".

"That's nonsense", said Adam "Both Uddle and Etyn were out to get us. They deserved what was coming to the. You were looking out for us both times, and that is what any good captain should do, safeguard his ship and his crew. You've been terrific. We're all still here aren't we? All fit and well. The Indigo's in reasonably good nick, considering what she's been through. And our new crew-member seems to be settling in well. He's rather a cute little thing".

"I haven't been an unmitigated disaster then?" said Julian.

"You haven't been any kind of disaster", said Adam, firmly "Now for heaven's sake come ashore and help me to impose some order out there. I have a feeling the festivities are going to get out of hand if you don't".

They already were. Ransey had drunk so much he had already fallen asleep on the lawn. Likewise Kieran, Bengo and Hillyard were also lolling in a desultory fashion. At the other end of the lawn Lonts had done an enthusiastic dance around the gramophone, watched by a glum-looking Joby. Finia was sitting bolt upright in a chair, a goblet of wine resting in his lap. He looked like an empress sitting through an interminable court portrait session.

"I could sing for you now if you like", said Lonts, as the record came to an end.

"There is only one thing worse than your dancing, Lonts, and that's your singing", said Joby, sourly.

Lonts looked as though he was about to burst into tears, his bottom lip quivered violently. Joby instantly felt like the lowest form of human life and leapt out of his chair to comfort him.

"I didn't mean it", he cried "I think you're a good little dancer. Ignore me, I'm just down in the dumps that's all".

"I understand", Lonts sniffed "You're worried about Kieran, aren't you?"

"They should put that on my frigging gravestone", said Joby "Or I could use it as the title of my memoirs. 'He was worried about Kieran'".

"We need to take your mind off it", said Lonts "Finia, perhaps you could do a little dance for us?"

"Don't bother him", said Joby "He's even more miserable than me".

"That's because Julian upset him so much", said Lonts, as though telling Joby something in confidence.

"I'll do you a turn", said Finia, much to Joby's surprise. He got up and re-wound the gramophone.

"Gonna give us one of your exotic dance numbers that you used to do at the circus?" said Joby, enthusiastically.

"I'll try", said Finia, fluffing out the skirts of his gold taffeta dress, which he had worn again out of defiance to Julian "Although I really need a slinkier outfit than this, but here goes".

He began to writhe languidly, stroking and caressing his own body as he did so.

"Am I still good?" he said, as the music came to an end.

"Pretty damn good", said Joby.

"Did you think Finia was good, Toppy?" asked Lonts, as the said boy circulated with the much-loathed wine bottle again.

"Yes", Toppy mumbled.

"Don't you ever come off duty?" said Joby.

"Pendor asked me to make sure everyone was looked after", said Toppy.

"But it's Christmas!" said Joby "What is he, the employer from Hell? You're entitled to a break on Christmas night, surely?"

"Of course he is", said Lonts, emphatically "You can have a drink with us, Toppy".

"N-No, Pendor wouldn't like it", Toppy protested.

"Oh c'mon, just one drink won't do any harm", said Joby, reaching for a spare goblet "Anyway, I think he's got a bloody nerve employing child-labour".

"I'm fifteen", said Toppy.

"Yeah, and from what Pendor said last night, you've been working for him for what ... three years, wasn't it?" said Joby "And I thought you lot weren't spose to leave the camps until you were thirteen?"

"Not if you're going into service", said Toppy "And then we leave at ten, if someone wants to employ us".

"Bloody ridiculous", said Joby "In my time the European Court Of Human Rights would've had something to say about that".

"Some of us start work a lot younger than ten", said Finia.

"How old were you then?" said Joby.

"Six", said Finia.

"Six!" Joby gasped.

"I thought you knew that", said Finia.

"I knew you'd started young, but not that bleedin' young", said Joby "You mean blokes were rogering you when you were six? Oh God, that's one of the most terrible things I've ever heard. I don't understand some men, I really don't. They're inhuman, gotta be".

Finia shrugged sadly.

"This is too depressing a conversation for Yule night", said Lonts.

"He's right", said Finia, resolutely "We're supposed to be enjoying ourselves".

"I think Toppy should come off-duty", said Lonts, and he pulled at Toppy's spotless white shirt-front "And first I think he should take his uniform off".

"Yeah, he can't relax if he's all stuffed up like that", said Joby.

Toppy had drank his goblet of wine down very fast. He had never touched alcohol before in his life, and the wine went to his head immediately. He began to giggle uncontrollably.

"Come along", said Lonts, and he proceeded to strip the helpless boy, assisted by Finia. They undressed Toppy down to his underpants. Toppy found it all hilarious.

"What are you doing?" Pendor bellowed, appearing on the scene "How much wine have you had?"

"He's only had one", said Joby.

"Then it comes out of your wages, Toppy!" said Pendor.

"Oh leave it out", said Joby "It's Yule, what's the matter with you?"

Julian and Adam had also appeared by now, and Adam was looking horrified by what had happened.

"Pendor, I'm so sorry", he gasped.

"What are you apologising to him for?" said Joby.

"Because he helped us, and now you're thanking him by abusing his hospitality", said Adam "And what have you been doing to this poor child?"

"I haven't done anything to him!" said Joby.

"We thought he deserved a night off", said Finia, firmly "You see, we're all ganging up against villainous employers".

"And we didn't think he could relax unless he took his clothes off", said Lonts.

Pendor gave moan of acute anguish and stamped back to the house.

"You'd better go and mollify him, Adam", said Julian "Or there's no knowing how much he could drop us in it with the religious posse that's tailing us".

"S'only a bit of fun", said Joby, sulkily "Pendor shouldn't be so po-faced all the time".

"There's only thing to do to men like that", said Bengo, who had walked across the lawn towards them with the others.

He pulled down his shorts and mooned in the direction of Pendor's house. Julian slapped him hard on his naked rump, and Bengo pulled his shorts up again hurriedly.

"Get back to the Indigo, the lot of you", said Julian, sharply "None of you are fit to be allowed out".

"I can only give you my most fulsome apologies", said Adam.

He had followed Pendor into the house, and found him standing at one of the large picture windows overlooking the Beyond River. The room was very dimly-lit, now that it had gone dark outside, and Adam had trouble making out his face.

"There's no need to apologise", said Pendor, eventually.

"But there is", said Adam "You've shown great kindness to us, and the others have behaved atrociously. Julian will sort them out though, you have my word on that".

"There's no need".

"None of it was Toppy's fault".

"I wanted to talk to you about Toppy", said Pendor, suddenly "This isn't much of a life for him, stuck out here with me, and I suspect I do have a tendency to be too strict".

"It never does young boys any harm", said Adam "I have to keep Lo-Lo on a pretty short leash sometimes".

"Yes but it's a lonely existence for Toppy", said Pendor "Bad enough for me, but I chose it, and I'm middle-aged. He's very young. He should be out having adventures, getting the corners rubbed off him, learning about life. That's why I want you to take him with you, aboard the Indigo".

"I don't understand".

"When I saw him earlier, out in the garden there, it hit home to me that I haven't been fair to him. If he continues to live out here like this, lonely, his life full of petty rules ... he'll end up like me. I can assure you he's a good boy at heart. Hard-working, well-meaning. You'll never have any serious trouble from him".

"If it was solely up to me I wouldn't hesitate", said Adam "But Julian does get so horribly tetchy about taking on strangers".

"You have my word that Toppy has nothing to hide", said Pendor "Neither have I. I know it's unusual for men in this world to do things for entirely altruistic reasons, but occasionally it happens. I've been lonely all my life, I don't want it to happen to him".

Adam reached out to touch his arm, but Pendor flinched.

"I'm sorry", said Adam, awkwardly.

"No it's my fault. That's the way I am".

"Then why don't you come too?" said Adam, impulsively "You could talk to Ransey, our helmsman, he would identify with you so well".

"From what I've noticed of Ransey I can't believe he'd take too kindly to me confiding in him", said Pendor "You obviously don't know much about men and loneliness".

"Oh yes I do", said Adam, with great feeling "There isn't one of us on the Indigo who hasn't experienced great loneliness at one time or another. When I was younger it was my constant companion. It lived with me for years".

"Then you'll take pity on Toppy, and take him with you?" said Pendor "I can get his things together now. He doesn't have very much".

"What are you afraid of, Pendor?"

"I'll get his bundle together", said Pendor, and he left the room.

Early the next morning Julian stormed round the quarterdeck, armed with the razor-strop which he had purloined from the heads. In Adam's cabin he found Kieran curled up with Adam, and Joby and Lonts sleeping heavily in Kieran's bunk, where they had both fallen in a drunken stupor the night before.

"Jules, I can understand you're annoyed", Adam began, sitting up with difficulty "I'll give everyone a telling-off before we leave".

"There is no time for one of your feeble little lectures, Adam", Julian snapped "We're leaving here now. Things are going to be very different on this boat from now on".

He raised the strap and brought it down twice, once on Lonts and once on Joby. Lonts immediately started up an earsplitting scream, and Joby leapt out of the bunk as though he'd been electrocuted.

"Bastard!" he yelled "He can't get away with that. Kieran, Adam, tell him!"

But Julian had moved on and marched into Ransey's cabin, where he meted out the same treatment to Hillyard and Bengo. He found Finia sleeping on the bunk below Ransey's. His dress was creased and his wig crooked.

"Oh so this is where you spent the night", said Julian "I did wonder".

"You can't have wondered very much, or you'd have come looking for me", said Finia, tartly.

"Get back into our cabin and tidy yourself up", Julian ordered.

Finia climbed off the bunk sulkily and left the room. Julian noticed that the heap of bedclothes heaped against the wall in the bunk appeared to be breathing. He pulled them back to disclose a naked Toppy, who woke up immediately and looked terrified on seeing Julian's angry countenance.

"Adam!" Julian roared "Get in here! Now!"

"I didn't feel I could refuse after everything Pendor's done for us", said Adam, facing Julian in the gangway "And I don't see how on earth Toppy can be any trouble. He seems an amiable enough little boy".

"You're a fool, Adam", said Julian.

"Can't you stop yelling for five minutes?" said Ransey, holding his head "And stop giving Adam a hard time".

"I thought you might stick up for him somehow", said Julian, angrily jiggling the razor-strop "Although God knows it's the only way you can stick up for him!"

"Julian!" Adam cried.

"Oh don't worry about me, Adam", said Ransey "I'm used to him being a jerk".

"We've just had another present from Pendor", said Hillyard, shouting down through the topside doors.

"I dread to think what it is", said Julian, walking towards the steps.

Up on deck Julian found a large hamper of food from Pendor, as a kind of dowry for Toppy. The hamper was so generously stocked that even Julian couldn't fail to be a little mollified.

"Carry it down to the galley, Hillyard", he said "And then tell Ransey to drag his hangover up here and prepare to pull anchor".

Pendor didn't appear to bid them farewell, and Adam had to reluctantly respect this kind, but enigmatic man's wishes to stay in the shadows. As the engine and propeller of the Indigo began its customary shoosh-shoosh-shoosh noise, he stood on the poop-deck next to Ransey and watched Pendor's house recede into the background.

"Strange character", said Ransey.

"There's a lot of them about", said Adam.

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