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By Sarah Hapgood

December arrived, and although it was cooler than usual at the Bay, it was still bright and sunny, and there was a welcome absence of wind and rain. Joby, Lonts and Toppy went out to tidy up the back garden, removing fallen branches and leaves, and trying to knock it back into shape again. Some of the others went over to the fields beyond the river and walked around them for several hours, discussing the possibility of crops and what kind and when to plant them.

Tamaz meanwhile searched the shrubbery around the back of the house, looking for an expensive tortoiseshell bracelet he had lost whilst fooling around in the garden the day before. He was fairly upset about this, mainly because both Julian and Bardin had told him off in no uncertain terms, accusing him of being wasteful and careless, and not caring about important things. Julian had added that unless the bracelet was found Tamaz would never be bought anything else.

After an unsuccessful search Tamaz went into the kitchen, sobbing. Rumble and Bengo both looked at him in concern.

“Bardy probably didn’t mean half the things he said”, said Bengo, helping Tamaz off with his oilskin jacket.

“Yeah, you know what he’s like”, said Rumble “Got a tongue like a cactus when it runs away with him”.

Adam came in from collecting the eggs, and put a basket of them on the draining-board. He too was rather surprised by Tamaz’s tears.

“It’s not like you to get overly-sensitive, Freaky”, he said.

“That’s what everyone thinks!” Tamaz squawked “That I haven’t any feelings. I’m going upstairs”.

He left the room via the dining-room, leaving everyone perplexed.

“He’s not pregnant is he?” said Rumble.

“My darling boy”, Adam gulped “Please don’t say things like that, not even in jest”.

“But he’s had The Operation”, said Bengo.

“Yes, but we were told at the time that it might not be completely infallible”, said Adam “And those words have haunted me ever since! I’ll call in Joby and we’ll go up and see him”.

Tamaz lay on the four-poster in the main bedroom, whilst Adam gently examined his perfectly flat stomach.

“Even if I was pregnant, which I’m not”, Tamaz snorted “What would you know about it?”

“Behave”, said Joby, nudging him.

“If I was I would know about it”, said Tamaz “I’d be able to sense it, so would the little blonde guy”.

“That’s true”, said Joby.

Adam sat back on his haunches and blew his hair out of his eyes.

“Have you been sick in the mornings?” he asked.

“No!” said Tamaz “And I was never sick when I was expecting the lumps either, so there!” “Well that’s about the limit of my knowledge of pregnancy”, said Adam “I wonder how the lumps are these days”.

“What are you asking about them for?” said Tamaz, indignantly “They’ll be alright. They’ve got the whole of the Thet Mountains to go hunting in”.

“Hunting what?” said Adam.

“Humans probably!” said Joby.

“Poor Phyllis must have her hands full with them”, said Adam “They must be a huge worry to her at times. I don’t know how we’d cope with a litter of your spawn, Freaky!”

“Why do you all think I’m pregnant just because I got hurt at what Bardin and Julian said?” said Tamaz.

“Yes, it was rather male chauvinist of us, wasn’t it, old love?” said Adam.

“I have feelings you know!” said Tamaz, now sounding very fierce “I’m sensitive!”

When the others came back from walking in the fields, they were unnerved to find that they were now all being targeted as insensitive oafs who had reduced poor Tamaz to tears over such an insignificant trifle as a lost bracelet. As they warmed themselves in front of the log fire in the great hall, Bengo brought out the brandy decanter and passed it round everyone except Bardin.

“What have I done?” Bardin cried “I’ve been out in the fields since breakfast-time, so I can’t have done anything!”

“Isn’t lunch ready yet?” Julian barked at Adam, who was passing through the hall.

“You are impossible, Jules!” Adam shouted, before going into the dining-room.

“What brought that on?” said Julian, in disbelief .

Eventually they all sat down to lunch at the long table in the dining-room, and the conversation revolved around crops and seasonal rotation, helped by some turgid volumes that had been dug out of the library and piled on the table.

“There’s someone at the front door”, said Adam, suddenly in astonishment “Listen!”

“Kieran, get upstairs!” said Joby.

“I’m not hiding upstairs just ‘cos there’s someone at the door”, said Kieran.

“Get upstairs!” Joby exclaimed, urgently “Do as I say!”

Kieran disappeared up the staircase by the dining-room fireplace, the one that connected with the stairs behind the stove, and eventually took him up to the first floor, where he could get to the sanctuary of his vestry (his priest-hole) without being seen or heard by anyone in the great hall.

“Better go and answer the door now I suppose”, said Julian “And we’ll have to be awfully brave about it, as it’s bound to be Codlik – the Mad Man”.

“The Church I think has got enough sense of self-preservation to distance itself from someone who is clearly beyond the limit”, said Julian, standing in Kieran’s Vestry around twenty minutes later “I think he’s out in the cold as far as they’re concerned. That doesn’t mean you won’t possibly have trouble from them at a later date, but it won’t be in association with him”.

“So who’s come to the Bay with him now?” said Kieran.

“As far as I can see just the crew of his yacht”, said Julian, perching on the edge of a small table “He’s fighting a one-man battle, only the silly arse is too far gone to realise it”.

Kieran leaned against the mantelpiece, breathing heavily.

“Why are there so many stupid and thoughtless people in the world?” he said, without looking up.

“Human nature I suppose”, said Julian “They’re not going to leave us alone, so we have to deal with it. This is never going to finish, it’s going to keep rolling at us. So we have to find some way of bending under it without breaking. Be like steel springs”.

“Did your public school training teach you that?” said Kieran, flopping back into an armchair.

“Maybe, although I think it ran in my family”, said Julian “Where did you get it from then? Because you’re normally pretty good at being steely yourself”.

“I can be”, said Kieran “And at other times I snap, like I did years ago when I went off me head, like that poor eejit downstairs has done. I take it he is still downstairs?”

“Adam’s got him in the library”, said Julian “It seemed our best bet to leave him with him. If Adam can cope with Lonts, he can cope with Codlik! Meanwhile, Ransey’s gone up to the yacht to send a wireless message to Glynis, to keep her informed of what’s going on. Bardin’s gone with him”.

So had Bengo. They waited out in the monastic silence of the main corridor on the yacht, whilst Ransey disappeared into the wireless room.

“Why doesn’t anyone speak or laugh around here?” Bardin muttered, as one of the stewards crept past them without saying a word “Instead they all creep about giving furtive looks”.

“They all remind me of Toppy”, said Bengo “I’ve always said he’d fit in well with this lot!”

Bengo paced down the corridor a short distance. One of the doors was slightly open, and he peered in out of frank curiosity. Two of the crew were giggling conspiratorially and passing each other shiny purple capsules, which they popped into their mouths. Bengo turned to tell Bardin of what he had seen, and found that his partner was climbing up the steps to the deck. Bengo ran after him, tripping up the steps as he went and banging his knee.

“Bardy”, he cried, running over to the bench on the otherwise deserted deck, where Bardin was sitting “What’s the matter? What is it?”

“I had to get out of there suddenly”, said Bardin, taking off his cap and fanning himself with it “I thought I was gonna be sick”.

“It’s not a nice atmosphere on this boat”, said Bengo “And the crew seem to be on drugs”.

“Then you stay away from them!” said Bardin, crossly.

“You don’t need to say anything”, Bengo retorted “I’ve never touched drugs, ever, apart from some cannabis cake once, and all the others had it too, so it doesn’t count. It was after Ransey and Finia’s wedding”.

“Good”, Bardin snapped.

“You need to try and relax, Bardy”, Bengo put his arm round him “All this tension’s making you ill”.

“I wish I could”, Bardin began to cry softly “I wish I could press a magic button and make everything alright”.

“Well for a start you don’t have to worry about me so much anymore”, said Bengo, holding him close.

“I’ll always worry about you”, Bardin sniffed.

“I’ll take care of you”, said Bengo, resolutely.

Ransey came up on deck.

“Thank God that’s done”, he said “Now let’s get out of here”.

When Bardin returned to the Castle he went out into the vegetable garden at the back, and helped Joby to rake over the soil.

“I always tend to find a bit of light outdoor work like this does you the world of good when you’re all twizzled up about summat”, said Joby.

“Bengo’s right”, said Bardin “I need to ease off worrying about him a bit”.

“You won’t ever ease off completely”, said Joby “It’s with you for good now. It’s years since Kieran had his eating disorder, and yet I still find meself watching him at mealtimes, and worrying if his arms are too skinny”.

“My problems seem so trivial compared to what you went through”, said Bardin, leaning on his rake “At least Bengo’s never had anorexia”.

“No, you usually have the exact opposite problem with him”, said Joby “Trying to stop him eating!”

“And that’s exasperated me no end at times, but I’m glad of it really”, said Bardin “I used to see people worrying about their weight all the time when we were still on the stage. Particularly dancers”.

“Well yeah it’s a hazard of the job for them innit?” said Joby “Putting on a few pounds can mean losing your career”.

“And some of ‘em went to shocking lengths to stay thin”, said Bardin “Pills, lorry-loads of laxatives, fingers down the throat”.

“You’ve never seemed to have that problem”, said Joby “You’re always nice and toned”.

“Exercise”, said Bardin “There’s no magic answer, just exercise. Well it works for me anyway. But there was a tap-dancer when we were at the Cabaret. Scared shitless ‘cos he was putting on a lot of weight and he didn’t know why. He starved himself and he still didn’t lose any. Exercised like a demon and he still didn’t lose any. He started getting us all worried in case he had some terrible illness, something that makes your body swell up perhaps, like dropsy. And then one day he said to me backstage, in this really mournful voice, ‘well there’s nothing else for it’ he says ‘it must be the alcohol’”.

Joby burst out laughing.

“I could’ve brained the wanker!” said Bardin “Starving yourself’s gonna do no fucking good if you hit the beer and the gin every night is it!”

“That’ll put it on quicker ‘en any thing”, said Joby.

“Exactly!” said Bardin. He glanced in the direction of the end of the house “Wonder how Adam’s getting on with Codlik. I spose I should go and see him, Codlik I mean”.

“Do you want to?” said Joby, in surprise. “No”, said Bardin.

“So don’t then”, said Joby “I spect we’re gonna get more than enough of him before we’re through!”

Adam raked the library fire and put on another log. Codlik was still talking at him, as though he was addressing a political rally. Adam tried to remind himself that he was being spoken to by a crazy man, but to him Codlik seemed little different, apart from an abstract glint in his eye that is, but then Codlik had always seemed deranged when he spoke so this was nothing unusual!

“What I do not understand and never will”, said Adam, keeping hold of the poker as he sat down “Is why you won’t leave us alone. We have no wish to harm you or tell you what to do, so why can’t you do the same for us? Please tell me, I want to know”.

“Because I know better what is good for you”, said Codlik.

“What breathtaking arrogance!” said Adam.

“Adam no. listen”, said Codlik, earnestly “There has to be a system you see, one that I tried to impose as President. A system of everybody working together for their common good”.

“But that is exactly what we do!” said Adam “We work. How on earth do you think we’d survive out here if we didn’t? We work very hard at times. It certainly feels like it anyway! Just because we don’t clock in and out of a factory, and spend eight hours a day on a production line doesn’t mean we don’t work!”

“I still don’t see it as what I have in mind”, said Codlik “It’s disordered, there is no regularity to it”.

“We do what has to be done when it needs doing”, said Adam “That is the system, as you call it, which works best for us out here, and it works very well”.

“I believe in people striving together to achieve happiness”, said Codlik.

“So you said earlier”, said Adam “You talk about happiness, Codlik, as though it were some great mystical ideal, something hard to obtain, up on a pedestal. If that’s how you see it then that accounts for why you’ve always seemed to me to be so permanently dissatisfied! Happiness is very simple and easy to obtain. Happiness is an everyday down-to-earth thing, there is nothing mystical about it. Happiness is simply an absence of pain and being miserable”.

Codlik wasn’t buying that concept. It was too easy, too simple. He had successfully driven himself round the twist chasing non-existent ideals, and wasn’t about to give them up in a hurry.

“And as for the work ethic”, Adam continued “You see work solely in terms of what it can buy you. Well that’s no good to us out here where we can’t buy anything!”

“Work is a means of replacing old with new”, said Codlik, completely disregarding what Adam had said “Of obtaining those things that will bring you happiness”.

“Work makes you free?” said Adam.

“Yes exactly”, said Codlik, enthusiastically “What a good slogan. Where did it come from?”

“Auschwitz concentration camp”, said Adam, dryly.

“Adam!” said Lonts, opening the door from the hall.

“Lo-Lo, I told you we weren’t to be disturbed”, said Adam.

“Come out here now”, said Lonts, sternly.

“It’s alright, I’ll take over in here”, said Ransey.

“I don’t like you disobeying me on important things”, said Adam, when he and Lonts got out into the hall.

“You’re always saying we’re a partnership”, said Lonts “So why have I always got to obey you and you not me?”

“You don’t always obey …” Adam began.

“And why are you trying to help Codlik?” said Lonts “He should be banished into the forest for what he’s done to Kieran!”

“Oh Lo-Lo”, said Adam, fondly “This isn’t Kiskev! Codlik’s a sick man, he needs help. When I first knew you, I refused to help you, I was afraid to communicate with you, and through that we could have lost you for good. And now you’re the most precious thing in the world to me”.

“And you want Codlik to be a precious thing too?” said Lonts, dubiously.

“Heaven forbid no!” said Adam “But he needs help that’s all. And I’m not being entirely altruistic here. You see, if we help Codlik, that in turn should help Patsy, and stop all this heresy nonsense. It’ll be one less madman against him”.

Mieps walked past them and opened the library door. Adam got to him in time to stop him going in. He pulled him back out into the hall, pushing his face away from Codlik’s direction as he did so.

“Is he staying here?” Mieps hissed “Is he? Doesn’t anyone have any thought for me and how I’m going to cope with him here?”

Julian, who had been in the gun-room, came out to see what all the fuss was about. Mieps flew at him, grabbing him by his waistcoat. Julian managed to extricate himself from his grasp.

“Christ, sometimes he’s worse than you!” he said to Adam.

“If Codlik stays, I’m leaving”, said Mieps.

Julian gave a roar of impatience and shook Mieps vigorously by his shoulders.

“No Jules, darling”, Adam tried to get between them “He’s got a legitimate complaint”. “And it’s all your doing, not mine”, said Julian, pushing his hair out of his eyes “You’re the weak-kneed woolly-minded do-gooder with all the liberal guff at his fingertips about rehabilitating Codlik! I thought you would have more sense after everything that’s happened!”

“Adam’s doing this because of me”, said Lonts, gruffly “Being put in hospital on pills only made me worse”.

“WORSE?” said Julian.

“Julian!” Adam exclaimed.

“And stop saying ‘Julian!’ like that”, said Julian “I feel like I’m being constantly rapped over the knuckles”.

“Oh go to Hell!” Adam wept and ran towards the kitchen, followed by Lonts. Julian turned his glare onto Mieps.

“If you threaten to leave me just one more time, ever! I’ll thrash you with the bloody razor-strop, after I’ve torn out that long scaly tongue of yours by its roots!”

“It’ll be dark soon, I suggest we take Codlik back to the yacht”, said Ransey, standing in the library doorway and looking suspiciously at them both “And not before time by the looks of things!”

“I’ve made such a mess of things”, Adam sobbed, next to the dresser in the kitchen “We should never have let Codlik in the house. We should have turned him away. What was I thinking of, trying to talk to him?”

Lonts and Toppy were both in attendance on him, looking concerned. Toppy hunted on his person for a handkerchief and then passed it to Adam.

“It never does any good to talk to Codlik”, said Adam, after blowing his nose “It only depresses one, even when he was sane”.

“Especially when he was sane!” said Joby.

“What happened to that female he was with?” said Hoowie “You know, Neurotic Nola, the bird with no breasts!”

“Really Hoowie”, said Adam “Sometimes I think we should banish you to live in a little hermit’s cell at the far end of the garden”.

“What a brilliant idea!” said Joby “Wouldn’t half make life easier for the rest of us!”

“From what I can gather from Codlik”, said Adam “Nola wouldn’t come on this trip because she doesn’t wish to see Patsy. You’ll just have to be awfully brave about that, Patsy”.

“I’ll try”, said Kieran, equally facetiously “Although it won’t be easy”.

“Get your coat Adam, you’re coming out with me”, said Julian, coming in via the dining-room “DON’T argue, Adam. Ransey, Hillyard, Bardin and Bengo are walking Codlik back to the yacht. I thought we could follow on behind them. We could both do with a walk”.

The others were shadowy figures at the far end of the field by the time Adam and Julian had got ready and crossed over the river. It was getting dark, making the temperatures drop so much that the air almost felt frosty.

“Bengo’s got a bruise on his knee”, said Julian, after the two of them had walked in silence for several minutes “He got it climbing up the stairs on Codlik’s yacht. Only Bengo could fall up the stairs and not down them!”

“I’m surprised Ransey let him come along with them actually”, said Adam “Poor little Bengo’s usually just seen as a liability at such times”.

“I rather gather Bengo insisted”, said Julian “The boot’s on the other foot at the moment. He’s nursemaiding Bardin”.

“Why?” said Adam “What’s the matter with Bardin?”

“Excess nerves”, said Julian “He’s got too worked up about everything. Needs a good spanking I expect, it would do him the world of good”.

“You damn well need one too!” said Adam “Being so bitchy about Lo-Lo”.

“It was a joke!” said Julian “The boy isn’t in any doubt as to how much I care for him. You never see him weeping over something I’ve said do you?”

“Good”, said Adam, stiffly “Because no one should take any notice of anything you say!”

“Don’t be childish”, said Julian “I’ve spent all day running around trying to make sure everyone’s alright, and all you’ve done is scold me left, right and centre. You even snapped at me this morning for reprimanding Freaky!” “He was upset, Jules”, said Adam “You spoke to him as though he was a total spoilt brat”.

Julian looked at his blankly and then burst out laughing.

“O.K o.k I know he is but …” said Adam.

“What I said to him was only too true”, said Julian “He does indeed think that we will replace everything that he loses or breaks. He will never change, but I reserve the right to tell him off when I feel he needs it. You should be all in favour of it, it’s rehabilitation”.

“It’s love actually, Jules”, said Adam, linking arms with him.

When they got to the yacht they found Bengo waiting alone outside.

“Bardy told me to stay here”, he said, coming down the gangplank to meet them “Most of the crew seem to be on drugs you see”.

“Aren’t you coming?” Julian snapped at Adam.

“I think I’ll stay out here with Bengo”, said Adam.

“Please yourself”, said Julian, abruptly.

He went onto the yacht, and whilst waiting for the others he went and had another look at the red dining-room. The one and only time they had eaten in here Codlik had depressed them with his presence then as well. Glynis had never looked more beautiful in her blue satin ballgown, and Codlik had just sat morosely at the end of the table, casting a blight on the whole gathering.

“Stupid stupid fool”, Julian muttered to himself “Why couldn’t he just learn to cope with things?” he looked round and found that Hillyard had entered the room “You see, I’m already talking about him in the past tense!”

“We’ve had a message from Glynis”, said Hilyard “She’s said the crew are to take the yacht onto Aspiriola, it’s the nearest port, and she’ll arrange for an air-buggy to take Codlik up to the Big House”. “She wants him back?” said Julian, in astonishment “Why?”

“I don’t think she does”, said Hillyard “But I suspect she can find a spare wing for him up there. She can bung him away out of sight, and hire a couple of nurses to look after him. After all, there aren’t many suitable nursing-homes for ex-presidents!”

“No, if there were we’d put Kieran in one!” Julian joked “Perhaps she can get Nola to look after him. Then gradually all the fruitcakes can be confined to one wing!”

They went out into the corridor, where Bardin and Ransey were chatting in a rather earnest fashion.

“Come on, stop gassing like a pair of old women”, said Julian, irritably “Let’s get out of here”.

They joined Adam and Bengo out in the moonlit field.

“Codlik may not be a problem anymore”, said Ransey, caustiously “Or at least not for some time, but we still have to be on guard about the Church”.

“Enough!” Julian roared “Enough! Enough!”

Adam looked at him in concern, expecting that at any moment Julian would start stamping his foot.

“Goddamnit, there will always be something won’t there!” Julian exclaimed “We will never ever reach a plateau where we won’t be got at in some way. We have to learn to deal with it, ignore it, shut it out. Don’t let them ruin it for us, because given half a chance they will. They will”.

“Jules”, said Adam, soothingly, linking arms with him once again “Let’s go home now”.

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