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By Sarah Hapgood

“Nothing is suitable, they’re all too damn small!” said Bardin, storming across the cabin on the sloop. He pulled off his cap temperamentally and slung it over the glass chimney of an unlit lamp “The biggest we saw was some leaky old tub that could only sleep at the most about 4 or 5 people. There wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, let alone the animals as well”.

“Why don’t we just hang onto the sloop then?” said Kieran, who had followed him in “No one down here’s going to be interested enough to report us to Codlik. We’re at the ends of the earth here. The last town before the Horn of Wonder”.

“They do have a telegraph office here you know!” said Bardin “And don’t try and fool me they’re all simple souls down here who don’t care about the outside world. After all, that guy you picked up here that time gave you enough trouble. The one that had to be shot”.

“Ah yes, Etyn”, said Kieran “There something seriously wrong with him”.

“Well I don’t expect he’s the only nutter they’ve produced in this town!” said Bardin “Kieran, you always delude yourself that you’re safer than you really are. You over-estimate people”.

“I try not to let a few nutcases sour my views of the entire human race”, said Kieran.

Bardin looked at him in exasperation and stormed back out of the room.

“I’ve made you some tea”, said Joby, outside the door, holding out a mug.

“I’ll have it up aloft”, said Bardin, now flouncing up the quarterdeck steps, without the tea.

“Right, I’ll bring it up to you shall I!” said Joby.

“I’m not a bleedin’ footman, you know”, he said, finally handing the mug to Bardin on the forward deck “We have Toppy to do all that”.

“He’s busy”, said Bardin, gesturing at Toppy, who was working at the wash-tub with Brother Iggy.

“That’s supposed to be Kieran’s job innit?” said Joby.

“Don’t talk to me about Kieran!” said Bardin.

“What’s he done?” Joby sighed.

“He won’t take Codlik seriously”, said Bardin.

“I don’t blame him!” said Joby “I don’t think anybody should take Codlik seriously! I also think he’s right about hanging onto the sloop. If we’re gonna go off even further south, then we need a boat that we know how to handle and can trust. It’s bloody tricky down there, I remember it well. We’d be mad to lumber ourselves with some new tub that has funny little ways we’re not used to. That’s the last thing we would want when going round the Horn of Wonder!”

“I do wish you hadn’t come out in your pyjamas, Jules”, Adam was saying, as they drank coffee outside the town’s only bar “You look so decadent”.

“I look a damn sight more respectable than you!” said Julian, looking him up and down behind his sunglasses “At least I’m more covered up! Anyway, I was hoping you could give me some idea how long Bardin’s current nervous breakdown is going to last. He seems to have been having it since we left the lighthouse. He’s got me at the end of my tether. I can’t just keep beating him!”

“It was you who just said that, Jules?!” said Adam “I personally think the clowns should all go out on the town, visit the fleshpots. It would do them good. They haven’t had much fun these past few months”.

“What fleshpots?” said Julian, looking up and down the one street in the town, now almost entirely populated by old men “It’s hardly Las Vegas is it! All they’ll do is come to this bar here, get completely drunk, and then come home and vomit over everything! The following morning I’ll have to line them all up and tell them off. Bengo will look wretched. Bardin will look defiant. And Farnol and Rumble won’t be able to keep from laughing!”

As it turned out the only bar in town wasn’t very conducive to getting smashed up anyway. The four clowns sat in a row on an aged red leather bench beside a wall of spotted mirrors, and felt themselves to be completely bathed in gloom.

“I should have brought in my sock puppet and livened things up”, said Farnol.

“What’s happened to your hat?” said Bardin, looking at Bengo’s battered straw hat “It looks as if you’ve jumped up and down on it and then sat on it!”

“One of the goats got hold of it”, said Bengo, sitting under his dilapidated headgear “Tamaz wrenched it off him and made it worse”.

“You can’t walk around like that”, said Bardin “We’ll have to get you a new one before we leave town”.

Rumble didn’t want to get him started on their immediate travel plans. Before leaving the sloop he’d overheard Hillyard mentioning that he thought Bardin was “a bit young” to take on such a task as sailing round the Horn. Rumble didn’t want Bardin to get wind of that. He suggested to Farnol that they go up and get in some more drinks.

“Why do they have to stick mirrors all round bars?” said Bardin “It’s a bloody stupid idea. As if anybody wants to look at themselves whilst they’re drinking!”

“Some people might”, said Bengo.

“Not if they’re as ugly as me they don’t”, said Bardin.

“Don’t start on all that again, Bardy”, said Bengo “Anyone’d think you had two heads the way you carry on sometimes”.

“I might as well have!” said Bardin “I’m always amazed people don’t throw up when they see me!”

“You’d better pack that in”, said Rumble, as he and Farnol returned to the table with the drinks “You’re starting to make Bengo look fierce”.

“Bengo the fearsome monster, egad!” said Farnol.

The others laughed, except Bengo, who looked cross and fed-up.

“As usual you’re all laughing at me again”, he said.

“Of course we are”, said Farnol “You’re the best stooge ever, man!”

“I thought Brother Iggy might leave us now we’re in civilisation”, said Bengo.

“It’d seem a bit heartless to chuck him out when he came all that way to see us”, said Rumble.

“He hasn’t stopped mooning over Bardy since he came to us, that’s all I know”, said Bengo.

“I barely notice he’s there, he’s so little trouble”, said Bardin “He’s quiet and he works hard, what more do you want? At least we haven’t lumbered ourselves with another Hoowie, that I couldn’t stand!”

“Hillyard’s offered him money if he wants to start a new life here”, said Bengo.

“Why would anyone want to start a new life here?” said Rumble “This place is too quiet even for a monk like him!”

“You used to be friends with Brother Iggy”, said Bardin to Bengo “You used to give him clowning lessons, and you defended him when he brought me that daft posy of flowers that time, back at the Castle”.

“He wasn’t living with us then!” said Bengo “It makes a difference you know. Now he’s one of us … well he’s one of us”.

“Oh very profound”, said Rumble.

“He’s only with us until he finds somewhere that suits him”, said Bardin.

“That he never will will he!” said Bengo.

“Bengo!” said Bardin.

More drinks were ordered, whilst Bardin bemoaned that they had all been drinking far too much since they had arrived in Zilligot Bay, and there was no hope for it, they were obviously all turning into alcoholics. Soon after sunset they found themselves to be the only ones left in the bar, apart from the landlord. They had noticed this since arriving in the town, that it effectively shut down at dusk. So far they hadn’t found any reason for this though.

The gloom of it got them down, and so they ordered a crate of beer and carted it back to the sloop. Once aboard Rumble and Farnol pulled in the gang-plank and took the booze below.

“All this Brother Iggy stuff is irritating”, said Bardin, once he was alone with Bengo on the forward deck “It’s so completely unimportant. You have to support me over the next few weeks”.

“I hope I always do”, said Bengo.

“You do”, said Bardin “But it’s even more important now, because I don’t think I can do any of it without you”.

“Oh Bardy!” said Bengo.

“Have you been waiting for us?” said Bardin, when they finally went through the hatchway. Joby was waiting at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, holding a hurricane lamp.

“No, I just heard you coming”, said Joby “So I thought I’d light you down”.

Bardin firmly pulled the hatch shut and bolted it. Joby hung the lamp on a hook opposite the door to the heads. The gramophone could be heard in the cabin, along with the chatter of many voices.

“We must be the only ones in the whole town making any noise!” said Bardin.

In the morning Adam took Joby and Bengo food-shopping with him in the town. Bengo was sporting a new straw-hat, which the other clowns had gone out and bought for him whilst he had been helping to cook the breakfast.

Joby and Bengo were supposed to be closely trailing Adam by jointly hauling the sack-truck along behind him. But they kept being distracted. The latest distraction was Mieps, who was pacing up and down outside a fishing-tackle shop. Ransey and Hillyard had gone in to buy new equipment, and were taking so long about it that Mieps, who had accompanied them, had got restless and gone back outside. Joby and Bengo were now imitating his walk, but doing it in an exaggerated feminine style.

“Joby! Bengo!” said Adam, dumping a box of melons on the sack-truck “Are you teasing Mieps again, you little monsters?”

Mieps came over to join them. An extremely old man, who had been sitting forlornly by the vegetable stall as though he had been put out for the rubbish, began to get worryingly excited by Mieps’s nearby proximity.

“Poor old sod”, Joby muttered “He probably hasn’t had an erection for the past 60 years!”

It did seem to be Mieps’s unfettered breasts, visible through his thin cotton shirt, that was getting the old man excited. Zilligot Bay had been left behind by the rest of the world. No women had come here, and the entirely male population had gradually got older and older, until it began to resemble some long-forgotten penal colony.

The old man pulled a sprig of lupin out of a pottery jar and held it out to Mieps. Mieps gave an inhuman squawk of annoyance. Adam surreptitiously pinched his bottom until Mieps gave in and grumpily accepted the lupin.

“Perhaps Mieps should show him his tits”, said Bengo “That would give him a surprise”.

“And if Mieps took his dick out as well that’d give him an even bigger one!” said Joby.

“It’s all the fault of the rest of you”, said Ransey, sitting on the forward deck.

Julian was sitting opposite him, smoking a cigar. Hillyard and Tamaz were sorting out the new fishing bits and pieces. Behind them Joby, Adam and Toppy were setting up the long table for lunch.

“You had Mieps so scared to show his real feelings after all that rubbish with Codlik”, Ransey continued “That now he’s …”

“Mieps would have always reacted that way, you silly old fool”, said Julian “He’s never liked complete strangers coming up to him. And if you had any sense at all you’d know that I blame Codlik for most of that debacle, like I blame him for most of the troubles in the world!”

“Hrmph”, said Ransey “Well at least we agree on that one anyway!”

“It’s tender moments like this that make life worthwhile isn’t it, darling?!” said Julian.

Over lunch the Indigo-ites discussed going round the Horn. At times like these Brother Iggy felt vulnerable. All the time at the lighthouse he had known they wouldn’t throw him out, not out into the zombie-infested wilderness. But now they were in civilisation it was a different matter. Hillyard had offered him money to start a new life out of genuine kindness, not wanting him to feel he had to stay with them if it wasn’t his wish, but it made Brother Iggy feel chronically insecure.

Now at the long dinner-table it was painfully obvious (to him) that he was the odd one out. Adam and Julian seated as usual at either end. Seven each of the others down either side. Brother Iggy squeezed onto one of the corners, throwing out the symmetry.

“Looks as though we’re gonna get some rain later”, said Hillyard “There’s clouds gathering up over the hills stacked up behind the town”.

After lunch Adam found Brother Iggy in the part of the hold where the goats were held, sobbing over one of the kids which had been born the previous summer at the lake.

“I’ll fetch Patsy and you can talk to him”, said Adam, partially distracted by a loud crashing noise coming from the galley, as of two baking trays falling on the floor, and a joint “Oh-h!” from Joby and Bengo.

Adam went into the galley and sent Bengo to find Kieran. Bengo was quietly traumatised on hearing that Brother Iggy was upset, convinced it was something to do with him. On his way to the cabin he passed the horses’ part of the hold, where Bardin and the other clowns were sorting out fresh hay. Bengo hoped that Brother Iggys’ emotional fit could be cleared up before Bardin heard about it.

In the cabin he found Kieran wandering round the bit of floor that wasn’t being taken up by Hillyard swishing a new fishing-rod about. Kieran remarked that he wore he could hear thunder. Lonts, who had dug himself in deep in the armchair, looked anxious and thoughtful.

“Kieran, could you come and see Brother Iggy”, said Bengo, twisting his pinny in his hands awkwardly “He’s upset about something”.

“What have you been saying to him now?” Ransey barked.

“I haven’t said anything to him!” said Bengo “The only time I’ve even mentioned him lately was last night, and that was only to the other clowns when we were out boozing. He couldn’t possibly know about that, not unless Farnol’s been blabbing anyway!”

“I knew I’d heard thunder”, said Kieran, as a distinct rumble broke out when he reached Brother Iggy, who was still in with the goats.

Brother Iggy kissed Kieran’s hand when the Irishman sat down on the footstool opposite him.

“You don’t have to do that”, said Kieran “You’re living with us now”.

“I don’t feel I am though”, said Brother Iggy, nearly knocking off his spectacles in his distress.

“We didn’t want to make you feel you had to stay, not if you wanted to move on”, said Kieran “You’re still very young, you don’t have to tie yourself to us. And if you don’t feel fully accepted then you have to take some responsibility for that, because you keep us at arm’s length. You act as though you’re still living with the other monks, and you’re far too formal to me!”

“I adore you”, said Brother Iggy “And I know the others round here do too, but I can’t be as informal with you as they are. I-I guess it doesn’t seem right. I don’t know how you can like it. The Arch-Pater wouldn’t. It’s not respectful”.

“It’s very respectful”, said Kieran “I had a very lonely childhood back in my own time. Not unloved by any means, but it was lonely. I had no brothers and sisters, our nearest relatives lived in a different town some way away. Me Mam was always working, and the house was always full of strangers. A constant stream of ‘em in and out at all times. (I like the way now that we don’t encourage visitors when we’re at home, wherever that home is!) And as a boy I always wondered what it would be like to grow up in a large family, to not be isolated, conspicuous, pointed out all the time”. “Did people point at you when you were little too?” said Brother Iggy, who wasn’t at all surprised to hear this.

“Oh yes”, said Kieran, remembering both adults and children alike with their horrified awe at the ‘wee blonde boy who’s never know his daddy’, making him feel like a changeling, a creature they had woken up one morning to find in their midst. ‘He stares at everyone all the time, have you noticed that? Gives me the creeps and no mistake!’ Those who were old enough to remember his father were even worse. ‘Well he always was a peculiar man, never all there, and now all that pixy-magic’s coming out in the lad. He’ll take off too one day, just like his daddy did, you’ll see. It’s in the blood’.

Kieran had always had the impression, from what little he’d gleaned of him, tha this father was strictly not to be trusted. A spongeing small-time rogue, here today, gone tomorrow. Kieran had a fear of being regarded as the same. Hence, when he had first been proclaimed as the Vanquisher of Evil, he had believed that he was an imposter who would soon be unmasked when the real one appeared. Sometimes he even liked to believe that, for the sake of his own sanity, but his own “powers”, of which he was more wary than anyone, bespoke otherwise.

He came back down to earth to find Brother Iggy staring at him in concern.

“It’s a generational thing”, said Kieran “With Joby and Adam or any of the older Indigo-ites, I could tell you all that’s just gone through my mind. But no you younger ones, you have your own little world. Except perhaps Bardin, but then that’s why he’s Captain, because he’s different, and I think I’m beginning to understand why”.

Thunder crackled and made an effort to light up the dimly-lit room.

“When you’ve had the kind of power I’ve had in life”, said Kieran “You realise that responsibility is permanently with you. I don’t just mean the usual responsibility that comes with power, but the responsibility that comes from securing the happiness of those closest to you, who’ve given up so much for you. The last thing I want on top of that is reverence as well!”

“Oi!” said Joby, when he caught Bengo trying to eavesdrop at the food-hold door again. The food-hold led directly into the room where Kieran and Brother Iggy were having their conversation, and their words occasionally carried “Adam, tell him!”

“Bengo, come away”, said Adam “We don’t get much privacy on this boat, we’re entitled to what little we do get. And it’s not as if Brother Iggy’s talking to Bardin is it?”

“Bardy’ll find out though”, said Bengo “He always does”.

“The all-seeing all-hearing Bardin”, said Joby “Every home should have one!”

“Sieve me some flour”, Adam said to Bengo “And try not to get it all over your face and hair”.

Bengo, in his wretchedness, nearly collided with Toppy, who was drying up the lunch things. Toppy complained (again) about having to work in such taxing conditions.

“Joby, bring me a tin of treacle out of the end cupboard”, said Adam “I thought I’d make a nice tart”.

“You’ll make a lovely tart, darling!” Joby lisped.

“That’ll be quite enough of that”, said Adam.

“I thought you’d like it”, said Joby “It’s the sort of thing Julian would say”.

“I don’t know why you automatically assumed I’d like it then!” said Adam.

“Addy, can I make some tea?” said Kieran, coming into the room, tailed by Brother Iggy.

“Toppy’ll do it”, said Adam.

“Give him summat else to complain about no doubt!” said Joby.

“The others’ll want tea as well”, said Tamaz, appearing in the other doorway, wearing an incredible amount of jewellery. He had been tidying out his trinkets box.

“Oh Freaky!” said Adam “That’s complete overkill, old love. After all, less is more you know”.

“Yeah, that’s a real vulgar display that is”, said Joby “Dead common”.

“Such things don’t apply to me”, said Tamaz “I am unique”.

He turfed Brother Iggy off one of the kitchen chairs so that he could sit down. It was the sort of grandiose gesture that Julian did.

“He’s going to have to get used to it”, said Tamaz, when Adam protested “If he intends on staying here with us”.

The following day Kieran and Joby decided to ape the adventure that Julian and Lonts had had many years before, when they were last at Zilligot Bay. They hired a small truck and drove up to a fruit farm in the hills above the town. Whilst there they drove round the back roads looking for the brothel where Lonts and Julian had taken shelter for the night, and where Lonts had seen the mysterious blonde woman through a hole in the wall.

Although they drove around for several hours they couldn’t locate the building, and they had to conclude that so long had passed that it may even have completely disappeared by now. It was dusk when they pulled over at the top of the steep road that ran down into the town, for a breather. Kieran had insisted on doing most of the driving, and his hands were sore and blotchy from the heat.

“Why don’t we just stay here for a while?” said Joby, looking down at the few stray lights in the town and on the ocean beyond.

“Don’t you find it a bit of a dead hole?” said Kieran “All these old men around”.

“It’s more lively than the lighthouse on the lake!” said Joby “And at least here we’re not being spooked by zombies every night! I know nowhere’s safe from Codlik, but this is alright, we could be forgotten down here”.

“You’d like that, eh?” said Kieran.

“I just wanna be with you that’s all”, said Joby.

“Oh my love”, Kieran held him as best he could.

“I’ve always loved you, you know that”, said Joby, when they finally released each other “I’ve heard that the bloke who runs the main bar down there wants to sell up and retire, but he can’t find anyone to take it on. Well I reckon we could all do that”.

“We’d do it just fine”, said Kieran “But Bardin’s really got it into his head that he wants to go round the Horn, and I don’t think he’ll be satisfied until he does. But once we’ve done that we could come back again”.

“Go round it twice?” Joby exclaimed, in dismay.

“I can’t think of a quicker way of getting back round here again”, said Kieran “Going overland’d be a wee bit gruelling, and it’d mean abandoning the sloop. What would we do with all the animals, the chickens …?”

“Yeah, alright, alright!” said Joby “Well if he hasn’t worked it out of his system by the time we’ve done all that, I’ll throttle him!”

“You have been gone 8 solid hours!” said Adam, pacing round them both in the cabin “Have you any idea how worried I’ve been? You disappear up into the hills saying you’re going to buy a few melons, and you aren’t seen again for 8 hours! I have been going out of my mind!”

“We’re not in prison anymore, Ad”, said Joby, standing next to Kieran in the middle of the room, as though they were both being inspected on parade “You don’t have to keep us under constant surveillance”.

“Well it seems I do!” said Adam, now very angry indeed “It seems that’s what I’ve always had to do! When we were at Henang I was worried sick that your irresponsible squabbling would lead to you being separated from me, and then what would have happened?”

“We’d have had a lot more peaceful life!” said Joby.

Adam was so annoyed by this remark that he caught his sarong on a chair and had to stop pacing to adjust it. Joby sniggered. Kieran gave an anxious “uh-oh!” His presentiments were justified.

“That was all your fault”, aid Kieran, once he and Joby were alone in the cabin, both bathing their black eyes from the wash-bowl “You should have just kept quiet like I did, and let him ramble on. He’d have got exhausted … eventually”.

“I couldn’t!” said Joby, wincing as he dabbed at his eye with a face-towel “He was getting me mad, and then he has to go and catch his frock on the chair, well I couldn’t resist it!”

“Well we’ve well and truly paid the price for that haven’t we!” said Kieran.

“You don’t half look funny”, said Joby.

“You wanna see yourself!” said Kieran “You look as though you tried to blow your brains out and missed!”

“Blood pouring out”, said Joby, with grim satisfaction “We’ll be lucky if we don’t need stitches. Last time we was here I had to go to the bleedin’ hospital and all! Is there anything more vicious than those old poofs when they get their dander up about summat?”

“We’re old poofs as well”, said Kieran.

“Not like him”, said Joby “He was born to it!”

The door opened and Julian came in.

“Oh God, look out”, said Joby “Here’s the other one!”

“Are you o.k?” said Julian.

“Do we look o.k?!” said Joby.

“Hm, Adam’s temper hasn’t improved with age”, said Julian “I know how you feel. I didn’t always manage to duck myself when we were younger”.

“He’s a psycho, he should be locked up!” said Joby “And he was and all. Five years for GBH, that should have warned us!”

“I’ll send out Hillyard for some raw steak”, said Julian “It’s just the thing”.

“I’m not shoving the flesh of a dead animal into me eye!” said Kieran.

“I’ll have some”, said Joby “Kieran can live with the pain if he likes, he’ll enjoy it, see it as a penance probably, but I’d like some”.

“I’ll get Hillyard onto it”, said Julian “And Finia can patch you up in the meantime”.

“I’ve got blood on my shirt”, said Joby.

“And Toppy can attend to your laundry!” said Julian, and he left the room again.

“Don’t look at me like that, I’ve suffered enough”, said Joby “And the animal ent gonna care is he! He’s not the one with a black eye that’s throbbing like mad! He’s out of it, he is!”

“I can’t see out of me left eye”, said Kieran “I must look like a prizefighter who lost”.

“My Dad used to think you was a boxer”, said Joby “Fly-weight or feather-weight of course”.

“Did he?” said Kieran, in pleasant surprise.

“Yeah, but then he thought all Irishmen were either boxers or jockeys!” said Joby.

“I knew one once who was both”, said Kieran “Racehorses were his job, but he did the occasional bit of boxing on the side. Talk about a high-risk lifestyle!”

“Mm, bit like living with Adam really!” said Joby.

“Stop jumping about and squealing”, said Finia, who was patching up Joby a short while later “You’re such a big baby”.

“It’s alright for you”, said Joby “You’re not the one sitting here with a black eye! Mind you, no one’d notice on you would they! Ow! You did that on purpose, nearly sticking your bleedin’ finger in me eye!”

“Joby”, said Tamaz, standing on the other side of him “Did you mention buying the bar to Kieran whilst you were out? You said you would”.

“Yes he did”, said Kieran “I said it had to be up to Bardin”.

“Ta ra!” Hillyard waltzed into the room, holding aloft two slices of raw steak “A plate-load of fillet, only the very best for the two lousiest prizefighers in town!”

“You keep that away from me”, said Kieran “There’s enough blood dripping about in here as it is”.

“Shan’t”, said Hillyard. He got Kieran into an armlock and slapped one of the slices over his left eye “Now tilt your head back and hold it there. If you don’t, you’ll be kept awake all night with it throbbing”.

“I’d rather be kept awake than this!” said Kieran.

“Some people have no gratitude”, said Hillyard.

Julian despaired of “normality” being returned to the sloop that evening, and he didn’t think much of Ransey and Rumble volunteering to cook the supper. Instead, Julian announced that he was going out for supper, and would require an “attractive, undemanding dinner companion”. He selected Bengo, who donned his best clothes in honour of the occasion.

“I would really love it if we did buy this place”, said Bengo, as they ate lobster in the town’s bar “We could still all live on the sloop, but have here as well. It’d be great fun”.

“There’s not much of a clientele”, said Julian, looking at two elderly men playing chess on the other side of the room, who were the bar’s only other customers.

“That doesn’t matter”, said Bengo “I mean it’s not as if with all Hillyard’s money behind us we need to worry about making a profit. And if people find out Kieran’s here, well Zilligot Bay could end up being the next ‘in’ place to be”.

“Very possibly”, said Julian “But it could also attract the undesirables here, like Codlik”.

“Nobody’d let him get away with anything here”, said Bengo “He’ll look a real killjoy if he’s seen to go persecuting Kieran when Kieran’s doing his best to lead a normal life many miles away from him”.

Julian was impressed with the soundness of this argument.

“You have a good, reasoning head on your shoulders sometimes”, he said.

“Clown’s instinct that’s all”, said Bengo.

“That’s a damn sight more than Codlik’s got!” said Julian.

“When you grow up in showbusiness like we did”, said Bengo “You get a sorta sixth sense as to what people, the punters that is, will put up with at what time. When’s a time to go too far and when it isn’t. All audiences have their own individual quirks, and you pick up a sense of what that is very quickly”.

“Unfortunately Codlik has no sense of his audience at any time!” said Julian.

“No he hasn’t’”, said Bengo “He wants to force his act on them when they don’t like it. As Bardy would say that’s a real sign of a second-rater. He doesn’t build any empathy with people, and that’s what you need to survive in the public eye”.

“Dang me, Bengo, you’re quite a little sage when you’re allowed to use your brain!” said Julian.

“Sometimes I know my onions!” Bengo blushed.

Adam and Bardin turned up soon after. Bardin had changed into his best clothes to complement Bengo, but Adam was still looking rather distracted in his sarong and singlet.

“Have you both eaten?” said Julian.

“Yes … um … we had a little something back home didn’t we, Bardin?” said Adam.

“I’m sure you can force some oysters down you as well”, said Julian.

He ordered beer and oysters for them, and then left the clowns together and went up to the bar to smoke a cigar with Adam.

“Stop fretting”, said Julian “By tomorrow it’ll all be forgotten”.

“Lo-Lo called me a brute”, Adam wailed.

“He can talk!” said Julian “Takes one to know one I suppose! He’s only getting like that because you punched the beautiful, saintly Kieran, if it had just been Joby’s unsightly mug he probably wouldn’t be half so upset! Kieran will forgive you anyway, he always has before”.

“He’s so very tolerant and understanding”, said Adam.

“Yes, quite remarkable for an Irishman really!” said Julian.

“And of course that’ll make me feel worse”, said Adam “His understanding”.

“Don’t worry”, said Julian “Joby won’t be remotely tolerant and understanding, so that should make you feel better!”

“I hate these tense, awkward times”, said Adam “When everything gets so stressful between us all”.

“There are 16 of us, what do you expect?” said Julian.

“Seventeen, Jules”, said Adam “There’s Brother Iggy as well”.

“Even worse!” said Julian.

Bengo and Bardin were busy blowing the froth from their beer at each other whilst this conversation had been going on.

“Shall we buy this place, Bardy?” said Bengo, wiping the froth off himself with his napkin “It’d be real fun. I don’t know why you want to get so obsessed with this idea of going round the Horn”.

“We might have no choice”, said Bardin “When Codlik gets wind of where we are. It can only be a matter of time now”.

“See if I care!” said Bengo “I’m fed up with us having him dictate our life to us”.

“I know I know”, Bardin sighed “I tell you something though, all these mirrors are gonna have to come down”.

“No, they stay!” said Bengo “They add something to the room. If you don’t like it you’ll just have to keep your eyes shut when you’re in here!”

“Why does Bardin have to keep his eyes shut?” said Adam, coming over with Julian.

“He wants to take all the mirrors down”, said Bengo “Doesn’t want to see …” he pushed his finger into his upper lip to signify Bardin’s facial deformity.

“What nonsense, Bardin”, said Adam “You have an adorable little face”.

“Absolutely”, said Julian “Quite saintly and cherubic! Do I take it that this interest you’re showing in the interior décor means you are thinking we should buy this place?”

Bardin looked at Bengo, who in turn looked about as beseeching as it was possible to get without thumping his tail on the floor.

“I guess it does”, Bardin sighed.

Adam and Julian exchanged satisfied looks, like two Edwardian dowagers who had just arranged a highly-advantageous marriage.

“I think we should order another plateful of oysters to celebrate”, said Julian.

Joby was sitting alone in the dimly-lit cabin later that evening, strumming in a desultory fashion on Rumble’s banjo.

“What are you doing in here all on your own?” said Julian, weaving across the room on his return “The others are all up on deck”.

“I’m allowed to be alone if I want to!” said Joby “It’s not as if I ever get much opportunity for solitude is it!”

“At least have more light”, Julian turned up the oil-lamp “There, I can see properly now”.

“How much beer have you had?” said Joby.

“That’s growing on me”, said Julian, pointing at Joby’s black eye “It adds even more character to your face”.

“My face already had enough ‘character’ thanks!” said Joby.

“Banish your glooms, dear boy”, said Julian “I bring you truly glorious news”.

“Codlik’s been shot?” said Joby.

“Not quite that glorious”, said Julian “Bardin’s finally agreed to us going into the hostelry trade”.

Joby put down Rumble’s banjo and staggered to his feet. He looked so awestruck that Julian began to feel quite alarmed.

“Don’t have a heart-attack on me, old fruit!” said Julian.

Joby ran over to Julian and threw himself on him, weeping with joy.

“I’m so happy!” he cried.

“Well don’t worry”, said Julian, patting him “I’m sure it’ll pass!”

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