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By Sarah Hapgood

Bengo didn’t start the momentous voyage south in the best frame of mind. He was angry and annoyed at Bardin for allowing Kieran’s “funeral” to be televised in the tavern before they left. Bardin had argued that a lot of them (including Kieran himself) had a morbid curiosity to see it, and those that didn’t could go in the kitchen. Bengo had made a noisy point of doing so, where he had then watched Joby bad-temperedly missing up the batter for a selection of Yorkshire puddings.

The following day they had set off on the high seas, due south, and Bengo was still annoyed with Bardin. So much so that when he took him his morning coffee he hit him over the head with the tea-tray. Adam rebuked him when he got back to the galley.

“I don’t care”, said Bengo “He’s done far worse things to me on stage!”

“Would you like to take your break up on deck now?” said Adam “You’re looking a bit peaky, old love”.

Bengo insisted he wanted to carry on working.

“I’ll take it then”, said Joby, going up the galley steps “See how the world curling championships is getting on”.

He was referring to Lonts, Tamaz and Toppy, who were playing a hybrid game of curling and quoits up on the forward deck. Once he had gone Adam rebuked Bengo again.

“It was seeing Kieran’s funeral”, Bengo protested “I’m so angry at Codlik”.

“So am I”, said Adam “But why hit Bardin?”

“Habit I suppose”, said Bengo.

Bardin came into the galley soon after, looking rather green around the gills. He said, in a whisper, that he was seasick.

“But the water’s almost like a millpond”, said Adam “Compared to what it’s going to be like I expect!”

“He’s not seasick at all, he’s hungover”, said Bengo “He drank too much last night”.

“Bengo, find something useful to do”, said Adam.

“Shall I bring that ham through from the food-hold?” said Bengo “You wanted to carve it up”.

“Yes o.k”, said Adam “I’m a bit disappointed with it though, it’s far too fatty, which’ll mean a lot of grease …”

Bardin rushed to the sink and threw up violently. Bengo stood to one side with his hands in his pockets, looking grimly satisfied.

“I let my guard slip there didn’t I?” said Adam, boxing Bengo’s ears.

“I should have thrown up all over you!” Bardin shouted at Bnego, when he’d partially recovered.

“That wouldn’t be anything new!” Bengo retorted.

“Now stop it, the pair of you!” said Adam “Bardin sit down, I’ll make you some coffee”.

Bardin sat down, and promptly threw up the rest of his excesses, this time all down himself. Adam ordered Bengo to take him to the cabin and clean him up. By some miracle the cabin was empty when they got there. Whilst the weather stayed fine most of the others (apart from the unfortunate ones who had to toil in the hold) went up on deck.

“Throwing up all over myself”, Bardin groaned, collapsed in the armchair whilst Bengo undressed him “I haven’t done that since we were kids and we had that bout of gastric flu”.

“Alcohol never agrees with you, Bardy”, said Bengo “It always makes you sick in your stomach”.

“I know”, said Bardin “But just lately I’ve had this constant tense knotty feeling in my belly the whole time, and the booze helps to numb it, damp it down. But then a few hours later I get this horrible nausea”.

“You’ve been getting plastered every single night lately”, said Bengo, retrieving some clean clothes out of the cupboard “The only ones you didn’t were when we travelled to and from Crowley’s place, and that was only because we didn’t have much booze with us! Even the one night we were there you got drunk”.

“And whose bloody fault was that!” said Bardin “Spiking my drinks!”

“We had to do that”, said Bengo “Or you’d have gone mad”.

“Not exactly a responsible way to treat someone who could be a borderline alcoholic”, said Bardin.

“Only borderline?” said Bengo.

“I hate it when you decide to try and be sensible!” said Bardin.

“It’s important one of us is!” said Bengo “And you’re not doing it at the moment so it has to be me”.

They could hear Julian and Ransey talking to each other as they came down the quarterdeck steps.

“We’ll say you spilt coffee all down yourself”, said Bengo, screwing Bardin’s soiled clothes into a bundle and holding them close to his chest.

“What are you two doing in here?” asked Julian, as they came in.

“B-Bardy spilt coffee all down him”, said Bengo.

“He needs changing these days does he?!” said Julian.

Bardin left the room, ordering Bengo to follow him.

“Why did he appoint me as Captain when he talks about me like that?” Bardin exclaimed, when they reached the long corridor.

“Julian’s like that about everybody!” said Bengo “Why should you be any different? Oh I see, because you’re Captain Bardin The Invincible! At least that’s when you’re not throwing up all over yourself anyway!”

The following day they reached the area of the caves, the region where Mieps thought the dismembered bodies that had been washed up on the shore some time ago had been found. It was a still, lifeless area, with very little vegetation and, suspiciously, no bird life.

Julian took it into his head that Kieran should not be allowed topside whilst they drifted past this eerie stretch of the coastline. That he should stay below deck, and someone should keep an eye on him at all times.

“He won’t like that, Julian”, Joby pointed out, when he took Julian his shaving-water after breakfast.

“I don’t care if he likes it or not, he can lump it!” said Julian.

Kieran was furious at what he saw as yet another stretch of house-arrest, and vented his spleen on Joby in the long corridor.

“I notice you didn’t say much in my defence”, said Kieran “Being all subservient and English”.

“I’M subservient?!” Joby exclaimed “I’m not the one who goes around begging for people to beat him up! You can come along and help us in the galley. We need a washer-upper, seeing as Toppy’s up on deck doing the laundry, which I might point out is meant to be your job”.

“How can I work up there if I’m confined down here!” said Kieran.

In the galley Bengo and Joby helped Kieran into a spare pinny, like two church minions helping to robe an archbishop before an important service.

“It’s quite exciting when Kieran comes to work in the galley isn’t it?” said Bengo.

“Yeah”, said Joby “I can hardly contain meself!”

“I thought Bardin was Captain these days”, said Kieran “So why do Julian’s orders seem to get priority?”

“Silly boy”, said Adam, coming down the galley steps “You should know by now Julian will always find some way to come out on top. I take it you’re grumbling, Patsy, about being kept below stairs. Well it’s for your own good, and it is only temporary after all”.

“Temporary?” said Kieran “I’ll be lucky if I’m allowed to see daylight again this side of Lixix!”

“What’s it like in Lixix?” said Bengo “I’ve never been there”.

“Just a typical port really”, said Joby “And it’s so long since we’ve been there it might have changed beyond all recognition”.

“I doubt it somehow”, said Adam “Places like that never really do seem to change much, not at heart anyway”.

“It’s not far from the City is it?” said Bengo “We could nip up and see it all in ruins”.

“No thanks”, said Joby “It’d remind me of when we entered it and saw what Father Gabriel had done”.

“I wish we’d been with you then”, said Bengo “We could have performed in the travelling show and kept up your morale”.

“There’s a joke in there somewhere”, said Joby “But I’m not gonna rise to it!”

The atmosphere of the desolate coastline they were passing was so demoralising that they abandoned any idea of eating up on deck, and decided to take it in shifts in the galley instead.

“Is this what’s called eating at the Captain’s Table?” said Hoowie, as he, the clowns, Tamaz and Toppy took the second shift around the table in the galley.

Bardin was too busy watching Tamaz to take much notice of Hoowie though. He had been worried about Tamaz of late. Tamaz hadn’t been yodelling much, or raiding his jewellery box, and Bardin took all this as a sign that Tamaz was going into some sort of melancholy decline. There wasn’t much evidence of it this evening though, as Tamaz was putting away his supper as though there was no tomorrow, i.e with tremendous gusto.

“Would you like some more apple pie?” asked Bardin, when Tamaz had cleared one plateful.

“Yes”, said Tamaz “But I’ll help myself to it. I don’t trust you lot!”

Joby had been spying at them through a chink in the galley door whilst all this had been going on. Adam found him there, and gently but firmly led him away back down the long corridor.

“I thought I’d better keep an eye on him at the moment”, said Joby “This whole area could have an effect you know”.

“I don’t think you need to keep an eye on him quite that closely, old love!” said Adam.

“Well you never know”, said Joby “Josh might come out of the food-hold again, like he did to you that time”.

“Sometimes when I’m alone in there”, said Adam “I do think I see something out of the corner of my eye, but I think it’s just my mind playing tricks on me”.

“If anybody’s brother has to appear”, said Joby “I don’t know why it can’t be Julian’s. I think anyone’d rather see Piers than Josh!”

“I’m sure that’s true”, said Adam “Although Piers wasn’t without his faults, he could be the most crashing little snob”.

“Worse than Julian?” said Joby.

“Oh considerably worse”, asid Adam.

“Bloody hell!” said Joby “I didn’t think that was possible!”

“Julian only really gets snobbish in order to wind people up”, said Adam “Particularly if he knows they’ll rise to the bait”.

Joby grunted in reply, fully aware that he was a prime candidate for this reference.

“And occasionally too when he’s in one of his ‘I like everything to be done properly’ moods”, Adam continued “But Piers was ridiculously snobbish. I remember once at a party him introducing me as Adam ‘who comes from a distinguished 12th century family’. It made me feel like some old relic, one of the old ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit!”

“And did you?” said Joby “Come from a distinguished 12th century family I mean?”

“I have no idea”, said Adam “I wasn’t around in the 12th century, and I suspect I’d have avoided any of my lot like the plague if I was!”

“You’ve never mentioned Piers being a snob before”, said Joby “Normally you can’t sing his praises enough”.

“Oh that’s just to get at Julian”, said Adam “He will insist on getting so ridiculously jealous of Piers”.

“I still can’t get over the distinguished 12th century family bit”, said Joby “You wait til I tell Kieran!”

“I might have known you’d do that, you little rat!” said Adam “Now I’ll never live it down!”

Concern for Julian’s feelings wasn’t normally something that overly-consumed much of Joby’s time, but on this occasion he found himself doing just that. Joby put it down to the strange area they were travelling through for his bizarre state of mind.

At twilight most of them (apart from Kieran, who still wasn’t permitted freedom of movement, and voiced his protest by sitting at the top of the quarterdeck steps, most inconveniently in the way) went up to the forward deck, to do all the jobs entailed in settling the boat for the night as it rested at anchor, and watching the sunset. Joby followed Julian around in the gloom with a hurricane lamp, until Julian grew quite unnerved by all this attentiveness.

“You are behaving most out of character”, he remarked “What’s all this about? Is this some ploy of Kieran’s to get you working on me? Tell him to stop wasting his time, it won’t work. He stays below-deck until I say otherwise”.

“It’s nothing to do with Kieran”, said Joby.

“A likely story!” said Julian “Everything you say and do is concerned with him!”

Joby visibly bridled at this, and Julian, realising he had gone too far, hastened to pacify him.

“Don’t take offence, dear chap”, he said “Such legendary loyalty of yours is bound to be remarkable in this cynical vale of tears in which we all live”.

“I’m me own person!” said Joby.

“Of course you are”, said Julian “None of us have ever doubted that for a moment”.

Joby was highly dubious about such blatant soft-soaping, but decided to let it pass. He wanted to tell him about his conversation with Adam instead.

“Was it true that Piers was a snob?” said Joby.

“He could be I suppose”, said Julian ”But everything Piers said was so feeble and ineffectual that I doubt anyone ever took any notice of him! Why are you getting so worked up anyway? Snobbery may be very irritating, but even on your scale of things it’s hardly a shocking perversion is it!”

“Not it’s not that”, said Joby “Look, this is really embarrassing, right? I wish I’d never started this conversation! I just felt Adam was wrong to wind you up with how sweet and saintly and longsuffering Piers is, and all the while he didn’t really like him much!”

“Joby, my dear fellow, set your mind at rest”, said Julian “There is no little trait in Adam’s personality that I haven’t long since been aware of, believe me. You really mustn’t distress yourself like this. It would only be cause for concern if he was like that with Lonts, and that will never happen, because as far as Adam is concerned Lonts is sacred!”

At that moment Adam and Lonts came up on deck via the galley steps. Lonts was excited about seeing the sunset and was anxious to catch it before the big scarlet ball disappeared completely below the horizon.

“No one would think it happened every night!” said Joby “And has done for millions of years!”

A few minutes later Joby passed Kieran on his way down the quarterdeck steps. Kieran was nonplussed by the look of grim determination on Joby’s face, and disturbed when he followed him into the cabin to find Joby getting stuck into the brandy decanter.

“Now what’s happened?” said Kieran.

“Nothing”, said Joby, having drained a throat-scorching amount in record time “We’ve all just been watching the sunset that’s all”.

“And that’s made you want to get drunk has it?” said Kieran.

“Primitive tribesmen”, Joby began “Could go mad during an eclipse, ‘cos they thought the world had suddenly come to an end”.

“Sometimes they thought the sun was being eaten by a giant dragon or snake in space”, said Kieran “What’s the Dutch courage for?”

“This area”, said Joby “It’s getting seriously on my nerves is all”.

“It’s a bit of a dead-hole sure enough”, said Kieran.

“And yet at the same time I think something’s here”, said Joby “Watching us. It feels like we’re being watched all the time up on deck”.

“I wouldn’t know”, said Kieran “I’m not allowed up there!”

“Tell you what”, said Joby “When Julian comes below I’ll smuggle you up on deck and you can see for yourself”.

“No I’ll take meself up there”, said Kieran “I don’t want to get you into trouble with him, he’s in a funny mood at the moment”.

“Everyone’s in a funny mood at the moment!” said Joby “Hardly surprising when Sawney Beane could be close by!”

“But none of us are going ashore”, said Kieran “And none of Beane’s clan could sail. They couldn’t even leave the cave unless it was low-tide, remember?”

Bengo and Bardin strolled into the cabin. Joby, in his newly-befuddled state, was convinced they had been eavesdropping and let rip at them.

“But we’ve only just come down”, Bengo protested “What’s the matter?”

Joby didn’t answer, instead he threw himself on the bed and glared at them. Bengo looked in query at Kieran, who made a drinking gesture with his hand.

“I dunno who you clowns think you are”, said Joby “What right have you got to intimidate other people?”

“Duh?” said Baridn, using one of Joby’s expressions.

“I once saw some clowns at a railway station, doing a publicity stunt”, said Joby “People were having to dodge ‘em chucking custard pies everywhere. What right had they to terrorise people like that?”

“It can’t have been us”, said Bengo “We’ve never performed at a railway-station!”

“And we’ve never chucked things at the general public”, said Bardin “Very tempting though it’s been at times!”

“We’ve never terrorised people”, said Bengo “Have we, Bardy?”

“Take no notice of Joby”, said Kieran, discreetly washing up the evidence of Joby’s brief but effective drinking binge on the washstand “Joby, stop upsetting the clowns!”

Bengo looked so anxious that Joby burst out laughing.

“He’s got such a funny face!” said Joby.

“Not half as funny as yours!” Bengo retorted.

“Don’t be cheeky!” said Joby.

Bengo bent down to untie his shoes and promptly split his shorts. Bardin placed his cap over Bengo’s behind.

“Now that’s what I call being cheeky!” said Kieran.

“How did that happen?” said Bengo.

“From you being a podge, that’s how that happened”, said Bardin “You’ll have to ask Finia nicely to stitch ‘em up for you”.

“He won’t need ‘em much for longer”, said Joby “Soon we’ll be going into heavy-duty gear, thermal drawers and even Bengo will have to be in long trousers!”

Joby woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that a savage dog had its teeth around his foot. He twitched and twisted violently and the feeling slowly dissipated. He then law awake in trepidation, convinced it was going to happen again. His already taut nerves were shattered by someone apparently screaming from the shore. A man or a woman, it was impossible to tell which.

When daylight had fully arrived, and the others were stirring, he put on his dressing-gown and headed for the forward deck, dodging Ransey on his way to the heads, and unbolting the trap-door at the top of the quarterdeck steps which led aloft. The deck was cold against his bare feet and he winced as he tripped across to the bulwark nearest the shore.

“I know you’re out there, you bastards”, he whispered to the desolate coastline.

He went back below via the galley steps, and found a dressing-gown-clad Adam standing there, warming a teapot. Adam berated him, first about going aloft in his bare feet, and secondly, about being obsessed with Sawney Beane. Joby protested that he wasn’t obsessed, merely curious, but it was to no avail. Adam barred him from going aloft until further notice, and like Kieran, Joby found himself temporarily incarcerated below-deck.

“Take Julian’s shaving-water and coffee along to him in the cabin”, said Adam “Get dressed, and then bring back Bengo’s trousers”.

“It’s getting draughty in these”, said Bengo, indicating the gaping hole at the back of his shorts.

“Well what did you put ‘em on again for?” Joby exclaimed “Are you sure that’s all you want me to do? You know, any roof-painting required for instance?”

“Just get on with it”, said Adam “And don’t be all day about it either!” Hillyard came in a short while later to report that Julian was entertaining himself with Joby on the communal bed.

“Oh hell!” said Adam “That means Joby will come back even more argumentative and sulky than he normally is. He’s always like that after Julian’s had his sweaty paws all over him!”

“What did you send him along there for then?” said Hillyard, now tucking into fried eggs on toast at the galley table.

“Because I foolishly thought it would be safer than sending Bengo”, said Adam “Particularly in those shorts!”

To everyone’s annoyance Bardin called a meeting in the cabin after breakfast. Lonts lugubriously remarked that Bardin seemed to be getting very keen on having meetings these days, to which everyone else silently concurred. This wasn’t quite as formal as the meeting back at the tavern, Bardin didn’t sit at the head of a table attempting to take notes, instead he strode about swinging the whistle with reckless abandon.

“Too many things go on on this boat that I know nothing about”, he said.

“Like what?” said Hillyard.

“As Captain”, Bardin continued, as though Hillyard hadn’t spoken “I need to be aware of EVERYTHING that happens in all parts of the boat at all times. Particularly now we’re coming up to one of the most dangerous sailing regions in the world”.

“You want to know every little thing?” said Tamaz.

“Everything!” said Bardin “However trivial and inconsequential you feel it is”.

“But you’re just gonna spend all day being told things, Bardy”, Bengo protested.

“Well if it gets him out of doing any work!” Rumble muttered. As one of the boiler-room workers, he regarded anyone else’s work as ridiculously pampered and easy, and by comparison, this was generally true!

“One thing further I must add”, Bardin ploughed on, relentlessly, still as though no one else had spoken “No disciplining is to happen without my knowledge and say-so. I need to be informed of all breaches of conduct, however unimportant you may feel they are”.

“I protest most strongly!” said Adam “In the galley my authority over-rides yours, and my staff are strictly under my control. If I feel the need to punish any of my staff, I have no intention of wasting time running all over the boat, checking that it’s alright with you first!”

“And does that include Julian when he’s fooling about, Bardin?” said Lonts.

“Please Captain, is it alright if Julian thrashes someone?” Farnol chuckled.

Everyone laughed, except Joby, who was still feeling sore after Julian had trapped him in the cabin earlier. Joby was so busy remembering all this that he didn’t notice Bardin slamming out of the cabin. Bengo gave an exasperated sigh and went after him.

“Get back in here!” Julian shouted from the doorway “Both of you!”

As Bardin slunk back through the doorway Julian gave him a vigorous slap on the behind.

“Try and remember”, said Julian to him “We are a loving unit first and foremost, not a bloody organisation of office-workers! We don’t need another Codlik!”

Bardin spent the afternoon up on deck. At one point he thought he saw movement on the shore, and snatched the binoculars from Tamaz, who had been sat on the other side of the deck, scanning the opposite view of the ocean. Even with the aid of the binoculars though, Bardin found his investigations frustrating. He kept catching flickers of movement, but never a clear image. Nothing that could be well defined.

That night Julian decreed that he was going to sleep between Bengo and Bardin, to keep an eye on them. When Bardin got between the sheets, Julian tore off his whistle and chucked it across the room. Bardin made to get out of bed to retrieve it, but Julian grabbed him by his shorts and yanked him back again.

Bengo found all this very amusing. He had said to Joby earlier that being told off publicly, as Bardin had been in the cabin that morning, wouldn’t do him any harm, and anyway there was no public humiliation Bardin hadn’t endured in his time. Bengo recalled pushing his partner backwards into a slime tank on stage on one occasion, and said that that morning he’d wished he’d had one available then as well!

Ransey climbed into bed on the other side of Bardin, and did his final night-time routine of ceremoniously removing his spectacles, putting them in a hard-covered case, and putting them under his pillow, ready to be retrieved and put on at a moment’s urgent notice, if required. He closed the day with a few more remonstrations and character-improving words for Bardin.

“But I’m … “ Bardin began, but he realised that no one wanted to listen to his oft-repeated assertion that he was Captain, yet again. “Oh damnit!” he said.

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