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For a couple of months they lived quietly enough at The Causeway, although the unspoken feeling on the galleon seemed to be that it wasn’t somewhere they could think of as a permanent home. The area was beautiful and fascinating, and yet, for all its romantic isolation, it was somewhere that seemed to prohibit the idea of encouraging permanent settlers.
There were also more practical matters to consider. They didn’t go short of food, not with the plethora of hunting and fishing available in the vicinity, let alone their own goats and hens to draw upon, yet Adam yearned to be able to provide fresh fruit and vegetables. That raised the little issue of money. He could buy off the landlady at the roadside inn, but to use ay of what was left o the Starhanger jewels could possibly draw more attention to themselves.
“I could barter some of our goats cheese I suppose”, he said, doubtfully.
“Probably find she’s got her own goats cheese”, said Joby.
“I feared as much“, Adam sighed.
“I could dance for money in the bar”, said Bengo.
“And just what would Bardin say about that?” said Adam.
“Anyway, you might not be what they have in mind as a bar-dancer”, said Joby.
“I could take my clothes off”, said Bengo, undeterred “I mean I know I haven’t got tits, and I’ve got a bit more portly round the middle these days but …”
“Bengo, sweet boy”, said Adam “I would sleep far more easily at night if you kept that as a private little pleasure for us at home! Besides, as I’ve just said, Bardin would never countenance the idea”.
Hoowie and Kieran had been loitering nearby on the main deck whilst this conversation had been going on, and Hoowie added his bit.
“I could take my clothes off”, he said “After all, I used to be an artist’s model …”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” said Joby “We’ll have Hillyard threatening to take his off next!”
“Kieran could take his off”, Bengo giggled.
“That should be a pretty under whelming experience for everybody”, said Joby.
“Oh thanks very much”, said Kieran.
“NOBODY is taking their clothes off”, said Adam, firmly “I am not running a strip join here”.
“Pretty ropey old strip joint”, said Joby.
“I’ve had a better idea”, said Bengo.
“It could hardly fail to be worse, old love”, said Adam.
“A musical evening”, said Bengo “They must be desperate for entertainment around here. Bardy could sing, I could do a little dance - with my clothes on - Rumble could play his banjo, or if they’ve got a piano at the inn, Hillyard or Umbert could do the accompaniment. Perhaps Farnol could do some of his old card tricks as well”.
“Let’s hope they’re as desperate for entertainment as you think they are!” said Joby.
Bardin had a few misgivings about this latest venture, even with the promise that Bengo would keep his clothes on.
“Isn’t that drawing attention to ourselves?” he said.
“They probably think we’re a bunch of travelling circus people anyway”, said Bengo.
“What would we be doing up here if we were?” said Bardin.
“Resting”, said Bengo.
“On the run from an irate audience more like!” said Joby, who had been listening in on this conversation.
“Just for that outrageous remark we’ll do it!” Bardin snapped “On the proviso that that fool Hoowie isn’t doing anything. He can never be trusted to keep his clothes on in public!”
“He’ll want to do SOMETHING, Bardy”, said Bengo. “He can pass the hat round at the end”, said Bardin.
The landlady at the roadside inn was in a win-win situation really. New entertainment brings in a few more stray customers, and some of the money the entertainment made for themselves was going back to her anyway, in exchange for some of her fresh produce.
“It’s not often we get entertainers out these parts”, she said to Adam, when Hillyard drove him out to see her the following day “It’s usually someone who plays the mouth-organ”.
“We might be able to run to that as well”, said Adam, as Rumble was also able to play the harmonica.
“We had a woman once who could whistle and tap-dance at the same time”, said the landlady “She told me she could earn money anywhere she went, just by being able to do that”.
She sounded quite wistful about this, and Adam could hardly blame her. To be able to earn a living without having the encumbrance of a business over her head must have sounded good, let alone a business that she rarely able to get away from.
“When the evening’s over”, she said “You can stay in one of the rooms here, or if you can’t afford it, then you can sleep in the ban for free. That’s often where we put guests who aren’t very flush”.
“Oh that won’t be necessary”, said Adam “I expect we’ll be going back to the ship when all the business is done”.
It was almost comical, the effect his words had. The landlady looked askance, and the inn’s cook, a surly fellow with a face full of stubble, came out of the kitchen to look him up and down, as if he could scarcely believe his own ears.
“I would advise against that”, said the landlady “These woods can be treacherous after dark. That’s why the barn’s available”.
“Well we’ve travelled in many remote areas before”, said Adam “I promise you, we will take every precaution”.
“You sleep upstairs or in the barn”, growled the cook “Or there’s no deal”.
Adam was somewhat taken aback by this. They both clearly felt very strongly about it, enough to risk losing an evening’s business like this. Adam felt he had no choice but to concede, although he knew it would take nothing short of brute force to make the others accept it.
He wandered into the back bar of the inn, and found Hillyard idly strumming a few notes on the piano there, whilst Bengo stood up close to him. Lonts (the fourth member of the party) had seated himself leisurely on a wooden settle and was filling his pipe.
“Now gentlemen”, said Adam, pulling Bengo away from Hillyard “Remember the spirit of Bardin is always with us”.
“Umbert said he wants to do the musical accompaniment if there’s a piano”, said Hillyard “I think he’ll find this one better than our old crock”.
“You could both do it”, said Adam “Take it in turns”.
“Well I’m coming along anyway”, said Hillyard “Someone’s got to drive you all home again”.
“When we get run out of the bar!” Bengo laughed.
“Ah now there’s a thorny little issue”, said Adam.
“What issue?” said Lonts, taking his pipe out of his mouth.
Adam lowered his voice to explain the situation as regards the barn.
“A night in a barn”, said Bengo “As long as it’s not too draughty I don’t mind”.
Over the next couple of days the main deck and the dining-room of the galleon were turned into rehearsal areas. The floors of both resounded to the thumping of manly feet, and Bardin warbling as he tuned up his voice. It was always a pleasant surprise to the other Indigo-ites to re-discover what a nice singing voice Bardin had, as most of the time they only heard it used for shouting.
On the night itself the weather was in their favour. It tanked down with rain in a torrential Summer storm, which effectively flushed stray travellers and hunters out the woods to seek shelter at the inn. Bardin’s little show passed like a dream, and Hoowie even kept his clothes on when he ventured round with the hat at the end of it all.
At the end of the evening the little concert-party (comprising of Umbert, Hillyard, Bengo, Bardin, Rumble, Farnol, Hoowie, with Adam and Lonts as the support team), were all to decamp to the barn for the night. Bengo and Hillyard had gone on ahead.
“You haven’t changed a bit”, said Hillyard “Not since the first day we got you”.
“Oh I have”, said Bengo “My stomach’s got bigger for one thing”.
He was changing out of his “stage clothes”, which had got sodden from a combination of sweat from dancing in the bar, and the mad dash through the rain to the barn. Hillyard was holding up a blanket around him, in case Aimee the landlady walked in.
“Nah not much”, said Hillyard “I can still remember you in your jockstrap! That was all you had to your name”.
“I don’t like thinking of those days”, said Bengo.
“Don’t regret joining us do you?” said Hillyard.
“Oh no”, said Bengo “But the way I ran out on Bardy. I should have slugged him unconscious and dragged him with me. If I had my time all over again, that’s what I’d do”.
“To be honest, I don’t remember much before the rest of you came”, said Hillyard “Even when I look back to the very early days, it’s as if you’d always been there”.
“I wish we always had been”, said Bengo “I really do”.
There were voices outside the barn door, and Adam and Lonts walked in, flanking Hoowie, who was carrying the hat full of small change.
“I’ll have to sit down and go through it”, said Adam “And work out how much to use to do business with Aimee, and how much to take back to the galleon”.
“I hope Bardin’s pleased with this evening’s work”, said Hoowie.
“If Bardin isn’t pleased”, said Adam “He’ll get a damn good spanking from me!”
“Oh poor old Bardy!” Bengo laughed.
The great man could be heard approaching the barn with the remaining members of the concert-party, Farnol, Rumble and Umbert. As soon as he entered the barn, he complained that everyone was still standing around in their wet clothes, and that they hadn’t sorted the bed-rolls out yet.
“I’ve changed”, Bengo protested.
“Oh praise the performance, Bardin!” said Hillyard.
“He won’t do that”, said Bengo, speaking from long experience.
“Adam”, said Hoowie “Will YOU tell Julian how great it was?”
“I shall certainly tell him how well you behaved if that’s what you mean”, said Adam.
Bengo suddenly picked Bardin up under his armpits and swung him round.
“Bengo, stop being a plank”, said Bardin “I’ll get you all wet”.
They both fell backwards into the hay.
“Now listen up”, said Umbert “There’s important business here to attend to, which everybody’s ignoring”.
He gestured at the urn of cider he was carrying.
“Compliments of our lovely hostess”, he said.
There was a general scrambling for their own personal beer-mugs, which formed part of their overnight baggage.
“Now hang on”, said Bardin “Everybody should get changed first”.
“If it keeps you happy, old love”, said Adam “Hoowie, you can put the hat down now”.
“What if someone sneaks in to try and nick it?” said Hoowie.
“They’ll get more than they bargained for then won’t they!” said Hillyard.
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