Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

It was only natural that the news of their unmasking at the inn should prompt a debate about moving on. Kieran agreed that it was pointless them making any effort in future to remain incognito.

“We may as well just carry on as we are wherever we go”, he said “And if we’re discovered, then c’est la vie”.

“And what happens to you if we’re discovered?” said Joby.

“I can give a few little open-air sermons”, said Kieran, which prompted much groaning from Joby.

“Fucking hell”, he said, heading for the cabin door “I dunno how I’ve ever put up with you, I really don’t”.

“Joby …” Kieran began, in a pleading voice.

But Joby was having none of it.

“I’m going to work”, he said “Or Adam’ll start bellyaching”.

Anchor was weighed and they sailed in a northerly direction, leaving The Causeway behind, but still hugging the coastline. The forest got much deeper, as did the sense of isolation. This came as some relief to Joby, who hadn’t been at all happy with Kieran’s threats to do open-air sermons should they reach civilisation again.

“As far as I’m concerned”, said Joby “We can stay in the middle of bloody nowhere for years! That would suit me just fine”.

It was virtually impossible to keep anything quiet on the galleon, and news of the ruckus between Kieran and Joby inevitably spread like wildfire. Julian had reluctantly agreed that there didn’t seem to be much point in going to great lengths to remain incognito, but he was furious at Kieran’s open-air sermons plan. He summoned Kieran to his cabin and thrashed him with the cane. Joby didn’t hear about this until it was too late, and by the time he’d steamed in there, Kieran was pulling his trousers back up again.

“There was no need for that”, Joby said angrily to Julian “I can sort things out for myself”.

“It seems you can’t”, said Julian, who was equally angry.

He picked up two tennis balls which had been lying on his desk, and held them out to Joby.

“Some new balls for you”, said Julian “Just in case you require them”.

“Julian, that was focking uncalled for”, said Kieran.

Joby went to lunge at Julian, and Kieran had to seize him round the waist and half-drag half-carry him out of the room.

“Come on now, calm yourself”, said Kieran, once he had got him safely out in the corridor “Jayz, look at us. There’s me standing here with the sore arse, and I’m comforting YOU!”

“Bloody …” said Joby “Oh fuck, I can’t even speak, he’s got me so angry!”

“Now don’t you worry”, said Kieran “He’s not going to get away with it, I promise you”.

Kieran went and told Adam all about it, who professed himself to be “outraged”. Adam went to see Julian, and repeated that he was “outraged”, and added that he couldn’t understand how Julian could speak that way to Joby, whom he had such a soft spot for.

“Do I really have to explain all this again?” said Julian “For the umpteenth time, it’s to try and get Joby to stand up for himself”.

“Yes well I think your tough love has gone too far this time”, said Adam “I think it probably best if you don’t appear in the dining-room this evening. I shall bring your supper in here for you. It’s entirely up to Hoowie where he eats”.

Hoowie (unsurprisingly) elected to eat with Julian in their cabin, and the two of them shared a large plate of vegetable curry together.

“This is alright at any rate”, said Hoowie.

“Yes, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the old pansy had dished up bread and water for us”, said Julian “I’ve always said he missed his vocation, he should have been a nanny!”

“Are you gonna apologise to Joby though?”

“Oh don’t you start!”

“Well Hillyard says it’s destroying the equilibrium of the ship”, said Hoowie “And it’s true! God, Joby gets in a grot and everything goes into meltdown. That don’t happen when it’s me! No one takes a blind bit of notice then!”

“I will apologise, if it’ll stop everyone bellyaching”, said Julian “But it can wait until tomorrow. Let Joby stew on it for a while. After all, I’ve had to spend all evening sitting in the corner with the dunce’s cap on!”

Joby wasn’t the only one who was “stewing”. Bengo was in a very mopey mood, and would barely say anything to Bardin when they were getting ready for bed, except for the perfectly insufferable remark of “you’re the Captain, you should be sorting this out, Bardy“.

First thing in the morning Bardin went along to Julian’s cabin and woke him up.

“Am I at least allowed to wait until daybreak before I stage the great reconciliation?” snapped Julian.

“It’s fully daylight”, said Bardin “And I cant’ take anymore of this. Bengo’s barely spoken to me all night”.

“Oh THAT’S what all this about”, said Julian “You haven’t had any!”

“Just sort it out Julian!” said Bardin.

“I haven’t even had time to have a shave yet”, Joby complained, when Hoowie had been sent to fetch him.

“You should think yourself lucky”, said Julian, who, having ordered Hoowie back out of the room again, turned his attention to the samovar “I had my sleep interrupted, and I spent all night banished into the corner like Little Jack Bloody Horner! Much more of this and I could see myself being forcibly put ashore like Robinson Crusoe! You certainly know how to work the masses, I’ll give you that”.

“Oh come off it Julian”, said Joby “It was a pretty shitty thing you said”.

“And you should have known I didn’t mean it spitefully”, said Julian.

“Telling me I had no balls wasn’t being spiteful?” Joby exclaimed “I wouldn’t take that crap from Kieran, Hillyard, Adam, Bardin …”

“I know full well you have balls. I’ve played with them enough!”

“Yeah well the way I feel at the moment it’ll be a long time - if ever - before you play with ’em again!”

“Want to bet?” Julian smiled. “Don’t start all that”, said Joby.

“It’s Kieran who’s at fault here“, said Julian “It’s him who upset you most, not me. All I am is the scapegoat. All I was doing was just trying to persuade you - yet again - that you don’t have to take his nonsense. Has a more infuriating creature ever lived than him?”

“Yeah, you!” said Joby “Without Kieran we wouldn’t have youth and immortality. We’d all have been pushing up daisies long ago. Can you imagine what it would have been like watching each of us get old, sick and die? He’s spared us all that. So so what if he’s an annoying, manipulative little bastard sometimes? It’s not as if he ever claimed he was perfect … unlike some”.

“There’s no way I can answer that”, said Julian.

“Blimey, that’s a first!” said Joby “Look, I’ll tell the other it’s all cool again between us, and that’ll stop Bengo moping like a dog on a chain, and Adam can stop giving you a hard time”.

“I doubt if even you can manage that one!” said Julian “Ah good, the tea’s ready”.

Later that day Bengo went down to see Hillyard in the hold, and found that normally pragmatic man rather jumpy.

“Bardy sent me down to say we’re gonna stop now”, said Bengo.

“And not before time if you ask me!” said Hillyard “I’m getting the ruddy spooks down here. I keep thinking I’m being watched”.

“Well the wind’s got up and that’s probably making everything creakier than normal”, said Bengo.

“It’s not just that”, said Hillyard “I keep thinking of that sinister old lady in the black dress”. “But we left her behind on ’The New Continent’”, said Bengo.

“Yeah, so we thought!” said Hillyard “I had a feeling at the time that it was going to take more than Ransey chucking a cup of water at her to completely get rid of her”.

He turned off the engines and followed Bengo to the foot of the steps. Before going up them he turned to look around him once more. Bengo was starting to find his uncharacteristic nervousness almost as disturbing as if they really had seen any ghostly old ladies lurking in the ship’s undergrowth.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site