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"'We are very close to Woll's now, and we won't be able to travel much further up this river, which eventually turns into a mountain stream'", Julian wrote in his log-book "'We left the bleak landscape behind a while ago, and now the whole area has got much more colourful and beautiful, with lush green banks rising up on either side of us. Children from the vast estate which spreads all around here have been running along the tops of the bank, following our progress and cheering, which is quite heartening. We passed under a rope bridge a short while back, which seems to connect two small communities to one another.
I have been roaming about the boat for several minutes, feeling as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend. I know this is absurd as we're certainly not abandoning the Indigo. But I felt emotional just the same. I went down into the hold, where Hillyard and Bengo were drinking so liberally from a bottle of rum, that I wondered if it was safe for them to stand so close to the furnace! I despatched Bengo upstairs so that I could talk to Hillyard in peace. He said there was no reason to get melancholy about the Indigo, because if we decided we didn't want to live at Woll's, and instead wanted to take her back to Toondor Lanpin, we could do so. We didn't even have to take her back down river, as we could find some way of taking her across land. This all seemed so sensible I felt a bit of a dim-witted Charlie for not having thought of it myself. Actually I think I was just depressed at the thought of retracing some of our more recent steps ...'"
"Julian", Joby poked his head round the door "Ransey sent me down to say we're stopping now".
"O.K", Julian closed the log-book and proceeded to lock it in the top drawer of his desk.
"Aren't you taking that to the house with you?" said Joby.
"No", said Julian, sadly "It's a captain's log-book, and I'm not going to be captain up there".
"Don't be daft", said Joby "Who else is gonna be in charge? You're the eldest".
Julian smiled and picked up his carpet-bag, which was already packed with things to last a few days. The engines were switched off, and out in the gangway everyone else was milling about, clutching their belongings, like the last day of term. An agitated yelling was coming from Adam's cabin. When he got there Julian found Adam and Lonts standing in the middle of the room exchanging strong words.
"All I asked you to do was to put your things in your bag", said Adam "Now that's hardly rocket science, Lo-Lo".
"I don't need to pack", said Lonts, screwing up his face angrily "Because I'm not coming. I don't want to stay in that stupid house. I'm going to go back to bed, and I'm going to stay there until the rest of you see sense".
"You'll be there a long time then", said Joby, coming in to retrieve Tamaz's things.
"None of you can make me come", said Lonts.
"Yes I can", said Adam "I can fetch the big sledgehammer from the hold and bash you over the head with it!"
Lonts pondered this threat for a few moments and then dismissed it.
"No you wouldn't do that really", he said.
"Well Lonts", said Julian, twirling his hat in his hands in a leisurely manner "I hope you're going to be alright here on your own. You'll always be in our thoughts up at the big house, and I expect we'll occasionally wonder what you're doing, just as you occasionally will wonder what we're doing".
"No one's said how long it's going to be for!" Lonts cried.
"Because none of us knows", Adam sighed, in exasperation.
"See you around sometime, Lonts", said Joby, walking out of the cabin.
"Come along, Adam", said Julian, firmly.
Adam left the cabin reluctantly, and gave a final despairing glance at Lonts. He was about to say something when Julian gave him a sharp slap on the rump, and Adam sprinted up the quarterdeck stairs. Once alone, Lonts briefly pouted. Then he hastily jammed his clothes into the bag and stuffed Snowy in headfirst on top.
"I'm coming as well!" he yelled.
Word had got to the house via the local bush-telegraph that the Indigo had been sighted on the river, and a carriage had been despatched to fetch them. This vehicle was a swish four-wheeled affair with plenty of spring in the suspension and leather seats. These little niceties were overshadowed by the fact though that fitting them all into it was like trying to break a world record. Mieps was ordered to sit up front with the driver, and Toppy offered to sit on the floor with a blanket over him!
"I hope you're not going to keep this fugitive on the run act up throughout our entire stay", said Julian "We've got enough to deal with with Adam's deranged Yeti!"
Groaning with the overload the carriage squealed towards the house, which looked even more bleak and barn-like in the June heat than it had done at Christmas, when the whole area had been under snow. In the cobbled central courtyard every single member of the household staff had gathered, lined up for inspection by the new boss. The housekeeper stood at the head of them, looking brisk and self-satisfied in her crisp white summer uniform.
"Let's go home", Joby muttered, quailing at the thought of facing them all.
"You'd better get out first, Hilly", said Adam, as the carriage eased thankfully to a stop "It's you they want to see the most".
This was easier said than done, as Hillyard was jammed into a corner of the carriage, buried under Kieran, Tamaz and sundry bags. He managed to emerge eventually and shook hands with the housekeeper, who launched into a well-rehearsed speech of welcome.
"They don't need all this amount of staff", Ransey hissed.
"A house this size does take some considerable upkeep, old love", Adam protested.
"Rubbish", said Ransey, stoutly "I bet there's a helluva lot of deadwood being carried here. I expect a quarter of this lot could be eliminated straightaway".
"Eliminated?" Adam exclaimed.
"Bit drastic isn't it?" said Joby.
"Just a figure of speech", said Ransey.
"One can never be too sure with you", said Julian, darkly.
"And this is all my family", Hillyard was saying, proudly.
The other Indigo-ites staggered out of the carriage and stood glaring at the staff, as though they were new prisoners who had just been unloaded from the paddy-wagon.
"We are sure you will all fit in with us here just fine", the housekeeper beamed.
"I thought they were supposed to fit in with us?" Joby muttered to Kieran.
"They obviously need shaking up a bit", said Kieran "And I'm sure we can manage that!"
For 30 years the house had been run ostensibly for the benefit of one lonely man, but in reality Woll had impinged very little on its day-to-day running order. In actual fact the house was a haven for its staff, most of whom were now as institutionalised and nervous of the outside world, as if they had been incarcerated in a mental hospital for many years.
Ransey had been exactly right when he had said that it was grossly over-staffed, but even he couldn't have foreseen just how gross and farcical this was. For example, many years before Woll had engaged a music tutor because he had decided he wanted to learn a musical instrument. This had come to nothing, but the music tutor had so endeared himself to the staff that he was kept on. This had been over 20 years ago, and he had been there ever since, drawing a full salary and getting free board and lodging, in return for doing absolutely nothing. Not only that but he married and started a family, and these also lived in the house, and sat down to 4 meals a day, absolutely free.
The previous Christmas Hillyard had got the idea that the whole place was run in order that the staff could simply eat their way through their days, and since Woll's death this had got worse. Ransey spent the next 3 days rampaging around the house like a witchfinder general looking for demons to cast out. Ahead of him, like peasents clearing the way for a despotic emperor, ran Lonts and Tamaz, who also gleefully pointed out torn curtains and wallpaper, threadbare carpets, unkempt fireplaces, dead flowers, and any other signs of neglected housekeeping. When Hillyard protested that all this was unnecessary, Ransey retaliated that he was safeguarding his inheritance, and it was about time it occurred to Hillyard that he was paying these perpetual holiday-makers vast sums of money to do nothing.
On the third morning when Julian let rip that no one had been up to their room to change the sheets and towels, Hillyard decided to shut up and let the others do as they saw fit. It was even beginning to annoy the normally amiable Hillyard that this house seemed to exist solely as a giant ever-consuming pit of waste. He knew the other Indigo-ites would never want to make a permanent home here, so some other use for it had to be found, but at the moment he was baffled as to exactly what.
Meanwhile Adam was finding out exactly how well the staff had been living. The larders and cold stores groaned with food, and the cellar was a wine connoisseur's paradise. The housekeeper had kept every menu within living memory and these formed a remarkable record of the staff's eating capacity. She insisted on leaving a list of each day's forthcoming meals on his breakfast tray every morning, asking him to approve them. The first day he had simply thought "yes, very nice". But when it became clear that these meals were not a treat but an everyday occurrence, some of his father's Puritan instincts came out. Normally he made fun of Julian's miserly attitudes, but now he found himself agreeing with him. There was just something downright bloody obscene about such daily self-indulgence.
Ransey meantime had managed to unearth the resident book-keeper. This pitiful specimen had been given the job simply because the village school-teacher had remarked that he liked making up sums on scraps of paper. Other than that, this person was frighteningly lacking in the kind of intelligence and commonsense needed when dealing with such vast sums of money. Ransey opened a ledger at random and found its pages covered, not in neat lines of figures, but crude pen-and-ink sketches of naked women. All sporting improbably big breasts, and usually depicted with their legs wide apart and a rictus grin on their faces. Ransey could even have tried to forgive this sacrilegious desecration of an accounts ledger, if he hadn't then found a heap of unpaid bills tucked into the back. Some of these were so old they were in danger of becoming historical curiosities! Most were covered in wine stains.
Never one to waste too much time, Ransey fired the book-keeper on the spot and sent him back to his mother's house on the estate. This sent shock-waves around the staff, and from then on they went to great lengths to hide from the slender, bespectacled man, whom they now perceived to be some kind of mad axeman.
Lonts pestered the others endlessly as to when they were going back to the Indigo, and got increasingly enraged when all they said was "soon". To Lonts' childlike mind, "soon" was unforgiveably vague, and he went into rages about it.
"You're too bloody big to lie on the floor and scream!" said Joby, catching him having one such outburst on a flight of stairs "Go and find Toppy and the clowns, and stop acting like a prat!"
Lonts sulkily agreed to seek out the others. Having been reminded of Toppy's existence he was curious to know how he was. The youngest had been hiding himself away in his room, and as far as the others could tell the only communication he had had with Lillijana had been on the day of their arrival, when she had commented on how long his hair had got.
When Lonts climbed up the stairs to the second floor, he was disconcerted to find the door to Toppy's room locked. Toppy hastily unlocked it when he realised it was Lonts.
"What are you doing in here, Toppy?" he said, following him in and looking around him suspiciously.
"I'm frightened to face Lilli", said Toppy, emotionally.
"Why?" said Lonts "She's a kind person, she won't hurt you. Anyway, you can't hide in here all the time. You must be lonely".
Toppy nodded miserably.
"Then why didn't you say so?" Lonts squawked "Let's go and find Bengo and Bardin, and Do Something".
Toppy smiled for the first time since arriving at the house. They went along a darkened corridor to the rather gloomy room which the clowns had been allocated by Julian, solely on the basis that it was a long way from his room and he wouldn't have to listen to them squabbling! There they resided like a pair of maiden aunts trying to live as unobtrusively as possible on their family's charity. They were pathetically pleased to see Lonts and Toppy.
"We would go out more", said Bengo, querulously "But the staff here get us down with their constant staring".
"We did think of entertaining them", said Bardin "But they look so po-faced all the time we didn't have the heart".
"That isn't like you two at all", said Lonts, with concern.
"It's this house", said Toppy "We can't carry on living like this".
"Where's Kieran?" said Bengo "What's he doing these days?"
"Joby says he's gone peculiar again", said Lonts "He talks about his priests all the time, and walks around thinking".
"Toppy's right", Bengo sighed "We can't carry on like this. We've gotta kick some life into this dump. What shall we do first?"
"Go down to the stables and annoy those sneering louts who work there", said Bardin.
"A fight?" said Toppy, looking terrified.
"Nah, we'll just annoy 'em a bit", said Bardin "We can't get too rough anyway, in case Bengo's pretty face gets damanged!"
"Hah fucking hah", said Bengo.
The four of them sauntered down to the stable-yard at the back of the house, which was baking in the noon heat. Tousled heads popped blearily out of the stable-doors at their approach, where the lads had been taking one of their many daily naps in the straw. On noticing that some of the Indigo-ites were amongst them they lethargically made an attempt at a show of work.
"What shall we do?" said Lonts, standing by the horse-trough with the others "You said they needed a good kick-start, Bardin".
"Here's someone who might help us", said Bengo, gleefully.
Tamaz was walking towards them, with his hands clasped behind his back, looking very pleased with himself. He wore a vest and a pair of Joby's old tracksuit-bottoms. In spite of this distinctly unglamorous attire, he still looked capable of unsettling the stable-boys just by his presence alone.
He had had an eventful morning. He had managed to deftly climb down a drain-pipe from a second-floor room and into Mieps', intending to torment "the old snake" a bit more. Mieps had pulled him off the window-ledge and got him onto his bed, where they had rolled about hissing and spitting, for several minutes. Eventually Tamaz had wriggled off the bed, and had then dealt Mieps such a slap round the face that "the old snake" had been left reeling. Tamaz had effected his escape (via the door this time), yodelling with amusement.
Although his face had smarted from the slap for some time afterwards, Mieps wasn't angry or upset. Quite the reverse. Tamaz brought such excitement into his life, (a life that had been abysmally dull and lonely for many years), that he was prepared to put up with anything, simply in order to enjoy the sexual charge that Tamaz gave him.
"Hey Tamaz", Bengo called out "We need to drive this lot mad, any ideas?"
Tamaz looked round contemptuously at the stable-boys, who were staring at him and exchanging surreptitious whispers.
"They're not worth it", he said, dismissing them as prey too trivial to waste time on. It would seem very flat after his encounter with Mieps, and ideally he now wanted to find Joby and arouse him "These stables are dreary. Let's go into the garden instead".
They finally wound up on the main lawn, and organised an informal game of tennis amongst themselves. At the top of a short flight of steps nearby, French windows opened out from the Yellow Salon. Just inside the window sat Julian and Ransey, who had commandeered a barrel of red wine from the cellar and were now draining off glasses from it as and when they felt like.
Tamaz took off all this clothes and proceeded to do a fan-dance on the lawn, using the spare tennis racquets.
"Put something on, you little trollop!" Julian yelled, from his perch on the sofa "Where the hell is Joby when you need him?!"
"I saw him going into the orchard earlier with Adam and Kieran", said Ransey "It doesn't matter. We can keep an eye on Tamaz from here".
"So can everyone else!" said Julian "I think the little wretch is tormenting Mieps again, worse than ever. I've tried giving himi good advice, not to push Joby's patience too far, but I might as well have not bothered".
"I think Joby's more concerned about Mieps hurting Tamaz, than himself getting jealous", said Ransey "I can threaten Mieps as much as I like, but at the end of the day the fact is both he and Tamaz are entirely physical creatures, and need to work it out by themselves. The more consternation Tamaz causes the worse he gets".
"He needs beating very soundly", said Julian "And I don't mean a light spanking either!"
"That wouldn't have any effect!" said Ransey "If you were to give him 1200 lashes with a horse-whip he'd still be exactly the same! I think you've just got to admit you've met your match where he's concerned, Julian. Anyway, where's Hillyard? I haven't seen much of him today".
"Probably rogering a steward somewhere", said Julian.
"Oh he's not up to his old tricks again?" said Ransey, in dismay.
"No, I think he's having a bath at the moment actually", said Julian "Where's Finia, come to that?"
"In the sewing-room, repairing some of the torn curtains", said Ransey.
"I see", said Julian, caustically "Got him working hard from the looks of things".
"He likes sewing", Ransey protested "He says he finds it relaxing".
Julian got up and paced to the wine-barrel, where he drained off another glass.
"That's the damn trouble with this old mausoleum", he said "I never know where anyone is from one hour to the next! If we stay here we'll end up drifting apart, I can see it. All cold and isolated. We'll meet only at dinner, and then we'll engage in chilly, civilised conversation. I don't think I can bear it".
"That won't happen", said Ransey "For the simple reason that we're not staying here".
Julian sighted Adam, Kieran and Joby walking towards them across the lawn.
"I'll see you in a little while", he said to Ransey "In the meantime, see if you can think up an alternative use for this place, and I don't mean as a nursing-home for geriatric accountants!"
Julian strolled down the steps to the lawn. He ran up to Adam and kissed him violently on the mouth.
"Go and wait for me in my room", he whispered to him. He then turned to the others, who had been watching quite avidly "What's the matter with you young people? Don't you know how to enjoy yourselves?!"
"They're all playing nude rounders", said Julian, standing at his bedroom window a couple of hours later "Except Finia, he's got his bikini on".
"I don't know how they have the energy in this heat", said Adam, from the depths of the bed.
Julian sprinted across the room and vaulted over the brass rail at the foot of the bed.
"Oh stop showing off", said Adam "I don't know how you do it, I really don't. Twenty years ago you couldn't have managed it. You must use witchcraft. Or perhaps you sold your soul to the Devil in return for perpetual youth. That would account for an awful lot!"
"You don't do so badly either", said Julian, pulling his cigar-box off the bedside table.
"My days of vaulting over bed-rails are over", said Adam "Particularly after you've finished with me".
"Not my fault if you can't keep up", said Julian.
"I can match you", said Adam, indignantly "I'm just a bit sore that's all".
"I'll tone it down a bit next time", said Julian.
Adam slapped his leg. They lay silently for a while in the summer heat, listening to the shouts from outside, and enjoying being a part of it all, and yet not at that moment being a part of it. They were roused by a knock on the door.
"Yes?" Julian snapped, irritably.
"It's me, Kieran", said Kieran, from the other side of the door.
"Patsy's here", Adam whispered, in awe.
"Christ, I've been fantasising about this for years!" Julian exclaimed "Come in!"
Kieran walked in, looking like a gentle ghost. His hair was bleached white by the sun, and his blue eyes appeared huge in his freckled face.
"I hope I'm not in the way", he said.
"No", Julian hastily pulled the sheet over his lower half, which was betraying his enthusiasm at Kieran's appearance "Help yourself to a cigar".
"That'll be much appreciated", said Kieran, selecting one and lighting it. He then proceeded to walk around the room, idly inspecting things.
"Pats, is something wrong?" said Adam.
Kieran didn't answer. Instead he picked up a cane with a hook handle which Julian had left propped against the chest of drawers.
"This is an evil-looking thing", he chuckled "Where did you get it from?"
"Madame Simone gave it to me as a going-away present", said Julian.
"You're a couple of old reprobates!" said Kieran, fondly.
"That's a bit rich", said Julian "Coming from someone who's been known to thrash himself!"
Kieran prodded Julian's stomach with it.
"Can you take it back as well as dish it out?" he asked.
"Try me", said Julian "I have been known to enjoy a good thrashing with a belt, as Adam will tell you. It's highly therapeutic".
"Oh I know", said Kieran, putting the cane on the window-sill "Good for cleansing the soul. The Victorians certainly thought so anyway".
"I suppose that's what I am at heart", said Julian.
"In a very decadent way", Kieran winked.
"Pats, tell us what's wrong", said Adam.
"I've had a telegraph message", said Kieran, sitting down on the edge of the bed "From Codlik".
"Oh what does he want?" Julian groaned.
"He's been trying to get hold of us for a couple of weeks apparently", said Kieran "There's a backlog of these missives, but the lazy twats here have only just decided to tell me. He says the Constable of Barlazzi has arrived in Toondor Lanpin, and is intent on whipping up trouble for me. He's pressing the Church to have me excommunicated".
"But he can't", said Adam "You're the Founder! How can you be excommunicated?"
"As far as I can see they can't", said Kieran "There is no current excommunication law. I deliberately left it out, because as far as I could see nobody has the right to dismiss anyone else from the eyes of the Lord. But the Constable can press to have me deposed as the Head".
"I don't see how that should bother you", said Julian "It's not as if you have much to do with them".
"It's not as simple as that, I'm afraid", said Kieran "He doesn't just want to cast me out. He wants me to be tried for abuse of power and mental instability".
"On what grounds?" said Adam.
"Well the mental instability can be proved in a number of ways", said Kieran, wryly "Like establishing a church for one thing!"
"But what abuse of power?" said Adam.
"Using my position to have affairs", said Kieran.
"Who with?" said Julian "Adam? Joby? You really pressured them into it didn't you!"
"Tamaz in particular", said Kieran "He claims I took Tamaz out of judicial hands and instead set him up as my own sex-toy. Sounds to me like he called in at No-Name on the way and got gossiping with Thierry!"
"That is completely absurd", Adam fought his way angrily out of the bedclothes "Anything that has happened between you and Freaky evolved naturally".
"We could also point out that in all the time Tamaz has been in our custody he has been no serious trouble to anyone", said Julian "And in fact is now a completely reformed character, or as reformed as we're going to get him anyway!"
"I'm not putting up with anymore of this rubbish", said Adam, stamping stiffly around the room.
"Codlik for once has come up with some sensible suggestions", said Kieran "He says he doesn't want to see me put on trial for such ridiculous charges, and is urging me to fight back".
"Oh yes, and what makes you think we can trust him?" said Adam "I'm surprised he's not agreeing with everything that ghastly little man is saying!"
"Shut up, Ada", said Julian, wearily.
"I think we can trust Codlik", said Kieran "He has his faults, but he's not a double-dealer, and he says in his messages that he finds some of the Constable's remarks and opinions 'Fascist and highly anti-social'".
"They're certainly that!" said Julian.
"But he can't seriously bring you to trial", said Adam.
"I regret to say there are plenty of nutters in my Church", said Kieran "Some who even hate me. They agree with the Barlazzi Demon that I'm degenerate, that I don't set an example of healthy, wholesome living. I practise sodomy, and I copulate with Ghoomers. They think we're all a bunch of debauched thugs, and so there are plenty who would agree with him. You can't have the kind of power I've had without making enemies!"
"I suppose they could get us on technicalities", said Julian, glancing at the hook-handled cane.
"Don't be silly, Jules", said Adam, sternly "Patsy's built his entire life around love. He's never been corrupted by power. What we do would only be morally wrong if we cared nothing for each other. And that certainly isn't the case".
"I never thought I'd say this but Codlik's right", said Julian "You have to fight this moron. I know you're tired of fighting the likes of him, but it really is the only way. And this time you have to rally all your supporters onto your side".
"Perhaps I haven't got any", said Kieran, glumly.
"You've got us for starters", said Julian "Plus your monks that adore you ... and you have the women".
"What women?" said Adam.
"ALL the women", said Julian "Like the young mother in Barlazzi, like Persephone, Emily, Dolores, Glynis, all the women who would still be in hiding if it hadn't been for Kieran. The women who live in fear of baby farms, and of extremist right-wing nutters like this demented Constable. Rally them to your side, Kieran, and you'll mop up the likes of him once and for all!"
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