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It was a hideously unpopular decision. No one wanted to go. Finia, who was convinced the big house would be buried under snow, even though it was only the end of September, actually looked at Julian with acute loathing for having suggested it.
Ransey flew them all up in an air-buggy, and they took everyone at the house by surprise, because they hadn't warned them they were coming first. This was because Hillyard was being exceptionally bolshy, and said he didn't see why he had to warn anyone that he was visiting his own home, and also because he wanted to pay back Codlik for all his nagging at him to turn up.
Because of this no one had expected them, and Codlik and Glynis had gone out visiting one of the distant outlying farms, taking Leon with them, and weren't due back until the evening. The Indigo-ites weren't too unduly distressed by this news. Bertha made it clear that she was pleased to see them, kissing them all in turn. She immediately had tea served in the Great Hall, and the maids joined in the gathering. Adam noted with despondency that the rugs had been removed again, although Lonts, who could never see a vast open space without wanting to dance on it, ordered Toppy to set up the gramophone and an impromptu barn-dance took place.
Some of the male staff didn't join in the whoops and stomps, and stared disapprovingly at the maids and their swirling skirts. These were estate-reared men who disapproved of the Indigo-ites. There were many reasons for this, the chief one being (although they would never have admitted it) that the Indigo-ites were well-travelled. "They've been all over the world and so they think they know everything", was the sour concensus.
Other reasons were that the women became too excited by these visitors. The presence of the Indigo-ites reminded them that there was more to life than daily toil and eating meals at the right time. They were also excited by the immense good looks of Lonts and Bengo, Hillyard's affableness, and Kieran's charm. No amount of them being told caustically by the men that the Indigo-ites were a "bunch of arse-bandits", could dampen the women's enthusiasm. Homosexuality rarely puts off truly red-bloodied women, anymore than the thought of two attractive women together would put off a red-blooded male. It merely adds to the frisson.
The homosexuality element was also a big bone of contention for the estate-men. Whenever the Indigo-ites turned up a coarse cry of "bums to the wall, boys!" would go up amongst the stewards. When one of the more broad-minded ones had dared to suggest that things had been different for the Indigo-ites, that for several years they had had to live without the company of women, he was hollered down with righteous indignation. "I would NEVER resort to THAT!" said one, who didn't have the wit or imagination to understand what such a situation would have been like.
Whilst the dancing had been in progress Codlik's valet had arranged for everyone's luggage to be taken upstairs. Because he was a crashing snob he had insisted on unpacking Julian's bags himself, and had then gone downstairs to gleefully inform his male cronies of some of the things he had found there, namely Julian's punishment kit consisting of his cane, a worn strap, a paddle and a bottle of blister cream! To some of the men this was old news, as they had often seen Julian marching around with his cane under his arm on previous visits. Codlik's valet said though, high-mindedly, that he would have to watch for the safety of the younger stewards whilst Julian was on the premises.
"Sadly one sometimes gets this amongst men of breeding", said the valet "Their blood is too rareified".
Whilst they huddled in their tittering group, the men were missing some "rareified" entertainment in the Great Hall. Bardin had been overheard criticising Bengo for having yet another iced cake. The other Indigo-ites had immediately set up a war-cry of "Spank Bardin! Spank Bardin!" Bardin had presented his trim posterior to them all and patted it saucily. To the maids' great amusement Julian spanked Bardin's butt, motivated by his "rareified" blood no doubt!
"You're a good sport, Bardin", said Adam, afterwards.
"If I wasn't I'd have made a lousy clown!" said Bardin "Anyway, I've had far more embarrassing things happen to me on stage".
"We know", said Ransey "I've seen the show. Some of the audience must still be in therapy!"
Soon after, the party dispersed for a while. Bertha had apologetically informed the Indigo-ites that they couldn't have their old room as it was suffering from a burst hot-water pipe, and so they would have to sleep in their separate rooms instead. Lonts and Tamaz had both burst into tears on hearing that they weren't all to sleep together.
"It's only like being at the Town House", said Adam, placatingly.
"No it's not!" Lonts retorted, angrily "It's nothing like the Town House. We're miles apart here!"
"It's not for long", said Adam, adding to himself "I hope!"
Bengo and Bardin found themselves back in their gloomy room under the rafters. They alleviated the misery somewhat by making love, with Bardin taking on the submissive role, joking that he'd now been spanked and so must be the slave. For Bengo, who spent his life being bossed around by Bardin, this was very exciting indeed!
Afterwards they dozed in the late afternoon somnolence that was so peculiar to places like the big house, reminiscent of grand hotels. Bengo slept with his cheek resting at the base of Bardin's spine, and was woken by the sound of a carriage returning in the courtyard way below their window. Bengo slipped off the bed and went to see what had happened.
"Bardy!" he cried, jumping on the bed "It's Codlik and Glynis, they're back! We'd better go and warn the others!"
Bengo ran out into the corridor.
"Bengo!" Bardin called, wearily "BENGO!"
"What?" said Bengo, returning.
"You'd better put some clothes on", Bardin sighed.
"Oh yes", Bengo laughed, looking down at himself "I keep forgetting. We never used to have to worry about it at the Bay".
Whilst the clowns were informing Adam and Julian of the grown-ups' return, Codlik himself had located Hillyard in the Yellow Salon. Hillyard had inspected the wallpaper in the Green Salon and been suitably disgusted by it. Now he was sitting in the window of the Yellow Salon, clad in his fur-lined robe, and drinking from a tankard of ale. He was amazed when Codlik immediately burst into a tirade of how misunderstood and unappreciated he was.
"No one has ever appreciated me!" he cried "Not ever. When I was President all people could think was how I wasn't Kieran. And now, when I try to do the best by this house and everyone in it, I'm reviled again! People would rather have you here. You!"
"Only 'cos they don't see much of me!" said Hillyard "It's easy to appreciate someone you hardly ever see! People never fully appreciate really good, well-meaning bods. They never have. I don't know why that is, it seems to be the human condition. If I was here all the time they'd get brassed off with me really quick! You just made a boob with the wallpaper that's all".
"What was I supposed to do?" Codlik rasped "Seal the room up?!"
"No", said Hillyard "Re-decorate it, if it makes you happy. But when it's a room that's not important just get a couple of guys from the village to slap a bit of paint or paper on, don't make such a performance out of it".
"But this house is important", said Codlik "It's ..."
He realised they were now both in dangerous waters.
"It's my ... it's my son's inheritance", he said, quietly.
"He needs a place to live", said Hillyard, with aplomb "Not some emperor's tomb!"
"But it's not just for Leon", said Codlik "A house like this is a phenomenon, something future generations will look at with awe".
"Most likely they'll say what we do now", said Hillyard "It's big! Too bloody big!"
"Yes it is", said Codlik, smiling sheepishly "I haven't got a clue how many rooms are here even. I just didn't want future generations to accuse us of neglecting things".
"As far as I can see", said Hillyard "It's simply enough that there will be future generations! They'll have their own way of doing things anyway, and we'll all be well out of the equation by then".
"Is Kieran around?" said Codlik.
"I think he's in the East Wing", said Hillyard "Come on, we'll go and find him".
Joby had got fed up with listening to the monks fawning over Kieran, and had gone into the purple-painted dining-room in the East Wing for a cup of tea. There were a handful of monks sitting in the far corner, but apart from them Joby was alone in the barnlike room. This didn't bother him, as the early evening sunshine poured serenly into this, the most tranquil part of the whole house.
"Well if it isn't Jesus Christ Superstar!" said Joby, when Kieran joined him "Have they finished asking you questions then?"
"They wanted to ask you some too", said Kieran.
"Mainly personal details about you!" said Joby "There's some tea left in the pot if you want some. Although it might be a bit stewed by now".
"Can you pour it out for me?" said Kieran.
"Why?" said Joby "Lost the use of your hands have you?"
"No, I just like watching your wrists in the sunlight", Kieran smiled "Your wrists are very sexy".
"Well in that case I'll butter a scone for you too", said Joby.
He did so and put it into Kieran's mouth.
"Where's Tamaz?" said Kieran, when he was able to speak.
"With Mieps", said Joby "He's really fed up that we're here. So am I".
"So am I", said Kieran "I feel like I've been on the run and now I've been recaptured and put back in the asylum!"
"Do you think we've upset Julian somehow?" said Joby "That's the only reason I can think of as to why we're here. It's a punishment".
"I think he has his own agenda", said Kieran "Settling old scores with his upbringing. We've just go to ride with it, and hope it doesn't take too long".
"It's all bloody Hillyard's fault", said Joby "If he hadn't started ranting on about that fucking wallpaper, we wouldn't be here".
"Watch out", said Kieran, indicating Codlik and Hillyard who were mooching towards them across the room.
"The two men I least wanna see in the entire world", Joby growled.
He promptly stood up and walked past them.
"Now what's the matter with him?" said Hillyard.
"I don't know", said Kieran, with mock-innocence "But as he's upset I'd best go with him and make sure he's alright".
"But Codlik'd like to see you", said Hillyard.
Kieran knew full well that what Hillyard really meant was he'd like Kieran to take Codlik off his hands, and so he didn't fall for it. He followed Joby out of the East Wing.
"As far as I'm concerned Hillyard and Codlik can spend the rest of the evening together", said Joby, as they approached the broad steps that led up to their room, and Adam and Lonts's.
"In the Green Salon", said Kieran.
"Yeah", said Joby "Or what will become known from now on as the Hillyard and Codlik Memorial Wallpaper Room!"
The door to Adam's room opened and he came out looking flustered and angry. He was so emotional he didn't see Kieran and Joby, but instead turned and yelled back into the room.
"It's not my fault! And I think you're being very unreasonable, Lo-Lo".
"I'm miserable and unhappy!" Lonts bellowed back, sounding like a dinosaur with a painful wound.
"So am I, and you're making me that way!" said Adam.
"Are you two gonna keep this up for long?" said Joby, gravely "Only you do have the neighbours to think of you know!"
"You're the neighbours, and you don't count!" said Adam "Go in and see if you can talk sense to him. Sometimes you can communicate with him when I fail".
Joby stepped across the threshold and then quailed. Lonts was sitting propped up against the pillows on their bed, looking very tearful and angry, like some Titan giant about to crack men's skulls with his bare hands in a fit of pique.
"In case you're wondering what he's doing in bed, he's having a 'bed-in'", said Adam "As a protest. He says he's going to refuse to get up until we go home".
"Not a bad idea at all", said Kieran "And he's much better-looking than John Lennon!"
"He doesn't need any encouragement", said Adam, sitting down wearily in an armchair.
"Why don't you just ignore him?" said Joby.
"I can't", said Adam "Not when he calls me a traitor. A blackhearted traitor no less!"
"Bit strong weren't it?" said Joby to Lonts.
"I'm always being betrayed", said Lonts "When we left the Bay both he and Julian said it was to just go back to the Town House to get in more supplies. And then we find we have to come here, and soon it'll snow and we'll be stuck here, just like that other awful winter".
"Sounds like he's been talking to Finia", said Joby.
"You betrayed me then too!" Lonts thundered, pointing accusingly at Adam "You said we would be here until Christmas ..."
"And we were here until Boxing Day!" said Adam "That was a huge betrayal wasn't it? The Munich Agreement had nothing on that!"
"We're here because of Julian and Hillyard actually", said Kieran.
"Exactly", said Adam "I am a mere pawn at the moment, like the rest of you. But if this dire situation looks as though it's going to persist I may well leave here in protest and go back to Toondor Lanpin without them. I will stop being a mere pawn then and ..."
"Become a queen instead!" said Joby.
"Oh very amusing!" said Adam.
"I thought it was quite good for one of mine", said Joby.
"That is all just talk", said Lonts, unimpressed "Adam won't defy Julian".
"Won't I just!" said Adam "It wouldn't be the first time I've walked out on him when he's drive me to exasperation. Remember when I came to fetch you at the monastery that time, Patsy?"
"Mm", said Kieran "Ach c'mon Lonts, you'll get bored just lying in bed all the time".
"No he won't", said Adam "Not when he has an axe to grind. When he's being stubborn he can be as immobile as the Rock of Gibralter".
"Why haven't you got a whisky decanter in this room?" said Joby, looking around "All the other bedrooms have one".
"Why on earth would I have one?" said Adam, waspishly "It would be like an Arab having one!"
"Shame, I could do with a drink", said Joby "Oh well, better go to our room and have one I spose. And don't be such a pillock, Lonts. You lying there isn't gonna make us go home any quicker, and you're only upsetting Adam".
"But we could be here for weeks, Joby", Lonts protested, miserably.
"Not on yer life!" said Joby "If it looks like we're gonna be here too long we'll put Julian back on the air-buggy by force, bound and gagged".
"I rather like that thought!" said Adam.
"What about Hillyard?" said Lonts.
"He can walk", said Joby, dismissively "He doesn't like flying anyway, so we'd be doing him a favour really!"
A gong was thumped somewhere in the depths of the house.
"Codlik must've just ordered another decorator to be shot!" said Kieran.
"It's the dinner-gong", said Adam.
Kieran and Joby went to their own room to fetch Tamaz, and found him fast asleep in bed. Mieps was standing in front of the looking-glass, holding up Tamaz's black lace teddy against himself.
"I think we'll have to get you a slightly bigger size", said Kieran, teasingly.
"Tamaz wouldn't stop sobbing so I put him into bed", said Mieps, with brusque tenderness "He fell asleep. I didn't realise how much it meant to him, everyone sleeping altogether on the sloop".
"He likes us all being in as one", said Joby.
"I think it helps to exorcise the ghost of the cage", said Kieran "I remember how he screamed when we put him back in it after leaving Cockroach Mansions. He's come a long way in such a short time".
"It blows my mind just to think of it", said Joby.
Somehow the three of them ended up making love. No one had suggested it, it just happened, in that way it can between people who are just quietly chatting in a very laid-back way.
Joby woke up in bed much later that night to find Kieran asleep on one side of him, and Mieps on the other. Tamaz was still sleeping peacefully beyond Kieran. It had gone dark, and moonlight was flooding in through the leaded windows.
The door opened and Adam and Lonts came in, carrying two trays holding covered dishes. They set them down on the nearest table, and Adam came over to the bed.
"You missed dinner", he whispered "So Lo-Lo and I waited until the staff had all gone to bed, and then we went and ransacked the kitchen for you".
Mieps slid off the bed and went to inspect the trays.
"What happened?" Adam spoke close to Joby's ear.
"I had him like a woman", said Joby "Whilst Kieran took me from behind".
"You're a disgusting little wretch", Adam smiled.
"I had a good teacher didn't I?!" said Joby.
Kieran and Tamaz got out of bed, and the trays were divested of their offerings.
"Did we miss anything downstairs?" said Kieran, perching on Adam's knee and biting into a piece of fruit, perfectly imitating the pose he had once had many years ago in the Love Suite at Marlsblad.
"Not a thing", said Adam "It was all rather dreary, wasn't it Lo-Lo? Glynis was very charming, and Codlik tried not to be too infuriating, but oh dear, people on the outside seem so boring. I try not to feel that way, but they are. There was an awful lot of talk about how there was more need for demureness and conservatism in the world".
"Perhaps Glynis should stop fornicating in stables then!" said Joby.
"To be fair, I don't think she agrees with it anymore than we do", said Adam "It's all Codlik and that maid with the blue eyes, Maisie. She's a great champion of commonsense and chastity. I hate to say it, but I foresee trouble there in the future. She idolises Codlik".
"Don't let's talk about them anymore", said Lonts "It's boring. Let's go and have a walk round the house, whilst everyone else is in bed".
It was now well after midnight but the others seized on this idea with alacrity. It would be exciting to explore the house by themselves in the moonlight. The gang of 6 went down to the ground floor, and eventually wound up in the Red Salon.
"This doesn't even try to be homely", said Adam, standing in the middle of it "It looks exactly like a museum".
An impression reinforced by the marble pillars at the entrance to it, which only needed ropes slung between them to emphasise the effect.
"There isn't any way to wake a house like this up", said Adam "It's completely dead. Even we can't do it".
"Good", said Joby "Now we know that we don't have to bother coming here again".
"Julian will get informed thus in the morning", said Adam.
"I can understand him wanting to exorcise his background", said Joby "But sometimes all you can do is let it go".
"Hey look at this", said Tamaz "It's really weird".
He was standing by a statue on one of the tables. The statue was of a half-man half-horse.
"A centaur", said Adam "It's from Greek Mythology ... rather like a Gorgon".
"Gorgons aren't half-horse!" said Tamaz.
"No, Gorgons are from Greek Mythology too, that's what I meant", said Adam "Or at least that's what we always thought they were, but this time has taught us that so many fantastical things really existed".
"It looks a bit like Bengo", said Joby "Only more malevolent!"
Kieran opened an unconspicuous door by the fireplace. It opened onto a stone corridor with a brick floor.
"I wonder where that goes", he said.
"The Service Wing I expect", said Adam.
"No, that's in the opposite direction", said Kieran.
"Come out of there, Patsy", said Adam "It looks like the sort of place we could get lost in very easily".
"It's gloomy, come out", said Mieps.
Kieran shrugged and shut the door again.
"Forget I found it", he said.
A distant bell was heard ringing from another part of the house.
"Now what?" said Joby.
"Two A.M", said Kieran, looking at the clock on the mantelpiece "That'll be the monks holding matins".
"Shall we go along and join them?" said Adam "It may be the last chance you'll get for a while, Patsy".
"Only if we can persuade Julian to let it be", said Joby, glumly "Otherwise we'll be stuck here".
"Perhaps I should quote some of Christ's words to him", said Kieran.
"You think that'll help?" said Joby, dubiously.
"All that is necessary is that we love one another", said Kieran.
"And we do", said Adam.
"But what's that gotta do with Leon inheriting this place and being trapped by it?" said Joby.
"At the same time", Kieran continued "Christ said don't concern yourselves with the future, not when today holds enough worries. You see, it's all so simple when you heed him! So simple and reassuring".
The 6 of them went along to the chapel in the East Wing, and slid noiselessly into the back pew. The monks noticed their presence, and although they didn't comment on it at the time, it was an event that was talked about for years afterwards. The extraordinary night when the Vanquisher of Evil, his two consorts, the Kiskev Survivor, and two Ghoomers, all dropped in for matins.
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