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Hillyard woke up the following morning after a terrible dream in which someone had come along with a great scythe and chopped his head off. It was so disturbing that when he woke up and found himself lying with his head sticking out of the tent entrance he had hastily retracted it. In dire need of comforting he had then looked around for Bengo, and was dismayed to find that he was lying a couple of bodies away, on the other side of Ransey.
'Nothing ventured nothing gained' could have passed as Hillyard's motto in life, and he began to pick his way carefully around the tent in pursuit of the loveable little clown. Unfortunately as he neared the ever-vigilant Ransey woke up and mistook him for an intruder. An ugly scene followed in which Ransey shook Hillyard warmly by the throat.
"How was I to know it was you?" Ransey cried "You could've been anyone! You're a fucking menace, Hillyard!"
"I don't seem to be making myself very popular at the moment", Hillyard said later.
He was now standing in the mountain stream with Kieran, washing himself and rinsing out his clothes.
"Ach, it's just your turn for the wooden spoon that's all", said Kieran "We all have to be class goon occasionally. I know how you feel. I don't enjoy it much when it's my turn either".
"I just don't know why Ransey has to make such a song and dance about everything", said Hillyard "He scared the shit out of me, grabbing me like that!"
"You two are a scream", Kieran laughed.
"How come?" said Hillyard, with amiable bemusement.
"You just are", said Kieran "You're both just so different. I can't think of two people more unalike".
"Bit like you and Joby really", said Hillyard.
"I want to see more of Joby", said Kieran, suddenly pausing in the middle of rinsing his shirt "I know he's there all the time, but I still feel I don't get enough of him. Don't you think he's getting even sexier as he gets older?"
"Don't ask me!" Hillyard groaned, as though in pain "I try not to think about Joby to much, or I get too aroused".
"I know what you mean", Kieran chuckled "Must be the morose expression on his face".
"Dead sexy that", said Hillyard.
Later that morning Hillyard went to work helping the tent-men to move the Big Top closer to Woll's house, where it was to be erected in the huge Versailles-sized courtyard for the charity performance. Joby, Lonts and Toppy walked up to the house to watch this operation and to get a good look at Woll's incredible residence.
"Big isn't it?" said Lonts, staring at the house, which was arranged in a horseshoe round the cobbled courtyard.
"Not very homely though", said Joby.
For the rest of the morning they sat on the lawn which swept up to the house, alternately dozed and watched the show being shifted there bit by bit. Joby had brought along one of Mezlin's books to read. This literary classic was called 'Under Two Masters', and on the cover showed a young, rather perplexed-looking guy, strapped to some gymnasium bars. He had got the book out of Julian's cabin and had disparagingly dismissed it as "sad old queer's pornography". Since then he had been glued to its pages at every given opportunity.
Today though he was having to put up with Lonts waving Snowy about like a football rattle, and constantly hitting him on the head with it at repeated intervals. In exasperation he had snatched the bear from him and sat on it. Lonts had glared at him ferociously, but Joby was far from easily intimidated by him.
"I'm taking you home", he said, carefully marking the page in the book "I can't even read now without you driving me up the wall. You're as bad as Tamaz. Where's Toppy gone?"
"Into the bushes for a pee", said Lonts, sulkily "He's been gone ages".
Joby bellowed at Toppy to hurry up, and a frantic rustling could be heard as Toppy sorted himself out. Back at the tent he took advantage of its emptiness to pull Kieran inside for a few conjugal rites. It had been a blissful combination of relaxing and exciting to make love with the outside world (seemingly the whole of it!) on the other side of a strip of material.
"You were ready for it", said Joby, afterwards.
"Always", said Kieran.
He sounded desperately vulnerable. Joby leaned back over him and hugged him close.
"All's well, Kiel", he whispered "Really it is".
"I ..." Kieran swallowed hard.
"Tell me", Joby gently urged.
"It's that everybody thinks I'm so strong all the time", said Kieran "But I'm not, Joby. I couldn't do a thing without you in me life".
"But you won't ever have to", said Joby "I know all I ever seem to do is apologise to you at the moment, but I am trying to get meself sorted out. Honest".
"I know, and I'm hanging onto you until you do".
"If you're annoyed because of the money I've spent on Tamaz, well it won't happen again for a while. He just kept on that he wanted a dress that's all".
"And then it'll be a fur coat and a diamond necklace", said Kieran, ruefully.
"He can whistle for that!" said Joby, which made Kieran laugh.
"You know", Joby continued "I've always said you've never been loved enough, loved properly I mean. All I ever wanted to do was make that up to you, and I seem to have ballsed it up so much lately. I don't know what I'm doing half the time. I'm living on me emotions".
"You always did".
"Yeah, but it's worse than ever!"
"It's Tamaz", said Kieran "Joby, be kind to yerself. He's twisted you up no end. Not only is he such a bizarre creature, but he's turned you upside down like an egg-timer. Your emotions are still all over the place where he's concerned".
"Kieran, for God's sake don't be so kind to me", Joby wept.
"Why shouldn't I be?" Kieran took his face in his hands "Without you I'd have died at Gabriel's place, or been put in a straitjacket many times. Possibly even starved meself to death by now. We've got something very strong, you and me. You're the only person I can be completely myself with".
Joby collapsed into tears completely and sobbed on Kieran's chest.
"Help me, Kiel".
"Ssh", Kieran soothed him, as he had done when he'd come across him naked, filthy and chained up in that seedy room Tamaz had imprisoned him in "Just accept it, Joby. I know these confused feelings will pass".
"I don't understand what Tamaz does to me".
"He just does. Don't try and make sense of it, because you'll go mad. All these frustrated rages of yours lately come from it, from trying to understand".
"I want to take you both away sometimes", Joby gulped "Somewhere where I can keep you both safe. All I wanna do is be calm and love you, and then I find meself getting into another poxy scrape, and I think 'oh well done Joby, you dork, you've tried his patience to the limit again!'"
"The last words in Anne Frank's diary were that it would be very easy to be good", said Kieran "If there weren't any other people in the world!"
"That's certainly true", said Joby "P-perhaps this is just mid-life crisis, and if we give it time it'll pass, and then I'll be normal".
"I hope not!" said Kieran "I need you as Joby, not some pale imitation. I need your grumpiness and your anger, your rage at the world, your passion. Without it you'd be too English, and that would never do!"
Joby laughed and cried "That's the best thing anyone's ever said to me!" *****
"You're juggling the two halves of your life very well", said Adam, walking round the site with Joby an hour or so later "Both Patsy and Tamaz seem to have no trouble adjusting to each other's presence, and it's you that's holding it together".
"It's not just me, a lot of it's Kieran too", said Joby, who was already in stage costume "You should give him credit, Ad. He doesn't get nearly enough of it. Not from you anyway".
"Oh Joby, that's a little harsh", said Adam "I'm still as nuts about Patsy as I ever was. I wish I could spend more time alone with him, but Lo-Lo and Jules are very demanding partners. But we'll always be a three at heart. You, me and him. That's why I wanted to say how proud I was of you, particularly the way you handle Tamaz".
"Not brilliantly at times", Joby grunted, leaning on a fence bordering a cattlefield "I think he got jealous earlier, that's why he tried to bite me. Again!"
"But you sorted it out well", said Adam "When Lo-Lo was younger we'd have been fighting halfway round the site I expect!"
"I remember", Joby laughed, fondly "Oh well I'd better go along and check that Hawekfish hasn't made any changes to tonight's show".
Adam walked back to the tent, where he found Julian bad-temperedly knocking aside some damp washing which was hanging on a makeshift line outside it.
"I've got a whole new pack of cigars somewhere", he said "Where are they?"
"Inside I expect", said Adam, going into the teepee "No one's nicked them if that's what you're thinking. I say, it's getting to look rather homely in here isn't it?"
"Yes, complete with homely smell", said Julian, following him in "Unwashed bodies and stale beer. Delightful".
"Here you are", Adam tossed a pack of half-a-dozen cigars in his direction "I noticed some activity round the main doors of Woll's house earlier. Does that mean the V.I.Ps have turned up?"
"Well if you can count a few dreary old veterans from the Ministry as V.I.Ps", said Julian "They're probably tucking into their seven-course dinners as we speak, ready to come out and sit with stony faces as everyone tries to entertain them".
His words turned out to be only too prophetic. The audience for tonight's show consisted of Woll's indoor staff (a sizeable number in itself), plus a handful of ageing men who had had all their soul knocked out of them many years before. These men were so forbidding to look at that many of the staff felt intimidated into not laughing unless they did first, which was very unfortunate as the ex-Ministry men were turning out to be harder to amuse than a row of waxworks.
The tension amongst the audience was picked up by the performers. The women cast members were nervous about going on in front of them, because the old baby-farm rumours had started circulating again. This tension was rapidly turning into fear, and Kieran decided at the last minute to cancel his turn with Tamaz and keep him out of sight. No one disagreed with him.
Bengo and Bardin performed their first routine, and were thoroughly demoralised by the hideous lack of response from the audience. To Bengo, this was the last thing he needed. He was already uptight from overhearing Hillyard chatting up one of the tent-men backstage. When the time neared for them to do their second routine, he panicked and refused to go on. Adam and Julian rushed round to him, and found Hillyard for once trying to smooth over the situation.
"This is my fault as much as anything", he said, cradling Bengo who was sitting sobbing on a straw bale.
"Oh that's very noble of you to admit that", said Adam, sarcastically.
"O.K, I've admitted it", said Hillyard, defensively "I never meant to make him unhappy".
"Look, never mind all that", said Bardin, impatiently "We're due on again in a couple of minutes. This is so unprofessional. As if we can pick and choose audiences!"
"Bardin has a point, old love", said Adam, trying to peer into Bengo's face "Just go on and do your best, and in a few minutes it'll all be over, and you won't ever have to put up with this particular audience again".
"Bengo", said Julian, so sharply that Bengo jumped as though someone had fired a gun near him "Go on and do your act or I'll give you a damn good thrashing".
Bengo obediently got to his feet and followed Bardin to the edge of the ring, without saying a word.
"Don't say a word, Ada", Julian continued "It had the desired result. Now we'll go out to the front and give moral support from the audience side".
"I'd better check on Lo-Lo first", said Adam.
"He's fine", Julian snapped "Now come along".
Julian was obviously in a filthy mood by now, and Adam hovered nervously behind him.
"Sit down!" Julian barked, once they reached the chairs at the front.
"For heaven's sake Jules, there's no need to keep yelling at me as though I was a bloody gun-dog!" said Adam, sitting down next to him at the end of the front row.
"It seems I do", said Julian, unrepentant "The way everyone's getting stressed out it's like waiting for the lid to fly off a pressure cooker. A bit of firmness is called for".
"I realise that", Adam hissed "But you seem to be getting more tensed up than anyone".
"I'll just be glad when this show's over", Julian grunted "Where the hell is Woll? Why hasn't he appeared? He is supposed to be the host".
"Yes, but he's very shy", said Adam.
"No excuse", Julian muttered.
They sat through the rest of the first act, which was an uncomfortable feeling. It's not easy watching people you care about trying their best to entertain, and being met with such a numbly negative response. Even more worrying than the lack of response was the way one of the ex-Ministry men seemed to be making notes on a small wad of paper, particularly during the clowns' routine.
"Let's hope it's his laundry list", said Adam.
The performance gradually came to a close, like a sick animal being put out of its misery. At the end of it one of Woll's house-stewards could be heard grumbling that there weren't really enough women in it.
"There aren't nearly enough women in the whole world", said Adam, caustically.
He and Julian were about to get up and go backstage, when the scribbling ex-Ministry man lumbered over to them. He was a portly middle-aged gent with a droopy moustache, and a complexion that smacked of too much drinking alone behind closed doors.
"Mr Adam", he said, sounding like a detective about to make an arrest "Could you spare a few minutes?"
"Certainly", said Adam, warily.
"Alone if possible", said the man.
"Not possible", said Julian "We come as a complete package you see".
"My name is Harl", said Harl, deciding to ignore Julian as much as he could "I used to work for the Ministry".
"Did you really?" said Julian, in mock surprise.
"I'm now retired", Harl continued "But I still help the Ministry as much as I can".
"Doing what?" said Adam.
"President Codlik is very anxious that his administration should be seen in a positive light", said Harl "So he relies on Ministry workers, past and present, to keep him informed as to any 'dissatisfaction' the public may feel as regards the government".
"You're a snoop", said Julian, bluntly.
"I don't see why our little show should concern you then", said Adam "We're not politically-motivated".
"One of the clowns, Bengo, lives with you", said Harl "Is that correct?"
"What if he does?" said Julian.
"Certain elements to the clowns' routine tonight could be seen as subversive and anti-government", said Harl "The skit where he gets revenge on the officious figure ... Bardin is the one who plays him, is irresponsible and could be seen as an incitement to defy authority".
"I've never heard anything so utterly silly", said Adam "Bengo has only one interest in life and that's clowning. He doesn't care who's in authority as long as they let him perform. He's about as unpolitical as you can get. I've never even known him read a newspaper!"
"I've made a list of all the changes I want to see made to his routine", said Harl, tearing a page out of his note-book.
"The next time Bengo performs will be back in Toondor Lanpin", said Julian "Which, as I'm sure you're aware, is a Free State these days, and as such you have no jurisdiction there".
"At present", said Harl.
"What's that supposed to mean?" said Julian, sharply.
"Who knows what the future may bring?" said Harl "In the meantime I want these changes made for any further performances he may do outside the town limits".
"Hang on a minute", said Julian "Were you threatening us?"
"Not at all", said Harl, unperturbed "The Ministry is a reasonable organisation, run on fair and democratic lines. We are working for the people of the world, to ensure their present and future happiness".
"I really don't see how little Bengo's routine can be seen as a threat to future world happiness!" Adam exclaimed "The whole notion is completely absurd".
"The chorus-girls need to wear more clothes too", said Harl "The Ministry is cracking down on any entertainment that can be seen as derogatory to women. One of the suggestions I've made on the list is that Bengo runs on stage during one of the chorus-girls' dances and tries to dress them. At the end he holds up a placard saying 'I love powerful women'".
"Take my advice", said Julian, dryly "Don't give up the day-job!"
"But the girls make up their own routines", said Adam "And they design their own costumes".
"They probably feel pressured to do what the audience wishes", said Harl.
"You'll have to ask them that", said Adam, angrily "Although my attitude is that no government has any right to tell its people how they should be entertained".
"Exactly", said Julian "This whole thing smacks of the old Eastern bloc ..."
"I could get permission from the Ministry in a matter of hours", said Harl "To have this entire show requisitioned by the government".
"Why?" said Julian.
"Why?" said Harl, surprised.
"Yes, why?" said Julian "Does Codlik fancy himself as a clown?! Let me make one thing absolutely clear, if you go making threatening noises to us we'll make them back. We are free people, and any attempt to take what is ours will be construed as an act of theft. As a Free State, we do not recognise 'official government requisitions'. And any attempt to detain us here against our will will be construed as a hostage situation. I cannot believe, in my wildest dreams, that Codlik wishes his people to know that he is the sort of leader who wastes his time taking clowns and chorus-girls hostage! Oh and incidentally, the Vanquisher is on our cast-list too. I don't expect taking him hostage would do much for Codlik's saintly image either!"
"I don't think you handled that as well as you could have, Jules", said Adam, as Julian steered him backstage a few minutes later "You practically had Toondor Lanpin declaring war on the rest of the world!"
"We are English, we do not give in to bullies", said Julian "It is not in our blood".
"Oh for heaven's sake", said Adam, in exasperation "You sound like that brain-dead great-aunt of yours. The one who said football hooligans were only showing the qualities that had made Britain great! And you're just as bad. Somehow I suppose it was only a matter of time before one of your family started a world war!"
"Where are you going?" Julian snapped, as Adam wriggled his arm free.
"To talk to Joby", Adam replied "I want to warn him to keep an eye on Tamaz until the Ministry have buggered off, particularly as I expect you've now got Harl completely incensed!"
"He's in the safest hands at the moment", said Joby, sitting on a straw bale "Ransey and Finia took him back to the tent. You don't think they'll try and take him off us do you?"
"They haven't got the authority", said Adam "They're all retired for a start. Don't worry old love, we won't let them get their hands on him".
"Everywhere we go we can't get away from the fucking Ministry", said Joby "They're always poking their fucking noses in where they're not wanted ..."
"Now stop this agitation", said Adam, firmly "Or else".
"Don't threaten me!" Joby wailed "It's not me who needs sorting out it's Julian! Going around making war-like noises. Not happy with captaining the Indigo, he probably sees himself as a general now! And Kieran's just as bad".
"Nonsense, he's a pacifist", said Adam.
"When it suits him", said Joby "But I expect he'd love a battle to liven things up. He's Irish, they love a good scrap. He probably has romantic images of Toondor Lanpin taking on the might of the world".
"Not if there was a possibility of lives being lost", said Adam "He's very hot on that. I wonder why Woll didn't come out this evening. It's so sad to think of him rattling around in that huge house like a lost soul".
"That's his problem", said Joby.
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