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In the end the temperature change didn’t occur quite as dramatically as Julian had predicted. It was more gradual. At the end of August monsoon-type rains arrived, which cooled things slightly, although the humidity was still quite high. The Indigo-ites spent the afternoons on the communal bed in the big saloon, with the curtains drawn and the windows open.
“Hot dampness”, Joby grumbled “Like being in an old shed”.
“You like old sheds”, said Hillyard, which effectively shut him up.
As the afternoon slowly turned into evening they pulled back the curtains. Bardin lay with his chin on his hands, staring out of the window across to the other side of the lake. That side was scruffily forested, with diseased trees, unkempt bushes and wild grass all jostling for space. Its dreary appearance had not, so far, been a great temptation to explore.
“Have you got the binoculars over there?” Bardin called to the room in general.
Toppy scampered to retrieve them from the messy desk in the corner.
“Seen something?” said Hillyard
“That black hole over there”, said Bardin, handing him the binoculars, after a steady perusal through them himself.
“Black hole?” said Hillyard “It’s just a gap in the bushes!”
“Quite a big gap”, said Bardin “Looks like a sort of leafy tunnel”.
“Seen it loads of times, Bardin”, said Hillyard “It is just a gap in the bushes”.
“But it’s a very dark gap”, said Bardin.
Hillyard gave him the kind of exasperated look you might give a wilful child.
When Adam, Joby and Bengo repaired to the galley to prepare (in Adam’s words) “a suppertime cold collation”, (or in Joby’s words) “bread and cheese, and more bloody pickled onions”, Hillyard went with them, in order to have a moan about Bardin.
“What’s the betting he’s going to get the skiff out and have us all rowing over there to check it out?” Hillyard grumbled.
“Well if you feel that strongly about it, just refuse”, said Joby.
“Yes, put your foot down”, said Bengo “He can’t make you. It’ll be us clowns he has rowing over there anyway, I bet you”.
“Then why don’t you put your foot down as well?” said Hillyard.
“Yes, you’ve done it plenty of times in the past, old love”, said Adam “Very effectively as I recall”.
“I know, but I don’t find it easy”, Bengo sighed “None of us clowns do. It’s like standing up to the Director”.
“If you ask me”, said Julian, at the supper-table “A little excursion might not be a bad thing. We’ve all got too damn lazy this Summer”.
“YOU might have done!” said Joby, slamming a loaf of bread on the table.
“Bad choice of words”, said Julian “I really meant unadventurous, not lazy”.
“Haven’t we had enough adventures, Julian?” said Adam.
“Wouldn’t adventures get in the way of you playing with Hoowie?” said Ransey.
“If you had all listened to what I originally said”, said Julian “I said, a little excursion might not be a bad thing. We have spent the whole Summer on this side of the lake, at this little clearing”.
“Yeah, it’s been great!” said Hillyard, deftly spooning up a pickled onion.
“We should try and find out more about what’s in this area”, said Julian.
“If there is anything here, it hasn’t bothered us so far”, said Ransey, who was in no mood to strap on his gun again, after several months of simply pottering around.
“Whatever is out there”, said Kieran “If there is anything, they must be reassured that we’re keeping ourselves to ourselves, and not bothering them”.
“Am I hearing you right?” said Julian “It was only very recently that you were threatening to march into civilisation, on some fire-breathing evangelical mission!”
“I just wanted to see what was going on”, said Kieran “it was you who interpreted it as some fire-breathing evangelical mission!”
Bardin seized the hand-bell, which was kept on the dining-room mantelpiece, and rang it to quell the argument.
“None of this is worth fighting about”, he said, firmly “We’ll have a little outing over there when the weather’s cooled down a bit more, and it’ll just be to spy out what the black hole is, that’s all. In the meantime, eat your pickled onions!”
September came on, and the Autumn Equinox approached. The days now had a chilly start to them, with dew-spangled cobwebs found festooned everywhere. Swathes of mist hung across the mountains in the far distance. The middle of the days were still warm, but with nothing of the oppressive humidity they had known before.
“It’s in the early 20s”, said Joby, having inspected the thermometer which was kept nailed to the wall in the main downstairs corridor of the galleon “That’s the perfect heat. Not that bloody heat, and not freezing either”.
A short while later Adam stood in the open doorway of the outhouse kitchen, looking out at the fine drizzle falling gently in the yard.
“What a beautiful time of year”, he said “How can anyone not like Autumn? I think it’s time we celebrated. Let’s lure Bardin in here and give him that damn good spanking we promised him”.
“What if he won’t come?” said Joby.
“Of course he will”, said Adam “He adores having his bottom smacked, he can’t get enough of it”.
“What a great way to test out the acoustics!” said Bengo “Reminds me of the dining-room up at that old abandoned house on the ridge. We never did get a chance to spank Bardy in there. Come on Joby, let’s go and find him”.
They found Bardinn giving orders for log-splitting on the edge of the forest. Bengo seized him round the waist, and Joby grabbed his feet. They carted him like a roll of carpet back to the kitchen.
“The others wanted to come too”, said Bengo “But we’ve ordered them to stay away”.
“Good, this is a treat strictly for kitchen-staff only”, said Adam, standing there holding a hairbrush.
“Look, I’ve got things to do you know”, said Bardin, now set back on his feet.
“Giving orders and supervising isn’t work, Bardy”, said Bengo “Not real work. Whereas giving us treats is”.
He unbuttoned Bardin’s flies and pulled his trousers down.
“Don’t ever stop wearing those shorts, Bardin”, said Adam “They should be under a preservation order really”.
“If you’re going to do it, get on with it”, said Bardin.
Adam put Bardin across his knees. Bengo and Joby closed in, to gaze appreciatively at the stiff white linen spread smoothly over Bardin’s neat behind. Adam applied the hairbrush severely, whacking him soundly.
“Blimey, the acoustics in here are brilliant!” said Joby.
After a short while, Adam put down the hairbrush and simply smacked him with his hand. The spanking went on for quite some time. Adam only stopped when his hand was starting to get tired. There was a sort of communal collective sigh when it was done, as though everyone had reached a point of sexual satisfaction at once.
Bardin felt wobbly when set on his feet afterwards. His behind was fizzing, and an erection was poking out of the front of his shorts. Joby kissed him in appreciation, and gave him a quick, merciful release. Bardin nestled his head on Joby’s shoulder, whilst Bengo caressed his bottom.
“That was bloody marvellous”, said Joby, eventually.
“No one can say you aren’t a trouper, Bardin”, said Adam “I think you deserve a cup of tea now. I’ll put the kettle on”.
“We have got to do that again sometime”, said Bengo “Exactly the same. Just us four”.
“With me the one being spanked I suppose?” said Bardin, rubbing his behind.
“You are the best, Bardin”, said Bengo, solemnly.
“It’s not as if we don’t often get it too!” said Joby.
“You’re perfect for it, old love”, said Adam to Bardin “That bossy, bolshy personality of yours, the beautiful, slender body … and that starched underwear”.
“With the stove lit in here as well”, said Joby “That’s gonna brighten up many a dark, Winter afternoon”.
“When shall we do it again?” said Bengo.
“When it’s really lashing down with rain outside”, said Joby “Not just spitty little drizzle like this”.
“Adam!” Lonts shouted from out in the yard “Adam!”
“In here, Lo-Lo”, Adam called out.
Lonts burst in, carrying a pail of food from where he had been feeding the chickens. He looked flustered.
“What’s up?” said Joby.
“Somebody’s been sighted”, said Lonts “On the other side of the lake”.
“Who?” said Bardin “What were they doing?”
“We couldn’t tell”, said Lonts “They were in the distance. A figure dressed all in black. When they saw they’d been spotted they dashed away”.
“At least they were on the other side of the lake”, said Joby.
“Even so, I’d better go and have a look”, said Bardin, trying to shake himself out of the mellow, subdued mood that the chastisement had left him with.
In a hazy, fuzzy daze he put his cap and whistle back on, and prepared to leave.
“Don’t you want your trousers as well?” said Joby.
“Oh yes”, said Bardin collecting them from the kitchen table.
As Bardin ascended the gangplank, Toppy scurried to meet him, and hand him the binoculars. Bardin scanned the far side of the lake, but could see nothing there that was out of place.
“OK”, he said, after a long perusal “All we can do at the moment is keep a look-out and be alert”.
“We’re not starting up the night-watches again are we, Bardin?” said Farnol, in dismay.
“There’s no need for that just yet”, said Bardin.
Farnol watched him in pleasant surprise, as Bardin headed for the steps which led to below-deck.
“And there was me expecting him to draw up one of his damned rota’s!” he said.
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