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By Sarah Hapgood

“It’s so beautiful”, said Beatrix “We must have seen it when we passed through this way on our way up, but I can’t remember it being this beautiful”.

“I suspect your mind was somewhat elsewhere”, said Adam.

He and Beatrix were standing on the main deck. It was now April, and chilly, but nevertheless strong sunshine was bathing the landscape. They had sailed down the river once the winter blizzards had eased, and were now in another vast lake, the surface of the water was like polished glass.

“But where are we headed though?” said Beatrix.

“Well to try and find somewhere nice for you”, said Adam “Don’t worry, we’re not going all the way back to what’s left of civilisation, but we hope to find you somewhere you can make a home, somewhere better than that awful old cave anyway”.

“And what about you?” said Beatrix “Where will you go?”

“We will also try and find somewhere to settle”, said Adam “Somewhere we can be the remote, closed, spiritual order we are meant to be”.

“I see”, said Beatrix, subdued “You won’t go back to the Demon Lands?”

“Oh good heavens, no”, said Adam “Not a chance of that. Even if Patsy wants to pray all over it he can forget it!”

“Good, good”, said Beatrix, in a distracted way “I shall miss you horribly”.

“We’re not there yet”, said Adam “And who knows? We may be reasonably close by”.

“I hope so”, said Beatrix “We could be like your lay-community”.

“That would be wonderful”, said Adam, with more tact than truth.

“Adam, I … I love my husband very much”, said Beatrix, twisting her hands in her jumper awkwardly “But … you must surely know I … well I’ve developed feelings for you. Oh dear, I sound such a silly woman. Not acting my age at all. Like a stupid schoolgirl”.

“Not at all”, said Adam, taking her hand gently and squeezing it “I like you too. You’ve been such a help tome recently”.

“It’s been nice to have a proper kitchen to work in again”, said Beatrix “But I suppose what you’re telling me is, we can only be friends. You must think me very foolish”.

“I think you’re very brave”, said Adam “And I’m glad you’ve said it. We so perhaps need to clear the air. You must know … well I’m not exactly what anyone would call a ladies man! Are you sure this isn’t just because you needed some kindness, and I gave it?”

“No”, Beatrix blew her nose on a serviceable handkerchief “I do find you very attractive. You have such a sexual aura about you. For man to be both handsome and nuturing is a more rare phenomenon than you probably imagine. We get on so well, it’s such a meeting of minds”.

“But it can never be a meeting of bodies as well, Bea”, said Adam “Can the friendship not be enough?”

“I don’t excite you”, said Beatrix.

“Please don’t ask me that”, said Adam “You’re pushing me into a corner, and I can’t bear the thought of hurting you. All I can say is, any straight man with a brain in his head should find you good company”.

“Oh you don’t have to flatter me”, said Beatrix “I may be a silly woman, but I’m not a vain one. I’d better go and see what Anton’s doing”.

And she walked away, briskly.

“It was awful, Julian”, Adam said, a few minutes later, sitting on the windowseat in Julian’s cabin “I feel such a complete shit”.

“You’re not, and it’s better that conversation took place now rather than later”, said Julian “Would you rather string her along with a lot of false hopes?”

“No, but I feel I’ve offended her”, said Adam, gripping an empty whisky-glass so firmly that Julian was concerned it would break.

“Here”, he said “Give me that, I’ll give you a top-up. Adam! Hand me the glass!”

Adam didn’t relinquish his grip, so Julian slapped his wrist and managed to take it off him.

“Her pride’s been slightly hurt, that’s all”, said Julian, pouring out another finger of whisky “Once she calms down she’ll see the sense in it. She’s not daft”.

“Oh Julian, you don’t understand women”, said Adam.

“And you’re an expert I suppose!” said Julian “The simple fact is you’re as camp as a Christmas fairy. There’s no pride to be hurt, if she’d but see it. It’s not as if you’re straight and you don’t fancy her, she might have a right to feel a bit injured then. What are you supposed to do? Pretend you’re on the turn, and she’s the one that’s reformed you? Don’t talk rubbish!”

Adam couldn’t help but give a snort of laughter at that idea.

“Did you ever have a woman make a pass at you?” he asked “Back in the old world I mean? I know there were plenty who found you attractive”.

“Sometimes”, said Julian “But they tended to be a bit weird. They wanted someone slightly dangerous I suppose. I used to just tell them not to be silly fools”.

“I don’t think I could have done that with Beatrix”, said Adam.

“Well I’ll tell her then if she keeps this up!” said Julian.

“Oh Jules, you can’t!” Adam exclaimed.

“Yes I can, do her the power of good”, said Julian “A bit of tough love”.

“If you do, I shall die of shame”.

“No you won’t”.

“Oh why does sex always have to rear up and ruin a good friendship?” said Adam.

“Because you’re very attractive that’s why”, said Julian “If you were some charmless, uncouth old bastard, who broke wind everywhere, and had halitosis, it wouldn’t be a problem. Mind you, you wouldn’t have any friends at all then!”

“Oi!” Joby shouted from the doorway.

“Are you addressing me, old love?” said Adam.

“Yes!” said Joby “You said to come and tell you when the pies were done. Well they’re done. I’ve been chasing all over the ship for you. Might’ve known you’d be in here!”

“I’m starting to wish we could just put ‘em ashore somewhere”, said Joby, sitting up on deck with Kieran and Hillyard the next day “The Cave4 I mean”.

“Well I suppose we can’t just dump them in the middle of nowhere, mate”, said Hillyard.

“I know that”, said Joby, wearily “But it’s getting to be dead boring. Adam would hole himself up in the galley all the time if he could. He was suggesting last night that he ate his meals in there, to avoid Beatrix! I told him not to be so daft”.

“How’s Lonts handling all this?” said Kieran, squinting against the sunlight.

“He’s alright, funnily enough”, said Joby “He likes Beatrix, feels sorry for her. I think it’s ‘cos she’s always been kind to him. Not like Cat Woman, who keeps giving him haughty looks all the time”.

“He must known Adam’s not really going to run off with Bea?” said Hillyard.

“Yeah, he’s fine”, said Joby “Must’ve mellowed with age. Not like the old days when he’d smashed the place up! Anyway, now the weather’s getting warmer, I want our cabin back. Kieran’s spanking’s been neglected lately”.

“Good”, said Hillyard “Give his arse a chance to be a normal colour for a change”.

“Now that’s not on”, Kieran laughed “It’s there to take punishment”.

On the other side of the deck Bengo, Bardin and Hoowie were sitting in a huddle, also talking about the Adam and Beatrix situation.

“I thought if she was gonna go nuts about one of us it’d be me”, said Hoowie.

“Nuts would be the word!” said Bardin “She thinks of you as an amusing pet that’s all. Whereas Adam…”

“She was bound to fall for Adam”, said Bengo “He’s so kind and gentlemanly”.

“I still think she likes me”, said Hoowie, sulkily.

“When they finally leave”, said Bardin “We’ll give you to her, as a parting-gift. Give a dog a good home!”

“Oh yeah, thanks!” said Hoowie “You just don’t get it ‘cos some people find me genuine entertaining and loveable”.

“No you’re right, I don’t get that one at all!” said Bardin.

“Now stop it you two”, said Bengo, in an Adam-ish voice “I’m gonna have to go back to work in a minute, and I can’t leave you two here, scrapping”.

“Jealousy’s always been a terrible part of our profession”, Hoowie went on.

“Which particular profession would that be then?” said Bardin.

“Let’s not take all that up again”, said Bengo “Bardin, behave! Hoowie, go and find Julian and keep him company”.

“He said he was gonna join me up here”, said Hoowie.

“Go and find him anyway”, said Bengo.

Hoowie moaned, but got to his feet and wandered off.

“I can be quite authoritative when I put my mind to it can’t I!” said Bengo “Though you shouldn’t say such things to him really Bardy. You know he hates being reminded of his tarting days. Sorry, I meant when he was an arteest’s model”.

Kitty wandered past, giving them the benefit of one of her dubious, puzzled looks.

“I’ll be glad when that lot have gone”, said Bardin, when she was safely out of earshot “And then we can talk freely and in peace!”

“I know what you mean”, Bengo sighed “She probably thinks we’re ‘unduly focussing on the negative’. God, she’s hard work”.

“When all we’re doing is keeping Hoowie’s ego in check”, said Bardin “If he could get away with it, his ego would be monstrous! In the old days he wrecked many a good opportunity by playing up to it, it made me despair”.

“People never forget it if you get a reputation for being difficult”, said Bengo “Even really talented ones couldn’t get away with it all the time. They get blackballed eventually”.

“Unprofessional that’s why”, said Bardin.

An impromptu (and somewhat furtive) meeting was called in Julian’s cabin, comprising of himself, Hoowie, Bardin, Hillyard, Adam, Ransey, Joby and Kieran. Chairs were smuggled in from the dining-room for the purpose, although Hoowie was seated demurely on the windowseat, and Bardin cross-legged on Julian’s desk.

“The simple fact is”, said Julian “And I know Bardin agrees with me, is that the Cave4 could be helping us to travel through this area. After all, they’ve been this way before, on foot, and yet they constantly act as it’s all new to them. We have to get to the bottom of this. We want to help them, but we can’t do that if they’re concealing something major from us”.

“It does seem almost as if they magically woke up in the cave one day and found themselves there”, said Adam.

“And we don’t hear that much about their life in the City”, said Joby.

“Wesley’s told me quite a bit”, said Hillyard “He worked as a packer in a warehouse, said he enjoyed it there as everybody regarded him as a bit of a boffin. And on Sunday afternoons he’d go to a local bar, and play chess and drink beer. He got quite wistful telling me all that”.

“I can imagine”, said Adam “Why on earth don’t’ we start up a chess club for him here? We should’ve thought of it before. You and Ransey would enjoy it, so would Umbert. And Lo-Lo loves playing draughts”.

“Only if he’s allowed to win!” said Joby.

“He’s got a lot more mellow in recent years, Joby”, said Adam.

“We’re getting off-topic”, said Julian “What else has Wesley told you, Hillyard?”

“Kitty used to make and sell jewellery”, said Hillyard “As well as all her fortune-telling stuff. She was quite good at it apparently”.

“Anything about the troubles that led to them leaving?” said Julian.

“There were riots breaking out all the time”, said Hillyard “People going around smashing up businesses, looting and starting fires. He said there didn’t seem to be any sense to it. It was like a mass outbreak of insanity. He said one afternoon, when he was at work, it got so bad they were advised to stay put and not go home. But he said he was worried about the family, so he went. I can understand that. He said it was the most scared he’d ever been in his life. I think they decided there and then to get out and head into the countryside”.

“And there’s no clue at all as to what was causing this unrest?” said Bardin.

“Most of the time he just says it was sheer madness”, said Hillyard “But one day he did confide in me that he thought someone was behind it all. ‘Everyone called it anarchy’, he said ‘but I think it was organised anarchy’. Somebody somewhere was pulling the strings”.

“It certainly does sound like that”, said Adam.

Hillyard was encouraged to bring Wesley out about the past as much as he could, and in return Wesley was (sort of) bribed with chess tournaments, which he thoroughly enjoyed. One day he also expressed a wish that he’d like to have a go at making pancakes, and Adam (all the while keeping a watchful eye on the galley) was happy to oblige. The pancakes were good.

Not everything in the garden was rosy though. All winter the Indigo-ites had been dreading a showdown between Kieran and Kitty, but fortunately the two had barely acknowledged each other’s existence. But then, one moody overcast afternoon, it happened. Everyone had been idly speculating about the state of the outside world. Wesley had quipped that perhaps they were better off NOT knowing what was going on.

“Harping on the negative events only encourages the negativity”, said Kitty, banging the same old drum as ever “We need to send the world love”.

“I sometimes think that what the world needs is an almighty kick up the backside”, said Kieran, unexpectedly.

“How can you say that?” said Kitty “I’m shocked! You’re supposed to be a light worker …”

“I never said I was a light worker”, said Kieran “I’m here to try and help spread love it’s true, but I’m also here to square up to Evil when it appears. And we can’t deal with Evil by pretending that it doesn’t exist, or by downplaying it’s importance, and by that I mean it’s impact on things”.

Kitty looked terrifyingly angry.

“How can you?” she exclaimed “Love is all that matters. Focussing on Love, sending Love to the world!”

She swept out of the room in high dudgeon, knocking over a chair as she went. It would have been quite comical if it hadn’t felt so uncomfortable.

“I know you all think I should go after her”, said Beatrix “But Kitty …”

“Kitty is very difficult when she’s like this”, said Anton “The only way to calm her down is to tell her she’s right”.

“And that I’m not doing”, said Beatrix, mulishly “Not this time. I’ve had enough. I’m drained where Kitty’s concerned, drained”.

“Do you want me to go?” said Kieran.

“You stay exactly where you are”, said Julian “And belt up!”

“Don’t be too hard on Kieran, Julian”, said Beatrix.

“He needs it”, said Julian “He can be the most dreadful little shit-stirrer”.

“She started it”, said Kieran “I was merely voicing my opinion”.

“SHUT UP!” said Julian.

“Kitty is always like this”, said Beatrix “She blows situations out of all proportion, has no understanding of people and their feelings. She was like this when her cat died”.

“When her cat died?” barked Ransey. He had been serenely polishing his glasses, and now put them back on, as if to see all the nonsense more clearly.

“Yes”, said Beatrix “She was very attached to him, but when he died … oh it was dreadful. She refused to talk about anything else for ages, and we weren’t allowed to either. She said the very soul had been ripped out of the house, and that he was all she had, and that no amount of soothing could cover her grief”.

“Good heavens”, said Adam “Sounds like Victoria and Albert!”

“And don’t forget her batty friends”, said Anton, as though it was time he and Beatrix let rip with their pent-up frustrations and grievances.

“Oh!” said Beatrix “She had these women friends, her Coven, as Wesley used to call them. They kept coming round everyday, to light candles to the cat, and give Kitty soothing hugs. It was endless melodrama, and I thought it would never end. Kitty simply has no sense of proportion”.

“There’s someone else round here like that!” said Julian, glaring at Kieran.

“I’ve got more sense of proportion than she has”, said Kieran, who was secretly enjoying himself.

“Will you be quiet!” said Joby.

“But what do we do about Kitty now?” Adam sighed.

“Nothing”, said Anton, firmly “Leave her alone. However long it takes. Everybody carry on as normal. We can just hope she’ll get bored with her dramatic posturing when she sees no one’s taking any notice of her”.

“That’s eventually what we had to do when the cat died”, said Beatrix.

“When the cat died” became a sort of underground catchphrase on the galleon after that. Perhaps it’s not really surprising that the clowns adopted it with relish, and, like a bunch of giggling schoolchildren, used it whenever they could.

“And the more I tell them off, the worse they get”, said Adam, in the galley one day “It’s like dealing with 5-year-olds!”

“Sorry Adam”, laughed Bengo “But it is funny. We only have to say it all fall about”.

“Well God help us all if Kitty hears you, that’s all I can say!” said Adam.

“Oh we might not have to put up with her for much longer”, said Hillyard, who had popped in for coffee “Apparently she’s been saying she’s finding some of us too difficult to deal with. Particularly Julian, he’s contemptuous of her, she says”.

“Perhaps it might be worth pointing out to her that Julian is contemptuous of most people”, said Adam.

“It comes of him being an upper-class, arrogant, public school …”

“Yes alright, Joby”, said Adam “I don’t see any need for the class-warrior act at the moment”.

“I’d be amazed if she hasn’t complained about Bardy as well”, said Bengo “He can be far worse than Julian. At least Julian can be charming sometimes”.

“Only when he wants something, old love”, said Adam.

“Well Bardy can’t even manage it then!” said Bengo.

“Oh there you are”, said Ransey, finally locating Hillyard “What are you doing in here?”

“Looking for an oasis of sanity”, said Hillyard.

“Well you won’t find it in here”, said Ransey.

“That’s nice”, said Adam “I think you’ll find this is the warm heart of the ship”.

“No, that’s the boiler-room”, said Hillyard “Without that this ship would just be a heap of wood floating on the water!”

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