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“You seem a fairly happy person”, said Ragen “On the whole”.
Bengo looked back at him, helplessly. How was he supposed to answer that? It sounded like an unreasonable accusation! All around them chaos was in progress. The builder was working in the roof, much to Joby and Hillyard’s disgust. Bardin was outside ordering the other clowns about. Much noise was being made as to heavy items being dropped on the ground, and the sawing of wood. At the moment it was hard to see how this was supposed to involve renovating the old skittle-alley, but Bengo supposed he just had to trust Bardin on this one. Meanwhile, it was Bengo’s turn to come under Ragen’s spotlight, and he now sat being interviewed by him in a corner of the bar. Occasionally Bardin would come up to the window from outside and scowl at the back of Ragen’s head before disappearing again to blow his whistle at another clown.
“I guess so”, said Bengo “Most of the time anyway”.
“It is a general assumption that all clowns, comedians and comic actors tend to be bitter and twisted individuals”, said Ragen “Would you say that’s a fair comment?”
Bengo thought that put in those words it was hard to see how it could possibly be a fair comment!
“A lot of clowns have very hard lives”, he said “They come from tough backgrounds and they have to work hard to make anything of themselves, so I guess that does make some of them bitter and twisted, as you put it”.
“Would you say you had a tough upbringing?” said Ragen.
“Yes it was”, said Bengo “We were always told that we were privileged to be able to work on the stage, and that we weren’t doing anything useful for anybody. That was drummed into us to stop us thinking we were anything special I suppose. But it was very hard work. Physically, it was very hard. People don’t always realise that when they look at clowning. When they see an acrobat or a gymnast they can see his skill and think god he’s good, the training and work that goes into that, but when they look at a clown they just see someone making a twat of himself in public and they think oh anybody can do that. They don’t always appreciate quite what it all involves, like the physical exertion and the timing and everything. Bad timing on its own can kill an act stone-dead”.
“Would you say your childhood had been economically hard?” said Ragen.
“I’m not sure what you mean”, said Bengo.
“Was money in short supply?” said Ragen.
“Always”, said Bengo “It’s only the lucky few who get a lot of money out of showbusiness. Our rent on our crummy digs was paid for us by the theatre, and if we needed clothes or shoes we went to them, and we got pocket-money to buy food, so I guess we had all the bare essentials taken care of , but we’d have got all that if we’d grown up in a camp and not had to work so bleedin’ hard for it either! Sometimes the punters would send us gifts, but otherwise we didn’t get many treats. I think that’s why I always made a pig of myself when I got to have any ice-cream or sweets! I’ve never had Bardy’s self-control. He would hoard any treats he got”.
“Do I detect a hint of bitterness at the austerity of it all?” said Ragen, presumably anxious to find some bitterness in Bengo’s personality somewhere.
“No!” said Bengo “I just don’t like people to think that growing up in the theatre was all glamour and fun!”
“You would have had a lot more freedom than children growing up in the camps”, said Ragen.
“Not really”, said Bengo “O.K, so we didn’t have people telling us when to go to bed and all that sort of thing, but we had to be quite strict with ourselves as we were usually on a tight schedule. You don’t get that much freedom when you’re doing two shows a day and having to rehearse. Plus occasionally they’d make some effort to give us school lessons, but that was all a bit haphazard really. When you’ve got a new routine to learn you can’t waste time having spelling tests and all that sort of thing”.
“Do you love showbusiness?” said Ragen.
“Yes I do”, said Bengo “It was hard, and I used to dread what they’d come up with to make me do next sometimes, but I feel sorry for anyone who’s never experienced being in it. It can be really wonderful, that’s why so many people have always wanted to do it I guess. And on the whole you do meet some very nice people in it. There are some right bastards as well, ones who’d shaft you as soon as look at you, but you just take that as part of the game”.
“And yet I understand your relationship with the other clowns”, Ragen gave an airy wave towards the window, supposedly to indicate The Other Clowns “Has been quite rocky at times”.
“Oh very!” said Bengo “Me and Bardy have really hated them, he always says it’s ‘cos they’re jealous of us, tho’ I think that was mainly just Hal doing all that. It’s just that the other clowns always do what he says, I dunno why, but they always have. And there was some resentment for a while because we managed to get out of the system and they were still on the treadmill. I dunno if that’ll all change if they decide to stay here”. Bengo decided he had been talking for quite long enough and said that they should adjourn their discussion for the day. He went out onto the quayside to find Bardin, who was firing off a volley off insults at Mutton Broth, whose prowess at sawing wood wasn’t all it should be.
“You always were fucking useless!” said Bardin “The only thing you were ever any good for was chucking around the stage!”
“Oh Bardy, are you getting excited again?” said Bengo.
“Has he finished with you?” said Bardin, meaning Ragen.
“For today”, said Bengo “He’ll probably want to talk to me again though”.
“You seemed to be saying a lot whenever I looked in”, said Bardin, suspiciously.
“We were just talking about showbusiness in general”, said Bengo “What it was like growing up on the stage and all that. I quite enjoy talking about all that”.
Bardin was about to make some remark when he espied Farnol walking past carrying a few fold-up chairs.
“There’s loads more where these came from”, said Farnol “A bloke in town’s clearing out the back room of his shop, he says we can have all these ‘cos nobody wants them. I thought they’d be good for customer seating”.
“This is gonna be a real classy joint we’re opening aint it!” Mutton Broth sniggered.
“There’s bugger all chance of that with you starring in it!” Bardin snapped.
The rest of the day was unbelievably chaotic. Adam was the only one who managed to escape, by disappearing with his sketch-pad into the orchard. Everywhere it seemed noise was going on, and men were in little clumps clucking at each other. Bengo clucked at Farnol that the other clowns weren’t making enough effort to understand Bardin, who was really “a very sweet person … underneath”. Hillyard, in the stables, was clucking that all the noise was upsetting the horses. Ragen was clucking on his typewriter, having hung up all his clothes at the bar-room window, now that he had been evacuated from The Landlord’s Bedroom. Joby tried to have a tea-break sitting at the kitchen door, but clucked that it was like “sitting in a Tubeway turnstile during rush hour”, with everybody passing through. Toppy clucked at Kieran that now he had found a home for Piers and Josh, perhaps he could find one for all their other guests as well, and then they’d at least have the sloop to themselves again. Kieran in return clucked that he was beginning to feel like local housing-officer.
Ransey had unearthed a roll of wallpaper in the outhouse, and intended to start on redecorating the upstairs of the tavern, only to have the roll of wallpaper disappear soon afterwards. It was later found that the Marquis de Sade had pinched it to write on. Adam said when he heard about it that surely a roll of loo-paper would be more appropriate for what Sade wrote!
“It’s a bloody mad-house round here”, said Joby, in the kitchen later that afternoon “You must wonder what you’ve come into”.
“If you’d had my last job you wouldn’t say that”, said Hegley “No one here pins up great lists of rules on the wall and then fines us each time we break them”.
“No Adam doesn’t do that”, said Bengo.
“He’d have a hard job”, said Joby “We don’t get paid for a start!”
“And Bardy’s not like that either”, said Bengo.
“Look will you stop rushing to tell us how sweet Bardin is”, said Joby “Nobody’s getting at him!”
“The other clowns are”, said Bengo “Behind his back, I’ve heard them”.
“I dreamt about all you clowns last night”, said Lonts, who was cleaning out his pipe by the stove.
“Good grief, and I thought Kieran had bad dreams!” said Joby.
“You were all in these really colourful costumes”, said Lonts “And everybody was shouting ‘ooh it’s the clowns ooh it’s the clowns’”.
“Run and hide!” said Joby.
“And everybody was shouting for you and Bardin in particular, Bengo”, said Lonts.
“To lynch us probably!” said Bengo.
“Well I think it was a lovely dream”, said Lonts “And you should take it as a really encouraging sign”.
“I sometimes think his brain is a marvel of Nature”, said Joby, sitting with Kieran on the poop-deck at sunset.
“Well I’ve never gone along with the idea that Lonts is simple-minded”, said Kieran “I think he just has a different way of looking at things to most people that’s all”.
“You can say that again!” said Joby, sipping a brandy-and-soda “God, that sunset almost makes everything worthwhile”.
This was about the closest Joby was ever likely to come to poetry so Kieran enjoyed it whilst it lasted, which wasn’t long.
“Except for that bleedin’ monstrosity still being there”, he said, referring to the island on the horizon “If I had my way I’d blast it out of the water!”
“We might yet still manage that”, said Kieran “Or something like it anyway”.
“Do you really mean that?” said Joby.
“Oh yes”, said Kieran “I can’t be philosophical about Thetis’ death, however hard I try. She wasn’t mean to go when she did”.
The atmosphere was getting rather gloomy so Kieran decided to change the subject.
“How’s Josh settling in with the old chinless wonder over there?” he asked.
“Like Darby and Joan!” said Joby “It won’t be long before we see ‘em going shopping together, or going off to play Bingo! What’s the betting Piers knits him a nice cardigan for Christmas?!”
“I can’t see Piers doing anything that energetic meself!” said Kieran.
Josh had been watching this conversation from his new doorway, with a very disgruntled air. Eventually Kieran went down to the cabin (unbeknown to Joby to filch one of Julian’s cigar-butts), and Joby returned to land. Joby had to walk past Josh’s door to go round the back of the inn to the kitchen. He said afterwards he didn’t know what Josh had said for certain, other than that it was more “bollocks” about Kieran, and so a “red mist” had come down on him, and they got into a fight in Josh’s new house.
Adam and Lonts had been feeding the goats nearby at the time and heard the commotion. They both ran into the shack and found the brothers rolling around on the dirty floor haphazardly raining punches at each other. Josh, being of a slightly sturdier build, was getting the better of it.
“Lo-Lo, you grab Josh, I’ll get Joby”, said Adam.
It was like separating two scrapping cats, but it was managed fairly swiftly. Adam half-dragged Joby out of the shack. Josh meanwhile got to his feet and made as if he was going to run at Lonts. Lonts stood his ground and stared down at his nose at him. Josh took a fortuitous look at Lonts’s big hands and backed away into a corner.
“What on earth were you thinking of?” said Adam, now in the kitchen, as Finia (with much sighing) attended to Joby’s wounds. Joby had a matching set of bruised lip and cheek, and his left nostril was bleeding.
“It’s no good you saying just ignore him”, said Joby “I can’t! He keeps coming out with this bilge about Kieran and it does my head in! He says terrible things about him, Adam, and I’m not taking it!”
“You look like you have been taking it”, Finia pointed out.
“I don’t know what on earth Julian’s going to say when he gets back”, said Adam. (Julian had gone out riding).
“He’ll sympathise with me!” said Joby.
“I doubt that very much!” said Adam.
“Yes he will”, said Joby “He knows what it’s like to have a right arsehole for a brother!”
“But fortunately he doesn’t get into a scrap with him!” said Adam.
“Julian would certainly win if he did”, said Finia.
Joby took this as a slight at his bare-knuckle skills (or lack of them) and growled.
“It’s no good growling”, said Adam “Finia’s right, Josh has got the better of you”.
“Yeah well that’s ‘cos he’s a bleedin’ head-case innit!” said Joby.
Kieran burst through the back door like a Fury, having just heard The Story So Far from Lonts outside.
“What the blazes are you playing at, you great eejit?!” he demanded to know “I can’t turn my back on you for five minutes can I!”
“You can talk!” said Joby, trying to plug up his nostril with a bloodstained handkerchief “You’ve been smoking, I can smell it from here!”
“Smoking?” Kieran exclaimed “What’s smoking compared to you trying to get yourself killed? You’re damn lucky you didn’t need the Casualty department, there’s no doctor in this town these days you know, let alone one of those!”
“Exactly!” said Adam.
“What brought it all on anyway?” said Kieran “Lonts has told me something about you getting in a state because Josh had said a few insults about me”.
“Yeah, that’s exactly it”, said Joby “I’m not gonna take that from him”.
“Josh has always insulted me!” said Kieran.
“And I’ve had enough of it!” said Joby “Enough’s enough, so I thought …”
“You’d get yourself beaten up!” said Kieran.
“What’s all this I’ve been hearing?” said Hillyard, now coming through the door. He stopped dead when he saw Joby “You daft sod!”
“Thanks a lot!” said Joby.
“You’re not cut out to be a boxer”, said Hillyard “You’re too damn skinny for a start!”
“Some of the best boxers have been scrawny!” said Joby.
“Yes but you’re not one of them!” said Kieran, he unhooked the spotted mirror from the wall and held it in front of Joby “Take a look at yourself in there”.
Joby winced and pushed the mirror away.
“That’s your good looks gone out of the window for a while ent it!” said Hillyard.
“I don’t look anywhere near as bad as he did”, said Joby, pointing at Kieran “When he fought Angel that time up at the Loud House!”
“We’re not talking about me!” said Kieran.
“Josh was, that’s what started all this”, said Finia.
“I’m telling you this now, Joby”, said Kieran “When he starts again you just walk away, do you hear me? You just walk away. You don’t take on fellas that can beat you”.
“Why not?” said Joby “It’s never stopped you getting into a fight!”
“Oh for pity’s sake!” said Adam “We’re going to have you two scrapping next if we’re not careful!”
Bengo, who had been watching all this nearly close to tears, glanced out of the window and yelled “Julian’s back!”
“Sanity returns”, said Hillyard.
“Well I wouldn’t have put it quite that way myself!” said Adam.
Julian had cantered into the back yard and effortlessly slid off the horse. He then yelled for Hillyard, who went out to take the reins. Julian fed the horse some mints from his pocket and patted it. Hillyard was seen to mutter a couple of words and jerked his thumb in the direction of the kitchen.
“Julian’s very sort of leading romantic male when he comes in on the horse isn’t he?” said Bengo.
“Yes, until he takes his boots off!” said Adam “The waft we get from his feet tends to rather shatter the illusion somewhat!”
“What the hell’s been going on?” said Julian, when he came into the kitchen.
“Joby’s been defending my honour”, said Kieran.
“Not very successfully by the looks of things!” said Julian “Joby, you’re not cut out to be the brawling he-man, give it up”.
He leaned down and wrenched open Joby’s mouth. Joby gave a squeal of pain.
“All your teeth are still intact at least”, he said, when he had finished his inspection “That shouldn’t have damaged your value in the white slave business too much!”
“I think it’s only what we’d have all have done in Joby’s position”, said Bengo.
“I can’t see you raining down punches on someone, Bengo”, said Adam.
“Well I’m a clown, I’ve got other resources”, said Bengo “But Joby hasn’t. He did what he thought was right”.
“Yes, just like Codlik”, said Kieran “He was always doing what he thought was right, and look at the mess it got everyone into!”
“Oh so now I’m like Codlik now am I!” said Joby.
“Don’t be silly”, said Adam “You’re nothing like him, I’m very pleased to say, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been a complete silly arse on this particular occasion!”
The following day seemed loaded with preparations. Bardin making preparations for the Festival, Ragen making preparations for his book, and Adam making preparations for Christmas, which was looming on the horizon, as it seemed to do every five minutes. He ordered that a batch of Christmas puddings was to be prepared immediately, and took this as an opportunity to ban Joby from going into the bar. Joby, quite naturally, took this as a gross affront.
“It’s a good way of keeping you and Josh out of each other’s faces”, said Adam “He never comes into the kitchen, because I won’t let him, so it limits the contact you two have with each other”.
“It just looks like another bleedin’ punishment to me!” said Joby “And what about Kieran eh? Smoking on the quiet …”
“He’s always done that, Joby”, said Adam “If you were to turn out his trouser pockets at any time you’d find a few of Julian’s cigar-butts hidden away. We’ll never cure him of it completely, but he doesn’t smoke anywhere near as much as he used to do. Anyway, Julian will mete out the appropriate punishment, I think we can rely on him to do that at least!”
“Some punishment!” said Joby “Kieran enjoys every minute of it!”
“Yes, but it’s hard to find a punishment that Patsy doesn’t enjoy, quite frankly!” said Adam.
“I dunno why you’re being so hard on me”, said Joby “You’ve got a filthy temper yourself, the amount of fights you’ve got into in your time! Or is this another case of ‘don’t do as I do, do as I tell you’?!”
“Stop arguing and fetch me down the tin of black treacle”, said Adam.
Joby fetched the tin from the top cupboard and slammed it down on the work-counter.
“There’s a good fellow!” said Adam.
Whilst they were speaking Kieran, who was out on the quayside, had noticed Piers going into the bar and took advantage of his absence from home to call in on Josh, whom he found lying on the camp-bed, with an empty beer-can on his chest.
“What do you want?” he snarled, struggling to his feet when he saw Kieran appear in the room.
“Thought I’d come over and give you a bit of advice”, said Kieran.
“You think I’m gonna be threatened by a poncey little tosser like you?” said Josh “Don’t make me laugh!”
“Not me”, said Kieran “Wee Lonts is a bit miffed that you beat up on Joby, in fact I’d say he’s quite upset about it. He said to me earlier that he wants to take you out”.
“H-how do you mean?” said Josh.
“Oh I think you know how I mean”, said Kieran “Lonts has some very basic ideas at times of retribution. He comes from an area where it was considered quite acceptable to peg an awkward sod out in the wilderness and let the wild dogs get at them”.
“Yeah well he’s not up there now”, said Josh, not sounding all that sure of himself all the same.
“Kiskev was at the other end of the world”, said Kieran “But in some ways this place isn’t dissimilar. This place is a lawless place, no police here, no courts, no judges and juries, and no prisons. Who in the outside world would know or care if you were taken up into the hills and fed to the vultures?”
“What, just for beating up our Joby?!” Josh exclaimed.
“Wee Lonts is very fond of Joby”, said Kieran “He’s upset to see him with his face all bruised like that, and he knows that you keep making Joby unhappy. Let me just say that he’s expressed concern about it. Lonts is a fiercely loyal fella, and he sees you as just a troublesome bastard”.
“He don’t exactly keep things in perspective does he!” said Josh.
“That’s not his way”, said Kieran.
Josh thought of Lonts’s huge fists. He knew that for all his childlike ways, Lonts was not a person any sensible man would wish to cross.
“I dunno why the Devil didn’t finish you off whenever he had the chance!” he said.
“Because he knows I’d be a lot more trouble to him dead than alive!” said Kieran.
Kieran went into the bar on leaving Josh, and ordered a brandy and soda. Madame de Sade remarked that Josh was a rough man.
“And Joby too is a rough man”, she said, as she had never been able to understand Kieran’s fondness for Joby.
“Ach no Joby’s not rough”, said Kieran “It’s just his way, he gets a wee bit brusque sometimes. I can’t get enough of him!”
He was quite annoyed at Madame de Sade for what was quite apparently snobbery (something the French have always excelled at), and became more determined to find another home for their unwelcome “in-laws” in the hold. After finishing his brandy he went into the kitchen, where he found Joby alone.
“I’m not happy at you using Lonts in that way”, said Joby, when Kieran had told him about his visit to Josh.
“But Lonts was threatening to kill him”, said Kieran “If anything I’m trying to avert a disaster! You don’t seem to realise how much he loves you”.
“Alright”, said Joby “But that doesn’t mean he has to go round threatening to kill people does he!”
“The sight of your bruised face is upsetting him”, said Kieran.
“Not half as much as it’s upsetting me!” said Joby.
“Anyways I think we’ve turned a corner with Josh”, said Kieran “I don’t think he’ll give us too much trouble from now on”.
“Wanna bet?” said Joby “He’ll never accept me being with you”.
“That’s his problem”, said Kieran “All the time you’re with me you see he hasn’t got any control over you”.
“He never did have any control over me!” said Joby “Look, I’m not afraid of Josh, I don’t need you or Lonts to protect me!”
“Well you know looking at your face now”, said Kieran “I don’t think that’s strictly true!”
“Oh go on rub it in!” said Joby “Did I rub it in to you when Angel beat you to a bloody pulp?”
“No, ‘cos you’re a kind person”, said Kieran.
“Oh arseholes!” said Joby, causing Kieran to laugh.
“I won’t stand for you threatening such things, Lo-Lo”, said Adam, having got Lonts alone in the cabin a short while later “I’m not thinking of Josh, I’m thinking of you”.
“You treat me like a baby!” said Lonts, echoing his perennial complaint “I would know exactly what I was doing!”
“Yes that’s what worries me!” said Adam.
Mieps could be heard thumping his stick along the corridor, on his way to the cabin.
“I bet you wouldn’t say this if it was Mieps who was going to do the vendetta”, said Lonts, when Mieps came into the room.
“Yes I would actually!” said Adam “Very strongly indeed! There will be no vendettas around here, don’t you think there have been enough deaths lately?!”
“What did you say to the old girl earlier?” said Julian, as he and Adam shared a cigar in the cabin early that evening “She was thumping around here like a disgruntled horse in a stall!”
“Warned her off taking out Josh”, said Adam.
“I thought it was your beloved boy who was wanting to do that!” said Julian.
“Mieps isn’t much better!” said Adam.
“Smoking in here again I see”, said Ransey, coming into the room.
“The windows are open, Ransey”, said Adam.
“We all still have to go to bed with the smell of stale cigar smoke hanging in the air”, said Ransey.
“Oh pipe down you old fool!” said Julian.
“No wonder we can’t expect any order and discipline around here”, said Ransey “With you two setting the example!”
“You outrageous whatsit!” said Adam “If you’re referring to Patsy’s behaviour, vis-à-vis Josh, I’ll have you know I put him across my knee”.
“I thought you agreed with him seeing Josh”, said Julian “You spanked him for cheeking you in the kitchen instead!”
“It doesn’t matter WHY I did it, I still did it!” said Adam.
“And since when the hell has that made any difference!” said Ransey.
“Listen”, said Adam “If I had had the nous to do that to him and Joby in Henang my first few months in the wonderful world would have been so much easier, I can assure you!”
“Cheer up, you doleful old bag of bones”, said Julian to Ransey “We’ve managed to get some dope for tonight”.
“Bengo’s making cakes with it as we speak”, said Adam.
“If we eat some of that”, said Julian “We can all pretend we’re back at Midnight Castle!”
“Oh Bardin”, said Adam “You look so hang-dog, old love, come and sit on my knee”.
“I hate the other clowns”, said Bardin “I’ll never know a moment’s peace for as long as they’re here!”
“Put another record on the gramophone, Farnol”, said Finia “Thetis used to dance to that one”.
“Are you going to sleep, Joby?” said Lonts.
“I was”, said Joby “Until some big twit keeps going and waking me up!”
“Oh Bardy”, said Bengo “You do get so paranoid, why should you care what Hal thinks?”
“THINKS?!” said Bardin “That’s stretching it a bit isn’t it!”
“What on earth is that noise?” said Adam.
“Crowley”, said Ransey “Out in the corridor. Don’t worry, I’ve bolted the door and locked it, he can’t get in”.
“Are we getting Aleister too excited?” said Adam.
“His imagination knows no bounds”, said Julian
“I’ll move the looking-glass in front of the door for good measure”, said Tamaz.
“What if he still breaks in?” said Toppy.
“We’ll all climb out of the window and up onto the foreward deck”, said Bengo.
“Shooting him might be easier”, said Ransey.
“Spoken like a true assassin!” said Julian.
Aleister Crowley went walkies first thing the following morning. This was after a disturbing night in which Adam fancied he saw lights bobbing about on the island on the horizon, but knew that after the previous few hours his judgement perhaps wasn’t of the clearest, so he didn’t make a big issue out of it. Crowley had taken half a loaf of bread from the kitchen, plus some cheese and a small bottle of wine.
“How very Biblical”, said Adam to Kieran “I’m surprised he didn’t take some fish as well!”
“Has he gone up into the hills again?” said Kieran, who was standing with a horse’s bridle draped over his shoulder, which he had been cleaning out on the quayside.
“Yes”, said Adam “I’m not too concerned about that, except perhaps what he might be getting up to up there!”
“Where’s Joby?” said Kieran, peering around the kitchen.
“Out in the stables with Hillyard”, said Adam “From the rather raucous rustic laughter I heard issuing from there earlier I suspect they’ve gone up into the hay-loft!”
Kieran decided to go and pay a visit on them. He found them both getting dressed again in the main part of the building.
“Jaysus, what a pair of seedy old buggers you look!” said Kieran.
“It’s Little Miss Rosy Cheeks!” said Joby.
“Have you heard about Aleister doing a runner?” said Kieran.
“Yeah, what’s his problem?” said Hillyard.
“We wouldn’t let him in last night that’s what his problem is”, said Joby.
“Well he gets enough don’t he!” said Hillyard.
“Perhaps Madame de Sade had a headache”, said Kieran.
“More likely her old man probably wanted to watch!” said Joby “And that put him off”.
“Funny lot these French!” said Kieran.
“Did Adam mention to you about those lights he thought he saw on the island last night?” said Hillyard.
“Yes he did”, said Kieran.
“I hope you’re not going to do anything rash”, said Hillyard “Like take the skiff out there without telling us”.
“I wouldn’t do anything about that island without telling the rest of yous”, said Kieran “Both me and Joby are agreed on that one”.
“That’s alright then”, said Hillyard “I did wonder you know, particularly after you went all a bit peculiar after Thetis was found”.
“Julian said he’d thrash me like a dog if I even thought of it”, said Kieran “Far far worse than what he does to me now, and I believe him too!”
“I don’t know how he could think of doing something like that to a little thing like you!” said Hillyard.
“Julian could!” said Joby “I despair of you sometimes Kiel, I really do, the company you hang around with!”
“You’d better get back in the kitchen”, said Kieran “I was getting the distinct impression Maurice was getting a wee bit jealous just now, thought his Alec had run off with the stable-hand!”
“It gives me the creeps down here”, said Joby.
“That’s why I suggested we come down here together”, said Adam.
He and Joby were in the cellar of the tavern, selecting bottles of wine by the light of a hurricane lamp.
“At least Aleister didn’t get any of his paws on our little stock down here”, said Adam, jiggling his key-ring significantly.
“Do you think he’s gone for a long time?” said Joby, hopefully.
“Don’t raise your hopes, old love”, said Adam “Unfortunately he’s got it bad about Patsy, he won’t be able to keep away for too long. All this is is a little hissy fit on his part, the spoilt little boy slamming out of the room because he feels we’re not taking enough notice of him”.
Bengo appeared on the cellar steps.
“What are you doing down here?” said Joby “Clear off!”
“You’re supposed to be on your break, Bengo”, said Adam.
“I don’t want to take a break”, said Bengo.
“Good heavens, that’s a turn up for the books!” said Adam “Normally with you two I’m having to persuade you to fit in some work around them!”
“If I’m seen drifting around with nothing to do”, said Bengo “That man’ll get me!”
“Which man in particular?” said Adam.
“Ragen, Bardy’s biographer”, said Bengo “Everytime I see him he keeps giving me hopeful little looks that I’ll come and see in his corner again”.
“Well you don’t have to go in the bar”, said Adam “Why don’t you got and play with the other clowns for 10 minutes?”
“I don’t want to play with the other clowns, they’re evil!” said Bengo “And Bardy’s over on the sloop with Julian”.
“I don’t like the look of that fire”, said Joby, pointing at a disused stove in the corner “I think we should board it up”.
“Don’t let your imagination run riot”, said Adam “It’s only an old stove”.
“It’s hard not to let your imagination run riot with everything that happens around here!” said Joby.
They went back up the cellar steps. Kieran met them suddenly in the passageway at the top.
“Jesus!” Joby exclaimed, startled “You’re like bleedin’ Rumpelstiltskin the way you suddenly appear like that!”
“You’re jumpy aren’t you?” said Kieran.
“Are you surprised?!” said Joby, as another rash of manic hammering broke out overhead.
“What was all that about the fireplace in the cellar, I heard you talking about?” said Kieran.
“Nothing!” said Joby “Hurry up and lock that door, Adam”.
“Yes alright, give me a chance!” said Adam.
Kieran made to move to the cellar door, but Joby roughly yanked him by the elbow into the kitchen.
“You have to be watched every single minute of the day!” said Joby.
“Not half as much as I have to watch you!” said Kieran “I turn me back for five minutes and you’re either getting into a fight with your brother or getting into Hillyard’s trousers!”
Bengo laughed and then looked terrified when Joby scowled at him.
“I think I’ll go and check on the hens”, said Bengo, miserably.
“What ails you, kiddo?” said Bardin, appearing at the gate to the chicken run, inside which Bengo was standing forlornly, clutching a bowl of eggs.
“I think I’ll come and live in here”, said Bengo “That’s if the chickens don’t mind. Every time I open my mouth at the moment I seem to offend Joby”.
“He’s alright, his bruises are getting him down that’s all”, said Bardin “Come out anyway, I want to have a serious chat with you”.
“Oh no!” said Bengo.
“You haven’t done anything wrong!” said Bardin.
“Well it sounds like it when you say things like that!” said Bengo.
He came out and joined Bardin on the tumbledown wall at the edge of the orchard.
“I’ve had a long talk with Julian”, said Bardin “And I’m arranging to go over to the island tomorrow, at daybreak, in the skiff”.
“B-Bardy …” Bengo stammered, in horror.
“Look, we can’t keep having that lot sitting on the horizon staring at us”, said Bardin “We’re going to go over there and see what’s what. If a small party of us goes over in the skiff, and say we’re not back in a few hours then the others will come on behind in the sloop”.
“What about the air-buggy idea?” said Bengo.
“It’d take too long to arrange”, said Bardin “I want to know the lay of the land before we go any further with preparations for the Festival”.
Bengo now looked absolutely wretched with misery.
“Six of us are going”, said Bardin “Me of course, Ransey, Kieran, Joby and Tamaz. And you”.
“I’m not going without you”, said Bardin “Not only would you be a complete nervous wreck whilst I was gone, but you’ll give me the moral support I need”.
“Oh!” Bengo exclaimed “B-but what about Mieps? She’ll be really miffed at being missed out”.
“That can’t be helped!” said Bardin “Six is a good size for an advance party, and we can’t have that hobbling old crone holding us up”.
“Oh don’t say that out here!” Bengo looked round him nervously “She could be anywhere, she might hear us!”
“Too bad!” said Bardin “Now I’ve got to go and find Tamaz and tell him what’s what”.
“He’s around here somewhere”, said Bengo.
Bardin found Tamaz lying in the long grass at the other side of the orchard. He had taken off his trousers and hung them on a low-lying branch, and then lay down in the grass eating peaches. The front of his silk vest was liberally covered in juice.
“About time!” he said, when Bardin had told him the plan “I don’t know how you could even think of leaving it this long before getting revenge for Thetis’s death!”
“This isn’t about getting revenge!” said Bardin, sitting in the grass next to him. He took off his cap, fanned himself in the heat, and then put it on again.
“Well what is it about then?” said Tamaz.
“Seeing what’s what over there”, said Bardin.
“We have to get revenge as well”, said Tamaz.
“I don’t see what good that would do”, said Bardin “It won’t bring Thetis back”.
“Oh you humans are so soft!” said Tamaz.
“You’re half-human actually!” said Bardin.
“I expect, when we get over there”, said Tamaz “That’ll you change your tune and want to destroy them”.
“Who knows?” said Bardin.
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