Baggywrinkle and the Harlequin Hippo
By Alexander Inglis
Algernon Bertram Baggywrinkle’s feet shuffled against the dry planking of the Cutty Sark’s foredeck; his fingers tightening around the foremast’s bowstay as another series of hurricane-force blasts drove sheets of rain against the large sash window towering off the port quarter.
Crashing, pane-rattling deluges, occasionally peppered with short, sporadic flashes of lightening, revealed a view – distorted by the twisting rivulets of water cascading down the glass – of a flat, almost unbroken, expanse of lawn sweeping away to a lanky, loose fitting hedge through which the occasional glint of wet tarmac shimmered in the dull, overcast light.
“Damned rude landlubber,” Baggywrinkle, Captain, PORG National Navy, Retired harrumphed, “the sun’s barely past the yardarm,” he glanced quickly at the rain running down the window panes, “and he’s three sheets to the wind already. I bet he’s been scoffing laughing juice as well.”
He squared his shoulders and dipped his head to the side. “There should be some sort of vetting system. PORG like that don’t deserve to live in antiques that good. Sixteenth century by the smell of it. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Italian,” he continued muttering to himself. “They were the masters, no other nation could produce a credenza of that standa… ” a punishing blast of wind driving head-sized drops of rain against the window panes brought his rant to a halt.
He was irritated because new PORG had recently moved into the beautiful and exceptionally rare 16th century Italian credenza next to the plinth the – his – antique model of the Cutty Sark sat on.
“1594 by the smell of it,” he said when the Dawd who owned the antiques had placed his Cutty Sark next to the richly sculpted Italian cabinet.
‘Dawd’ is what PORG call humans; PORG is what PORG call themselves. Dawd is a not entirely flattering contraction of Dawdler because, by PORG standards, humans always give the impression they are dawdling.
PORGkind as a race have the ability to smell time so know, pretty accurately, how old something is, but the smell and sight of the old cabinet was as much enjoyment as he had managed to derive from the fine antique. A matter of minutes after the proud Dawd owner had turned away from admiring his two fine possessions, the strains of Galway Bay, sung at the top of a very drunk voice, began to filter across the gap between the credenza and the Cutty Sark.
As you may have deduced, PORG are small, small enough to fit into antiques of their choosing. (Not watches, they’re too small, well perhaps Boogle might be able to squeeze into one – but that’s a different story).
Retired PORG live in antiques and as a rule, only the best antiques. Some of them live in ‘new’ antiques (just over 100 years old) but by far the greatest majority, live in the oldest antiques they can find.
PORG are small but can be seen with the naked eye if they stay still long enough to reflect light. They are fast, very fast. In general they are slightly faster than a hospital kitchen cockroach but moderately slower than the The Cincinnati Kid dealing off the bottom of the pack.
PORG have been living among us – in our fields, our homes and the countryside – for a very long time. Some of those who have reached retirement age move away from the countryside to find suitable accommodation in a well tended antique. (Retirement has different connotations for PORG than it has for Dawds) The others, the younger PORG, live in the country where all the PORG hubs of commerce are located.
If you can identify signs of PORG you will invariably have found an antique and not just any old antique – well, by definition, all antiques are old, but you know what I mean – as PORG will consistently pick the best. Not for them an Ercol settee or a G Plan sideboard. No, it would have to be more along the lines of a George Hepplewhite Wardrobe or a Thomas Chippendale dresser and never, ever a reproduction.
The name PORG should actually be read as P.O.R.G. as it is an acronym for People of Restricted Growth but the PORG themselves have long since dropped the full stops and under pain of a severe telling off, any reference to their stature. So PORG is both a collective term and a designation for a single being of that race, no plurals.
When PORG retire they tend to gravitate to types of antiques that reflect their occupation before retirement – not always but often enough where it has become a sort of standard. For example, in an 18th century drinks cabinet you could find PORG who consider themselves wine connoisseurs or whisky buffs and delight in telling anyone who will listen, how good a particular wine or whisky is (Author’s note: there are no bad whiskies only some that are better than others). Equally likely, in the same type of ‘establishment’ you might be able to find a family of drunks who spend most of their time wide-eyed-and-legless, especially if the cabinet is actually used to store drink.
So, because of his naval background Baggywrinkle’s berth was in an extremely fine model of the Cutty Sark.
You are almost guaranteed to see signs in antique shops, museums, art collections and very, very occasionally car boot sales but here you must be a practised PORG spotter to see anything as the slightest indication that an antique is heading for a car boot sale will make them desert in droves.
This is what Baggywrinkle had feared the most when the first choruses of Danny Bhoy and The Irish Rover had drifted across the gap between the credenza and Cutty until all hours of the morning. Over the time since his Cutty had been moved to its new location his initial thoughts had not changed.
“These PORG just don’t know how to toe the line. Can’t be allowed to continue; if it does I’ll have to abandon ship.”
For two weeks he had put up with the noise until, at his wits end, he decided to confront the problem head on. Scrambling down the accommodation ladder he moved to the edge of the plinth and called “Permission to come aboard,” while jumping onto the credenza. “Avast the singing, if you please. I need to talk to the person in charge.”
“Wha… ? Wha’sthere?”
An untidy shock of bright ginger hair appeared above the edge of the cabinet. “Whit’dae’ye’wint,’can’a’PORG’no’nurse’a’hangover’withoot’bein’interrupted? Wha’are’ye’ony’wye?”
“What… ? Oh, Yes. Algernon Baggywrinkle. PN, Retired. I live in the Cutty Sark and I’ve come to complain about the noise.
“Pardon… ? Oh, yes, yes I have. I hardly had a wink of sleep last night.”
“Ooh,’neether’did’we, he’he,” the redhead chuckled, amused at his own joke.
“Yes, I can imagine, I heard you. Who’s in charge here, I’d like to talk to whoever that is.”
“That’wid’be’Fliss,bit’she’s’nae’here’the’noo. She’s’awa’bungee’jumpin. Ye’ll’need’tae’cum’back’fan’she’s’hame.
“Pardon? What… did you say bungee jumping… I say, could you slow down a bit? I’m having terrible trouble understanding, I thought you said bungee jumping,” despite himself there was a note of admiration in Baggywrinkle’s voice, mixed with with a lot of skepticism.
“Aaaye… buuun… geeee… juuum… piiin,” repeated the redhead with exaggerated slowness.
“Oh, OK. When will she be back then? I really need to talk to someone.”
“This efterneen,” and with that he disappeared below.
“Can you tell her I’ll be back this evening to talk to her?” he shouted, “around five o’clock.” But there was no answer. “Hello, did you hear me?”
“Aye,’aye. Ah’ll’tell’her.” came the answer from somewhere below just before a stirring chorus of ‘These Are My Mountains’ started up.
“Well,” Baggywrinkle said shaking his head, “no point in hanging around here,” and headed back to the Cutty. On board he started his daily ‘perambulation around the deck’. Most days he ‘walked off’ his lunch and dinner, but today it was more an attempt to calm his irritation than for any digestive benefits. It took a lot to annoy Baggywrinkle but his encounter with the mad redhead had raised his blood pressure more than a couple of notches.
Now, standing on the fore-deck, looking out over the figurehead of the buxom young witch Nannie his thoughts were far from the rain battering on the window. Normally the view through the window was of the flat, manicured lawn extending toward the tall hedge, but just now it was raining – heavily.
Bordering the property, a narrow road ran between two hedges. At the far side of the road a wide slow flowing river meandered through flat almost featureless fields. Apart from thick vegetation growing along the river bank and field margins, the occasional tree or bush growing on one of the few raised places were the only features in a landscape of almost uniform flatness.
Standing on the foredeck he could see as far the hedge – a view almost obscured by lashing rain battering the glass – which made him think of the fields beyond the road he had tramped and the river he had sailed. But that was in the past, now he was PN Retired.
Lost in thought he harrumphed as a loud warbling sound brought him back to the present. At the other side of the hedge a blue flashing light moved quickly along the road and stopped just opposite the window. The warbling stopped and a loud voice boomed across the lawn.
“This is a red alert, everyone living on River Avenue must vacate their premises now. There are buses to transport you all to the village hall. Temporary accommodation will be arranged for those who need it. Please take warm clothing and only personal effects that you can carry. The river has burst its banks further up stream and this area is starting to flood. Please make your way to the end of the avenue to meet the buses.”
Apart from the blue flashes Baggywrinkle was struggling to see anything past the deluge cascading down the window pane. This has happened before but not for a long, long time. The last time the whole lawn was covered. But they didn’t evacuate people then… just handed out sand bags and… the sandbags were in place long before the water arrived.
The warning was repeated several times,
The river’s burst its banks upstream.
A gust of wind whipped the rain hard against the window and the blue flashing light moved off at high speed as water began to pour through the hedge and across the lawn.
At the other side of the room he could hear raised voices. Two Dawds, a man and a woman, ran to and fro gathering things up before realising they had tried to pick up too much.
“The water’s coming through the garden Harold,” the woman’s voice was shrill in the large room, “we need to get out of the house. The police said we must go now. We’ll have to leave this stuff, come on.” She headed for the door at the far end of the long room dragging Harold along with her, a trail of discarded treasures littering the floor behind them.
The back door opened with a crash and wind, screeching along the corridor into the room almost drowned the echoes of splashing feet as the Dawds headed for higher ground
An unstoppable torrent gushing in through the door swirled around the legs of the Chippendale settee and the Georgian table, knocking over the Victorian carved mahogany Jardinière aspidistra stand before lapping against the bottom of the Italian credenza.
“It never reached this far before,” he thought. Then, “It’s rising pretty fast, I wonder if that mob downstairs know what’s happening.” As soon as the thought entered his mind he was off, a slight limp barely slowing his progress down the companion way.
“Boogle, Boogle, “he shouted as he went, “get your lazy backside up on deck, I think we are about to have visitors.”
He jumped across to the cabinet bellowing and banging his ceremonial sword against the top of the credenza.
“Avast there, look lively,” he shouted, “heads up, we have a crisis.”
There was no answer, and more crucially, there was no singing. “Blighter must be asleep,” he said as he continued to bang on the polished wood.
“Come on you lubbers we’re being inundated,” he called as he reached the edge of the sideboard top.
“Inunwhat?” a voice came from behind him, “crivins’it’s you’again,’fits’wrang’ noo?
“Inundated man, inundated… flooded, swamped, submerged. Come on you need to vacate.”
“Vacate?’Div’ye’mean’get’oot? Foo’cin’Ah’be’sure’this’is nae’jist’your’wye o getin’us’awa’fae’here?” said the redhead before looking down. “OOOH!’Ah’see’fit ye’mean,” he said as he saw the rising water for the first time. He ducked back below the credenza top. “We’ll’hif’tae’warn’the’ithers,” he yelled and leapt through the open cabinet door.
Baggywrinkle ran to the edge and peered over just in time to see a shock of red hair disappear into the dim interior. I wish he’d slow down, I only understood about half of that.
PORG are excellent climbers, that’s how they manage to make their homes in such inaccessible places as antique desks – which are invariably kept locked – Hermle Clock Company grandfather clocks and on one memorable occasion, a 17th century harpsichord. But that was short lived because the Dawd owners thought the noises PORG made running to and fro across the strings was because the harpsichord was haunted and had it exorcised by a priest using copious amounts of holy water.
Baggywrinkle was no exception and in spite of his limp, he could climb as well as any PORG and leapt after the redhead. Dim light never bothers PORG, a quality which comes from the necessity to stay in the dark when humans are around, so he managed to keep an eye on the redhead who was heading for the back of the cupboard through a maze of bottles and glasses.
“Hold up old man, I’ll help,” he called.
“Got’tae’warn’the’ithers,” shouted the redhead.
Baggywrinkle followed, matching him leap for leap and bounded off the last bottle onto the rack at the back of the shelf. As far back as could be reached, against the far wall of the cupboard, several large (by PORG standards) lean-to tents had been erected. The redhead ran toward the nearest tent shouting at the top of his voice.
“Inundation, we’re’being inundationed, abody’oot, wir’bein’inundationed. Abudy oot,’emergency, folla’me. Cmon.”
A tall lanky PORG dressed in a clown outfit appeared at the door to one of the tents. “Inundationed, inundationed? Vat are joo talking about,” he said in a heavy accent that sounded to Baggywrinkle to be Eastern European. “Inundationed? Zis iss not efen a verd. Eh chould know Eh haf taken zee Englich lessons,” he said looking pointedly at the redhead.
Baggywrinkle stepped forward, “The river has burst its banks, the house has been flooded and the water’s rising quickly,” he said breathless after the hectic pursuit. “We need to get you all across onto the Cutty. That way if the water gets too high then at least we’ll float.”
Several more PORG in various costumes appeared from the other lean-to tents. A circus, how long have they been here? No time to worry about that just now… need to get them out of here. Baggywrinkle harrumphed his throat clear.
“The water’s rising, if it comes up much further the furniture will start to float, this credenza included. Once it starts to float there’s no way of knowing which way up it’ll stay. Could all tip over, turn turtle. Best not to be in here if that happens. At least the Cutty will float right way up. And Boogle’s on board getting things ready as we speak.”
A quiet voice from behind him, “What about the animals?”
“Animals?” said Baggywrinkle turning to see where the voice was coming from, “what animals?”
“The performing animals, the circus animals,” said the quiet voice again, “they’re stabled in a menagerie in the sideboard across the room. We have a troupe of prancing mice, some ferocious circus rats, black performing squirrels and the gerbils.”
“Very ferocious rats,” said a stocky PORG dressed in a flamboyant sequinned jacket and leather trousers with a huge belt buckle engraved with the letter ‘S’. “But extremely well trained,” he added.
“What?” Baggywrinkle almost shouted, “animals?” He took his ceremonial hat off and ran his fingers through his hair. “The water’s rising fast, we don’t have much time to get across to the other side of the room before it gets most of the way up the sideboard. We can try launching one of the Cutty’s longboats – that’s going to take time – but we can’t do it until we get all of you out of here and on board.”
“They’ll drown if we can’t help them,” said the quiet voice again.
“Pardon,” said Baggywrinkle, “could you speak up a bit?”
“He’canna,’he’s’oor’moose’whisperer,” said the redhead, “he’trains’the’moosies tae’dae’a’the’tricks.”
“Not just mice,” said the quiet voice.
“C’mon,” said Baggywrinkle trying to inject some military authority into his voice, “just grab some belongings and head for the Cutty, we can think of what to do once you’re all safe.”
In quick time they headed for the top of the credenza and jumped across onto the Cutty Sark’s plinth.
“Yodalodlodalayeetee .” A high pitched yodel stopped Baggywrinkle at the bottom of the companionway.
“What’s that,” he asked more to himself than anyPORG else.
“That’s Fliss,” said the redhead running to the edge, “she’ll ken’fit’tae’dee. Aye, there’she’is,” he said pointing toward the door.
Baggywrinkle ran to the edge of the plinth. Riding the turbulent torrent that now poured into the room a PORG, dressed in a black wetsuit guided a wind surfboard through the open door yodeling at the top of her voice.
“Yodalodlodalayeetee,” she yelled steering the windsurfer toward the sideboard. With the ease of an expert she stopped alongside the cupboard door, leapt up and grabbed the escutcheon before disappearing through the keyhole.
“Get’on’yersel’Fliss,” yelled the redhead, then to Baggywrinkle “she’s… gan… tae… save… the… beasties. See’Ah’rembered’tae’spik’slowly’for’ye.”
After several minutes the cupboard door swung open and a stream of mice, rats and other animals began to scramble up the carved wooden door-frame onto the flat top. At the back of the queue, mounted on a jet black squirrel, the wetsuited PORG herded them to the safety.
Guiding the squirrel through the milling animals until it stood at the edge above the rising water she raised her hand; the squirrel reared onto its back legs and she called out another yodeling cry
Madam Felicity du Maurier stood in the main cabin on board the Cutty and dried her hair. Her trip across the flooded room had been nothing short of spectacular. Once happy all the animals were accounted for she urged the squirrel toward the edge of the sideboard. Without hesitation the animal catapulted itself, and Madam du Maurier, into space. Halfway through the drop she had launched herself into a perfect forward one and a half somersaults – in the tuck position – before entering the water with hardly a splash.
A short swim to her windsurfer and using the draft blowing in through the open back door, she sailed toward the Cutty Sark plinth with the squirrel swimming close behind.
The squirrel, now thoroughly dried and settled in one of the forward tea holds, was munching at some of Baggywrinkle’s breakfast cereal.
While tending to her mount there was a confused round of introductions where everyPORG had tried to introduce everyPORG else to Baggywrinkle and Boogle at the same time. Eventually Baggywrinkle had taken charge and asked them to stand in a circle and take it in turns to introduce themselves.
“Some of you know me already, I’m Algernon Bertram Baggywrinkle, Captain, PORG National Navy, Retired,” he said in a retired Captain’s voice and waited for some response. Eventually, when the silence became too much he turned to the large flamboyant PORG with the belt buckle and asked, “and you are?”
“Fred Dewhurst,” the PORG replied in an American drawl, “but you might have heard of me under my stage name, Sigmund.”
Baggywrinkle shook his head slowly, “Pleased to meet you Mr Dewhurst,” he said offering his hand.
“Hi,” replied Dewhurst, “you know I hate to press you but the sooner we can get to the animals the better. There is some food over there, it’s on the highest shelf so it’ll be a while before the water reaches it, but if we can save it it’ll give us a few days to get to the depot,” he hesitated before explaining. “The depot is our winter quarters, we need to get there soon, otherwise… ” he didn’t finish the sentence.
“Otherwise?” said Baggywrinkle.
“I think my father means we may have to release the animals so they can fend for themselves or…” a young PORG woman standing next to Fred Dewhurst said.
“And you are?” Baggywrinkle asked.
“I’m Dotty Dewhurst, trapeze artiste. He’s my dad,” she said pointing at Fred Dewhurst. “This is my mother Gladys, she’s dad’s assistant,” a tall, athletic PORG woman with long auburn hair offered her hand.
“What is the other option? You didn’t say?”
“Slaughter,” said Fred Dewhurst, “we may need to put the animals out of their misery. We’ve been in the loft all summer and we’re on our way back to the depot. We’ve been stuck there,” he nodded in the direction of the credenza, “because of the weather and we’ve used up most of our summer feed stocks.”
“Slaughter?” Baggywrinkle sounded shocked then, as an afterthought, “Your animals should be alright though, if you get there in time, won’t they?”
The redhead was next, he smiled as he offered his hand.
“Hi, Ahm Lachy, Lachlan MacPhearson. Stage name Henry Heeddoonie, The Greatest Escape artist in the World. Ah’m also the PORG cannonball and the flying trapeze catcher, Ah catch Dotty efter she dis her triple.”
“I don’t think it will come to slaughter, we would release them before we got to the need to slaughter any of them” said a tall PORG with a wide brimmed hat. “But I’ll be able to handle them until we can get them fed,” he said as he absentmindedly twisted the end of his handlebar mustache.
“This is Will Hancock,” Dotty said he’s our animal whisperer. That’s why he’s so quiet.”
He removed his hat and brushed back his shoulder length hair before offering Baggywrinkle his hand. “Thanks for letting us come on board,” he said quietly.
Fred Dewhurst cut in, “I only hope you’re right Will, ‘cos if the worst does happen and we have to release them there’s no knowing what Manticore and his pack will do to the mice and gerbils.”
While the introductions were taking place, the PORG in the wetsuit had been drying and combing the drenched squirrel. Now, wetsuit still glistening wet, she appeared at the top of the companionway leading to the hold. She stood for a moment and looked around then, her bare feet leaving dark prints on the deck, walked toward Baggywrinkle with outstretched hand.
“Hi, I’m Felicity du Maurier,” she said grasping his hand, “thank you so much for saving my friends. I was on my way to warn them but the water came up so quickly.”
Baggywrinkle smiled at the faint hint of a French accent. “You’re welcome Madam du Maurier.”
“Oh, Fliss, do call me Fliss. EveryPORG else does… except Lachy, he’s a cheeky devil that one.”
“Oh yes, Lachlan MacPhearson,” Baggywrinkle said looking across at the redhead standing by the starboard gunwale, watching them. “he said you were away bungee jumping.”
“Bungee jumping? No, no no. He has it all wrong, not on a Thursday, Thursday’s windsurfing day. And a good job too. When the first of the flood came through I was at the pond beside the wall in the back garden – there’s a pretty good windsurfing club there if you are interested.”
Baggywrinkle shook his head slowly keeping his eyes on her face for any sign that she was joking.
“The big top’s been in the loft all summer. We’ve been giving twice daily performances until a few days ago, now the season is finished we’re on our way back to the depot. We stopped to wait when the weather started to change. We didn’t realise it would get as bad as this,” she nodded vaguely toward the open door at the far end of the room. “Now the river’s burst its banks.
We usually leave in time so we have enough food to get the animals back, it’s a long walk. Until this morning we were just waiting out the weather but now our normal route’s flooded.”
She shook her head, “The water came up so fast it filled the pond up over it’s banks and I surfed through the back door just after the Dawds left. They were in too much of a state to notice me or anything else for that matter”
“It’s still rising,” said Baggywrinkle glancing over the gunwale at the swirling water, “it won’t need to come up much higher and old Cutty will be floating.”
He looked across the rising water to the animals marooned on the top of the sideboard. “Good thing is we’ll be afloat long before the water reaches the animals”
As if reading his mind Madam Felicity said, “They’ll be fine there for a while and if the water continues to rise we should be able to take them on board your lovely boat before they get washed away.”
“Ship,” said Baggywrinkle.
“Yes, we’ll clean all that up when we get across there.”
“No, ship,” he repeated, “the Cutty Sark is a ship not a boat. More precisely a clipper ship. A boat is a submarine.”
“Oh… oh, OK,” she said hiding an embarrassed smile behind her hand, then, “it’ll be a while before they need to be fed next.”
“Well there lies the problem,” said Baggywrinkle, “I don’t have enough vittles on board for your crew if the water stays up for any length of time and I certainly don’t have anything that the rats and mice could eat. In fact I’m not sure about having a circus on board the Cutty anyway.”
“Ah, but we have some food,” said Felicity, “it’s cached in our depot at the other side of the fields beyond the road. We’ll be taking our winter break there. There’s enough feed in the sideboard for a few more days, for the animals as well as us, but now the water’s coming up… ” she stopped and waited before carrying on. “I’d like to try to salvage what’s left from the sideboard as soon as we can.”
“We’ll get there but it’ll be tomorrow morning. I won’t risk putting a boat across at night. You don’t know what might be floating around.”
The deck beneath their feet trembled slightly and Baggywrinkle peered over the side again. “We’re almost afloat,” he muttered, “Boogle, lets get the anchor ready,” he shouted.
From behind Madam Felicity a booming voice answered, “AYE, AYE SIR,” she spun on her heel, there was no-one there.
“DOWN HERE MA’AM.”
She looked down and one of the shortest PORG she had ever seen was standing near her feet.
“Oh,” she said and raised her hand to her throat, “you are a little one, aren’t you?”
Boogle smiled, saluted and took off at speed across the deck.
“He’s been with me my entire career – says he retired when I did so he could ‘look after me’. Come on, I’ll show you where you can get dried up,” he said guiding her toward the companionway leading to the cabins beneath the aft deck.
In the passageway Baggywrinkle pushed open a door and guided her in, “This is my cabin but you’re welcome to use it for the time being,” he said and pulled some towels from the locker beside his bunk before returning to the deck.
Felicity du Maurier unhurriedly peeled off the wetsuit and dropped it with a squelch beside the cabin door. As she removed her wet swimsuit the boat lurched slightly and swung round before stopping so abruptly she staggered, landing with a thud on onto the bunk.
“Well, we appear to be floating,” she said under her breath, “what I wonder will be next,” and stretched out on the bunk.
On deck Baggywrinkle and Boogle were working like a well oiled engine. Baggywrinkle turned the anchor windlass, prepared the rigging to release the sail and stowed away all loose items while Boogle took the wheel, checked the bilges and prepared to break out the grog.
A ship like the Cutty Sark might be a lot for two men to handle, you might think, and you would probably be right if it had been men. But Baggywrinkle and Boogle were not men they were PORG and therefore capable of – by Dawd standards – extreme speed. So, while a job like readying a clipper ship for sea would normally be handled by a crew of at least fourteen men, two PORG were perfectly capable of managing a scale model and have time to admire the scenery.
“WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO KEDGE HER OFF, CAPTAIN,” shouted Boogle.
“Kedger’aff,is’at’the’same’as’kedgeree? I’love’kedgeree,” said Lachy, “specially’fan’it’s’made’wi’Arbroath’Smokies.”
“No,” said Baggywrinkle, “but we’ll need you to give us a hand.”
“Deal,” said Baggywrinkle, then carrying on quickly, “we’ll lower two boats, I want you and Boogle to take one and row round to the bow, I’ll lower a small anchor to you. We’ll do the same with the other boat. Both boats will row away and drop their anchors into deeper water. Once they are set we’ll use them to pull Cutty off of her plinth. She’s nearly afloat so it won’t take much”
Lachy stared at Baggywrinkle for several seconds, then, “Magic, fit’a’crackin’idea.” and he was off.
Within an hour the Cutty was riding at anchor with the rowing boats tied alongside.
“Boogle, get her ready to go alongside the sideboard, I’m going to check on Flis… ehm, Madam Felicity.
“AYE, AYE SIR.”
PARDON, YOU’LL HAVE TO SLOW DOWN, I CAN’T UNDERSTAND.”
O_K_I’ll_try_tae_spik_slower_so_ye_can_understand_mi. _ Can_I_ gei_ye_a_han?”
“AYE, YOU’LL HAVE TO GO UP AND RELEASE THE MAINSAIL,” bellowed Boogle.
“Tell_ye_fit,_Ah’ll_spik_slower_if_you_stop_bawlin_a’_the_time,_deal?” said Lachy bending down and offering his hand.
DEAL, ehm, DEAL” whispered Boogle shaking hands. “RIGHT, OFF YOU GO, UP THE MAST.”
Lachy scooted across the deck and almost ran up the mast. “Fit’div’ Ah’ dee’first,” he called. “Sorry,_fit_div_Ah_dee_first.”
Baggywrinkle left Boogle and Lachy shouting instructions at one another and made his way down the passageway to his cabin.
“Manticore will survive for a long time yet, the only problem is none of the others will because he’ll eat them.” Fred Dewhurst said to his wife. “He’s Alpha Rat Gladys, and the rest… well, they’re just food as far as he’s concerned. Especially Mild Will’s prancing mice, they’ll be the first to go.”
They were arranging what little belongings they had managed to salvage from the camp in the credenza into the cabin Boogle had allocated them.
“I need to get across there as soon as possible. It looked like Fliss managed to tie Manticore to the back of the sideboard but from this distance it’s hard to tell. She only used her lasso, normally he’s chained.”
“This Baggywrinkle person doesn’t seem to think we’ll get across there soon. Do you think we should ask for the loan of one of the boats?” his wife asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied throwing his bag onto the lower bunk. “Everyone’s busy just now getting the boat afloat. We’ll probably have to wait until we can get this thing alongside the sideboard. We can only hope Manticore stays put until then.” Then almost as an afterthought he said, “If he doesn’t it could be all that Fliss needs.”
“Hello, how are you getting on?” Baggywrinkle called as he turned the knob and pushed the door open.
In one graceful, fluid, unhurried movement Felicity du Maurier rose from the bunk, picked up the discarded towel and draped it across her front, tucking it beneath each arm. “Do come in,” she said with exaggerated emphasis on ‘Do’.
He stopped halfway into the cabin, his hand on the handle and his mouth half open.
“Well come in or go out but don’t stand there with the door wide open,” she said with the faint hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
Baggywrinkle harrumphed quietly and turned closing the door. “Sorry, sorry,” he mumbled, “I thought you were dressed.”
“I would have been if someone had thought to grab some of my clothes before abandoning everything in the credenza to the waters.”
“Ah!” said Baggywrinkle as if answering a question. “We were in a bit of a hurry. We don’t normally have women on board so there’s nothing here apart from those your friends brought with them. Shall I go and ask them?”
“I don’t think so,” she replied, moving sideways to kick her wet swim suit and wetsuit out of Baggywrinkle’s way. As she did she moved closer to the toilet door and glancing past her, he could see, the perfect reflection of her back in his shaving mirror above the sink.
Clearing his throat loudly he moved away from the door and flustered he reached across his desk as if looking for something.
“I can give you some of my clothes for the time being, just until we can get something to fit you,” as if to demonstrate where the clothes were, he moved back toward his locker and immediately brought himself back in line of sight of the mirror. Again he turned away and feigned interest in some other part of the cabin.
Felicity stood motionless and watched his discomfort, the small towel just big enough to cover her modesty – from the front.
“In the locker,” he stammered indicating the door near the head of the bunk. “There are trousers and shirts.”
Felicity smiled, raised her hand and pointed, “There?” she asked as the towel slipped slowly from under her arm.
Baggywrinkle spun, grabbed the door-handle, pushed it down and crashed into the door as he tried to open it the wrong way. He stopped, leaned his head against the door for several seconds and regaining some of his composure, pulled it toward himself. With more aplomb than he felt he turned, looked Felicity directly in the eye, nodded, smiled and left the cabin but as he closed the door he caught her reflection once more in the mirror above the sink.
He stood for a long time in the passageway trying hard to regain some composure before going back on deck.
If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read the rest you can purchase Baggywrinkle and the Harlequin Hippo here.
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