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Seagulls In My Soup [MultiFormat]
eBook by Tristan Jones

eBook Category: General Nonfiction
eBook Description: Join Tristan Jones as he tells tales of the humorous and fascinating adventures that his Saga of a Wayward Sailor began. Discover more anecdotes and unexpected adventures aboard a converted lifeboat ketch cruising the coasts of the Balearic region with Tristan, his one-eyed, three-legged dog, Nelson and the prim Bishop's sister, Sissie St. John. It's a prolific prose journey of surprising arrivals, machine gun-thwarting and ship-saving escapades of a wayward sailor and his motley crew.

eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, Published: 1991
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2009




1

A Long Time Ago

"Ai say ... Tristan dahling! Yoo-hoo!" I stirred under my blanket and listened for a moment to the patter of rain on Cresswell's deck overhead. Autumn nights and early mornings in the western Mediterranean can be quite chilly to ordinary mortals, but Cecilia (Sissie) Saint John, the Bishop of Southchester's sister, was always awake and astir at the crack of dawn, no matter what the weather.

Again she screeched, "Skippah ... Yoo-hoo, dahling!"

I stretched one trousered and seabooted leg out of my berth. Nelson bumped his tail on the cabin sole, stared up at Sissie with his one eye, and glowered. I, too, glared up at her. She was leaning her oilskin-bedecked upper torso down through the companionway hatch. Under her yellow sou'wester hat, her hair, as usual in damp weather, was the color of a dead aspidistra leaf. Her Saxon-blue eyes gleamed with that peculiar kind of benevolent madness only seen among the English.

"Wazzup now?" I growled. I glared at the ship's clock. Sissie had polished its brass casing the previous night, before retiring to her ritual of Bible and Booth's London Dry Gin in the tiny, low, kennel-like forepeak which she called home. "Six-thirty. God."

I didn't at all like to be disturbed, while the boat was in harbor, much before eight o'clock, especially when it was raining and few chores could be done, and while the ones that could be done, Sissie did.

Sissie spread her rosy apple cheeks all over her chubby face in a wide grin. "Theah's a boat coming alongside, dahling!" she announced. "It's a, er ... catamaran." She raised herself up above the cover of the companionway hatch and stared ahead, the rainwater streaming down her face into the soggy towel she had wrapped around her neck. Her eyes slitted almost closed against the drizzle. Then again she grinned. "Ai say," she howled, to no one in particular. "What a marvelous name ... Bellerophon of Bosham ... how simply spiffing." Nelson growled softly. "And dahling ... Tristan dahling ... she's English!"

"With a name like that she could hardly be bloody French," I observed petulantly. "At this time in the morning I don't give a fish's tit if she's Chinese."

Sissie looked down at me. Her face fell into apologetic sympathy. "Oh ... you poor dahling," she murmured. "Half a mo', I'll make the tea ... No, Ai'd bettah help this jolly old boat moor stern-to-the-jetty first." Turning, she scrambled over Cresswell's whalebacked poop, showing a dimpled thigh under her yellow oilskin jacket and above her British Army socks and Irish ditchdigger's brogue boots. Agilely, she leaped over the five-foot gap between the rudder and the jetty wall. Nelson again bumped his tail, pounding it softly against the cabin table leg, pleased that his main competitor for my affection had once more gone ashore and left his master entirely for himself to watch and guard with his limitless canine loyalty.

I turned over again, wrapped the blanket around me, and settled to doze away another precious hour or so. I was still thawing out and catching up on sleep lost during the Arctic voyage five years ago.

There were the usual shouts and hollers as the arriving boat's crew heaved mooring lines at Sissie out in the now-pouring rain. Sissie's voice pierced through the drumming downpour on deck. "Ai say ... welcome to Ibiza!"

A masculine English voice, almost as awf'ly English as Sissie's, but not quite (there were undertones of Surbiton) called back, "Nice boat you have there! Wonderful weather for ducks, eh?"

"Yes," replied Cresswell's mate, with a girlish giggle.

It's a wonder how sound carries over water and through the sides of a wooden boat. As I reflected on this, and listened to the alternating roar and purr of the catamaran's outboard motor, Cresswell gently jiggled, jingled, and pulsated with the myriad sounds of a sailboat's waking day. "Oh, Christ," I said to myself, and, heaving myself up against the cabin table, staggered over to the galley, filled the kettle up from the freshwater hand pump, lit the gently oscillating kerosene stove, slammed the kettle down on the flame, and sat down again to rustle Nelson's head and murmur to him--a diurnal liturgy in Cresswell.

There was another sudden commotion outside. First the splash of a rope falling into the harbor water--filthy with black, slimy oil, dead fish, plastic bags and other impedimenta deleterious to cleanliness and pilotage--then the sound of a man's voice, again from the arriving vessel, called in fruity tones, "Oh, dash ... what rotten luck!"

"Yes, isn't it?" I heard Sissie reply. "But hang on a jolly tick--Ai'll get a boathook."

Then there were the sounds of Sissie hefting her 170 pounds back over the gap 'twixt rudder and wall, and scrabbling for the boathook tied to the handrail below Cresswell's mizzenmast. All the while the boat pitched slightly up and down as it was first burdened with, then relieved of Sissie's dumpling thighs, Michelin waist, boxer's arms, heavy oilskin jacket, and ditchdigger's boots.

I quickly donned my Shetland jersey and slid my black oilskin around my shoulders. I clambered up the companionway ladder. I stared around through the misty rain to see one of the ugliest sailing vessels I ever clapped eyes on. She was a catamaran, but obviously home-made. She had slab sides to the hulls, far too high, and the cabin stuck up above the two hulls, box-like and shoddy, with great windows all around it. The whole boat was painted black, and the top paint had worn away in places, exposing the previous white paint in obscene-looking patches. The total effect was that of a greatly enlarged praying mantis with a skin complaint.

She was about thirty-two feet long and at least eighteen feet wide. Two figures, squat and heavy in their yellow oilskins and yellow seaboots, with the flaps of their jackets buttoned up around their chins, stood in the pouring rain on the catamaran's afterdeck, looking nonplused and rather forlorn as their vessel was slowly pulled away from the jetty again by the weight of their anchor line, which was streamed out forward. The rain drizzled down implacably on this cheerful scene.

I turned around to peer through the rain toward the jetty. There was Sissie, stretched out fully on her belly on the muddy, fish-scales-littered pavement of the town quay, leaning right out over the filthy harbor water, reaching with our boathook toward the fallen mooring line, now floating in the midst of a particularly noisome pool of slime and garbage. She was grasping the boathook by its blunt very-end, attempting to hook the line and failing to do it by a mere three inches or so.

I turned again to the catamaran. One of the figures stared at me for a moment in seeming puzzlement and confusion, then hailed me. "Morning, old chap," it called in a gruff, manly voice. "Nice weather, what?" It wore a rope belt, from which dangled a seaman's knife.

"Why don't you throw me a line?" I replied. "I'm much closer to you than is the jetty."

"Damned good idea," called the other figure, in far less gruff tones. He sounded like a choirboy whose voice was just about to break. He wore spectacles, and I imagined him regretting that, with this downpour, they were not fitted with windshield wipers. Even as he addressed me the spectacles were pointed some five yards away to my left.

By now the Knife had run over to the catamaran's guardrails and was grinning at me. "Pleased to meet you. Billy Rankin's the name, and this is my brother Tony."

Spectacles now spoke to a point three yards to my right. "What ho?"

"Throw me a line," I shouted. "Your boat is sliding away over your anchor rode, and if you don't get a line to me soon you'll have to restart your motor and do the whole exercise again ... And anyway, your anchor is probably fouled up with mine in the middle of the harbor."

Tony the Specs turned and desperately peered through the pouring rain while Billy the Knife calmly and methodically bent down, grabbed a line, held the coil in his left hand, and heaved the fag-end with his right. The knot in the end hit me in the eye with a wallop so bitter I could taste it, just as a loud splash came from the direction of the jetty. Cursing as I recovered the rope's end from Cresswell's deck, my eye smarting with pain, I turned to see poor Sissie's yellow oilskin jacket just below the oily, slimy surface, rising to float, flailing, in the muck-bestrewn, turdflotilla'd, dog-corpse-littered waters of Ibiza harbor. Then her head appeared, her whisky-colored hair now black and shiny with petroleum by-products and her face and body besmeared with flecks of effluent from a thousand fishermen, ten thousand black-clad, bereted peasants, four thousand well-fed tourists, and five or six impecunious yachties--two of whom were now haring along the town quay to Sissie's rescue, despite the early hour and the effects of the previous night's festivities.

Soon the yachties, one a Frenchman, as gallant as ever; the other a Finn, as hung-over as ever, had Sissie's arms in their calloused hands and were slowly dragging her, dripping like a dipped sheep, out of the murky basin, she still gripping faithfully onto our one-and-only boathook, spluttering all the while.

As soon as I saw that Sissie's rescue was assured and imminent, I turned again to securing the wayward vessel alongside Cresswell. The rising wind was yawing and veering both my boat and the catamaran alarmingly, and they were in danger of colliding with each other.

Billy the Knife still held onto the bitter end of the rope he had thrown me. I needed plenty of slack, so that I could take the line onto the jetty and secure the stern-end of the catamaran away from Cresswell, to windward.

"Give me slack!" I hollered. Quick as a knife, Billy eased off the line. I scrambled aft as fast as I could, holding onto the mooring line for dear life. I threw myself over the gap onto the jetty, over the heaving backs of the Frenchman and the Finn, ran along to windward, and secured the mooring line. Then Billy the Knife, with Tony the Specs still peering helplessly around him in the rain, steadily and sturdily heaved the stern of the catamaran away from Cresswell, and soon the vessel was hauled up tight against the wind.

I turned to clamber back aboard Cresswell. As I passed Sissie, who by now was again stretched out on the pavement of the jetty, face down, streaming water and oil and all kinds of unmentionable solids and liquids, she raised her head. Tears were dolloping from her screwed-up eyes, but she was still trying to grin. "Awf'ly sorry, Skippah," she spluttered.

"That's all right, mate." I tried not to patronize her, at least not in front of the two foreigners. "You'd better go onboard and get cleaned up. I've got the kettle on, and the bucket's empty..."

"Mais ... " The Frenchman started. "But she can come onboard my boat." He was the skipper of some rich nob's gin-palace down the line. "I 'ave ze bath..."

"That's a good idea," I said to the Frenchman.

Sissie looked even more distressed. "Oh, Ai don't think Ai could really." She leaned over to me. "He's not merried, you know," she said in a hoarse whisper. She started toward Cresswell's stern just as Billy the Knife clambered onto the jetty.

"Rotten luck, ma'am," said Billy, respectfully. "Look, why don't you come onboard Bellerophon? We've got lots of water and you can take a shower." Billy's voice was like a fog horn as he hitched up his knife lanyard like a cowboy hoisting a gunbelt.

Sissie turned momentarily. "Thank you very much indeed," she said, "but deah, dahling Tristan..." she puckered her lips and pointed a begrimed chin at me..." has simply everything in hend..."

Billy turned to me, hitched up his knife lanyard again, and said, "Well, look old chap, I'm sure you'll agree we at least owe you lunch, what?"

I looked at Billy, thinking 'a meal's a meal for all that an' all that,' and said, "Lunch? Why yes, of course ... what time?"

"One o'clock, old bean. My brother and I always work until then, and take two hours off for lunch, you see."

"Right, you're on," said I to Billy. Then I turned to the Frenchman and the Finn, thanked them, and made my way to the little dark bodega Antonio at the end of the quay, there to while away the time over a tiny cup of thick, treacly, black coffee, until the Dragon of Devon, the English games-mistress, had completed her ablutions.

As I traipsed away, breakfastless, through the persistent rain along the town quay, I heard the soft, gentle patter of Nelson's three-paw steps astern of me. I didn't need to turn around to know it was he, nor did I need to look at his eye or the droop of his old head to know that his senses of virtue and modesty, instilled in him by his old master, my first sailing skipper, Tansy Lee (1866-1958), had been deeply offended by Sissie's divesting herself of her oil-filthy vestments before he'd had a chance to reach the companionway ladder. Nothing if not Victorian, was Nelson.

An hour later the rain had stopped. Through the low front door of the dim bodega I gazed over the still half-full tiny cup of coffee, over the berets of the usual assembly of a dozen or so sad-eyed fishermen, too old now to do anything much more than dream of past catches and criticize the tight pants of their offspring, and dote over the tiny offspring of the loins displayed by the very tight pants they criticized. Over their heads, which were silhouetted against the bright shafts of sunlight shining through the miasma of early-morning harbor mist, I saw Sissie's form marching along the jetty. She strode into the bodega like a Grenadier guardsman. She had, I observed, changed her British Army socks and brogue boots for a pair of calf-length black seaboots, while her torso was again resplendent in her dark blue English games-mistress gym slip, the skirts of which reached almost halfway down her dimpled thighs, which quivered as she weaved her way, smiling benignly, through the assembly of septua-, octo-, and nonagenarians--all of whom, without exception, glanced at her haunches lasciviously and held their breath until she had squeezed her way past their crowded tables.

Sissie's lips pursed until they looked like bicycle pedals. Her blue eyes gleamed with the fondness of freshly burnished bayonets. She plonked herself down opposite me. For a moment there was silence as the Ibizan fishermen recovered their collective breath.

"Coffee?" I asked her.

"Oh, dahling Tristan," she gushed, laying one calloused hand on my sunburned arm, "oh, golly, that would be supah ... but you've not had your brekky."

I pointed my thumb at a round wooden box lying on the stone floor of the bodega. It was a quarter-full of dried codfish, set out neatly, their mahogany-colored bodies overlapping each other, all looking extremely sorry for themselves. "We can have some yellow peril here." Dried cod was about the cheapest food in Spain at the time--about five cents per whole bony corpse.

"Oh, that will be nice," said Sissie as Antonio, the ancient proprietor, in shirtsleeves, his grubby white apron drooping all the way down to his ankles, approached our table.

I ordered our breakfast, then, and Antonio shuffled away in his incredibly tattered carpet slippers. I looked at my watch. "By the time we've finished this little lot it will be time to go to the post office. Why don't you come with me?"

Again Sissie's hand descended gently on my forearm. "Oh, dahling, thet will be supah. Oh, goody, goody gum-drops," she chortled. Then, after a moment's reflection, which she signified by staring into mid-space, her North Sea eyes opened as wide as she could manage, she said, "Ai say, Skippah, what terrific cheps they are onboard the catamaran. They told me they are to stay in Ibiza for several days..."

"Then why didn't you go onboard their boat for a shower and use their bloody fresh water instead of ours?" I queried.

"Oh, dahling, I simply couldn't jolly-well go onboard a boat alone with two cheps..."

"Oh, well ... only natural, I s'pose," I grunted, thinking of the diminishing water in Cresswell's tanks. Another thirty gallons would cost another thirty pesetas (about eighty cents).

As Sissie strode, Nelson limped, and I traipsed along Ibiza's waterfront, the sun again broke through the high clouds and gold-plated the cathedral and fortress atop the steep hill to our left. Across the harbor, on the east side, another heavy rainstorm reminded me of the eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt not loiter ashore too long when dirty weather is in the offing."

Sissie gazed up at the gold-lined clouds above us. "Just like a jolly old Gainsborough painting!" she gurgled, as she clomped heavily among the heaps of lobster pots, fishing nets, sacks of potatoes, and other 'heaps of bric-a-brac,' as she called the means of livelihood of a hundred hardworking souls.

"Hammerheads," I replied, glancing up at the clouds, black-bellied and menacing. "Going to be a right bloody gale later on. We'd better not hang around too much. We'll have to keep a good watch on the anchor--otherwise we're going to be bashing the rudder against the jetty again, and I've only just finished repairing it from the hammering we got last week."

At the correos there were two letters for Sissie; one from her brother the bishop (dahling Willie) and one from deah Toby, the ex-majah, who was now assistant station-mawstah at Victorloo in London. For me there was one telegram.

We made for the Hotel Montesol, in the main square of Ibiza. There we sat at an outside table in the fleeting sunshine and sipped sweet coffee. I ripped open my telegram.

"GOOD DELIVERY JOB FOR YOU PLUS ONE MATE MALAGA STOP MEET ME HOTEL LA PRINCESA TEA TIME TUESDAY STOP SHINER."

"Good news, I hope, Skippah?" murmured Sissie, watching me anxiously. Always ripe for a touch of drama, was Sissie. She laid her hand on my arm.

"Yes, looks like it. Probably a boat delivery from Malaga. It's from my old mate Shiner Wright. He doesn't say how long it'll be, but I doubt if it will be more than a couple of days--at this time of year it's probably some nob wants his gin-palace taken to Gibraltar. So what about if you look after the boat and Nelson for me..." Nelson, at the sound of his name, bumped his tail against my leg under the table ... "and I'll split the delivery proceeds twenty-five, seventy-five with you when I get back."

Sissie squeezed my arm suddenly, like a bosun's mate grabbing a marlinspike. "Oh, dahling Skippah, thet won't be at all necessary--you know I'd do it anyway."

As she said this she noticed a Spanish cavalry officer passing along the street verge in front of the hotel, only six feet away from us. The officer was leading a beautiful white horse by its bridle. Sissie screwed up her Spithead-blue eyes, pursed her lips, and smiled at the horse. The cavalry officer leered lecherously at Sissie. A blue-overcoated, white-helmeted traffic policeman on the corner of the square, a dozen yards away from us, halted the traffic. The horse halted and, as the officer still returned Sissie's smiles with muy macho poses, the horse relieved its bowels right in front of a group of camera-aiming, Bermuda-shorted, Hawaii-shirted American tourists, who, after the first spluttered shocks, were hurled back, bespattered, all around our table.

The traffic, the macho officer, and the horse moved off again, and the Americans shouted for "more Kleenex, goddamit!" The non-English-speaking waiters merely stood and grinned politely. I gently lifted Sissie's hand from my arm. "Come on, mate, we'd better get our shopping done before this storm works up."

By noon we had all our morning chores completed onboard Cresswell and by twelve-thirty we were spruced up to go onboard the catamaran for lunch. This means that I had changed from my working jeans into my only other pair of pants--corduroys, which were reasonably clean, and Sissie had exchanged her seaboots for her ditchdigger's brogues, which were once again dry after the thorough scrubbing she had given them earlier that morning.

As we approached the catamaran, Sissie sang out, "Bellerophon ahoy, can we come aboard?"

Two voices replied from down below--the gruff, low voice and the high, choir-boy's voice. "Yes, do come, we're almost ready. And take off your shoes, please!"

Sissie and I clambered over one of the sterns of the catamaran and entered the spacious cabin, which extended almost the full beam of the boat--about sixteen feet. This, after Cresswell's cabin width of six feet, was a bit like comparing No. 10, Downing Street, with the White House.

Inside the cabin was a prospect I shall never forget. All around the windows there were chintz curtains, all flower-patterned with roses and such. On every horizontal surface, or so it seemed, there was a small vase decorated with plastic flowers, roses and such. The inside surfaces of the cabin were decorated with flowery wallpaper, all roses and such, while the cabin sole (or deck) was covered with a rose-patterned carpet. It was a bit like being in a flower-nursery greenhouse. There were roses everywhere.

As my senses recovered from the visual shock, I was now in for an aural shock. Billy, whose voice of course I immediately recognized, called up from inside the galley, which was lower than the main cabin, in one of the hulls.

"Welcome aboard, old chap," I heard him say. I turned, expecting to see a biggish, burly man of about thirty-five. Instead, to both Sissie's and my instant confusion, a most attractive woman of around twenty-eight or so, clad in a flowery dress--roses and such--tripped lightly up the small ladder, grabbed hold of Sissie (who later told me she was too astonished to move), kissed her on the cheek, and held her hand!

Billie had medium-length dark hair and beautiful blue eyes, and was very attractive indeed by any standards. Then Tony appeared. Instead of a choir-boy-like adolescent of about fifteen, which both Sissie and I expected to encounter, we were confronted by a slight, balding man of about forty-eight, wearing thick-rimmed spectacles and stooping with the weight of responsibilities which only captains know. (Either that or his sleeping berth was too short for his length, which was about six feet, two inches.)

After we had shaken hands with Tony and mouthed pleasantries, I again looked around the cabin of Bellerophon and saw then one of the strangest things I've ever come across in a small sailing craft. Fitted right across the forward end of the cabin was a full-scale, pedal-operated chapel organ, complete with pipes and stops, bellows and knobs, and all sorts of paraphernalia. I stared for a full two minutes at the organ, then turned to see Tony, his head bent as he stooped under the cabin roof, grinning hugely at me. "You like music, eh?" he asked.

"Well ... a bit of classical stuff. You know, Brahms, Beethoven, stuff like that," I replied.

Quickly Tony, who I now noticed had bird-like movements, sat himself down on the stool in front of the organ and started pedaling away at the bellows, all the while grinning at me. "You'll like this one," he said. "Always start the day off with this one." He stopped pedaling for a second or two. "Guess what it is?"

I tried to look nonplused; and so I was, not at Tony's question but by the whole lunatic-seeming scene. Here was a six-foot-odd giant with a choir-boy's voice, and a sister who sounded like a regimental sergeant-major and looked like a Hollywood star, sitting at an organ onboard the ugliest sailing vessel I had ever seen. I shook myself from my reverie. "You've got me," I said. "Handel's Water Music?"

Tony again commenced to pedal madly. Then he suddenly threw his head back, thrust his hands out in front of him, fingers outstretched and quivering with intensity. Violently he drew out some stops, stretched his arms out again, like a conjuror showing he has nothing up his sleeves, and plunged into the keyboard. As the notes blared out of the organ, both he, in his piping treble, and his sister Billie, in a fine, ringing bass, accompanied the music ... Rule Britannia!

Halfway through the first verse I turned to Sissie. She was still holding hands with Billie, who stood at attention as she bellowed out the words. Sissie was gazing at me in seeming adoration. Hardly able to stop myself from bursting out in hysterical laughter, I ambled over to one of the huge cabin windows, eased aside one of the chintz curtains, and stared out over the harbor of Ibiza, now rainswept again, and wondered how the devil anyone could ever have thought that I was slightly crazy.

When at last the organ stopped wheezing and groaning the overture, Billie and Sissie stepped down into the galley. Together, as Tony played a selection from "The Merry Widow," they prepared a delectably tasty lunch of pate, ham, and salad, with Spanish wine.

There was no more work done that day, either in Bellerophon or in Cresswell. All afternoon, after the dishes had been cleared up by Billie and Sissie, and as Tony the Specs huffed, pedaled, and pounded like mad on the organ, the women and I lounged in the spacious cabin of the catamaran in between hoisting full bottles of red and white wine out of the cool stowage in the bilge below the stainless steel galley sink, and adding to the pile of empty wine bottles just outside the cabin door.

During the afternoon we hailed all of our neighbors in the boats tied up at the town jetty. Several of them came onboard Bellerophon, ostensibly to listen to the organ music, but in reality to assist in easing the weight of fifty bottles of wine which, we all agreed, if left low in the boat would surely impair her ability to go efficiently to windward.

It was a cosmopolitan crowd that gathered. There was Willy the German; Rory O'Boggarty the Irish Writer, looking like a very young G.B. Shaw; two Italians, who could barely drag their eyes away from the lovely Billie; a Turkish doctor, who soon had Sissie oohing and aahing over the ancient Hittite civilization and the effects of too much freedom for women; a tall Dutch lady who had once been the lover of Gurdjieff (so she said--and she looked it); a short, benevolent-looking elderly gentleman, whom I later discovered owned a steel factory in Johannesburg which manufactured manacles for the South African government; and an internationally renowned Danish pop singer and his beautiful but very hard-faced wife. (There was something a little strange about both their "Danish" accents. I was later told that he was actually an ex-Nazi Hitler Youth and she was a retired whore from Surrey Hills, Sydney, Australia!)

To relieve the weight of this company there were also the Frenchman and the Finn who had rescued Sissie earlier that day from a death worse than fate. But as the evening came on, and Sissie busied herself washing fresh glasses for wine, the events of the morning were completely forgotten as the wind outside howled and the rain lashed down on Bellerophon's decks about us and above our heads, and the catamaran yawed and swerved to her anchor, and Tony the Specs still pedaled away at the ship's organ with demoniacal fury.

All the while this infernal scene was being played out, I was thinking about my forthcoming delivery job. I needed a mate to go with me. The only men present who might need to earn money were the Frenchman and the Finn. I broached the matter to both of them, separately. Neither of them wanted to come; the Frenchman was the skipper of a large Italian motor yacht and the Finn was a poet, "too busy writing."

After an hour's thought I hied myself over to the organ and sat at Tony's side. He was still pumping and playing and piping. Over the racket I asked him, "How long have you been sailing, Tony?"

He didn't look at me--he was too busy pulling and pushing stops. It was "Clair de Lune" now. "Oh, only eight months. We left England last year, but we wintered the boat over in France and rejoined her this spring at Sčte."

"Are you interested in a little sailing trip from Málaga to Gib?" I shouted over the roar and groan of the bass pipes.

He turned and questioned me with his owl-like eyes.

"I've got a delivery job. I have to go over to Málaga next week. I earn my living that way, you see ... and I need a mate, but no one else here wants to go, and the nearest mate I have, apart from Sissie, is Pete Kelly, and he's up in Monaco..."

Suddenly Tony stopped playing. There was a hush in the cabin. "Say no more. You helped us out; I'll help you out. Put my name down on your bally list, old chap. The cat'll be safe here..."

"And Sissie can lend Billie a hand if she needs it, and Nelson is a good guard dog..." I interjected.

"Yes, I'm all for a little side trip, and I love Gibraltar."

"Then it's a deal? I'll split the delivery fee with you, 40 for you and 60 for me, OK?"

Tony grabbed my hand and shook it violently. "Done, old chap."

Just as suddenly he turned back to the organ and, pumping for all he was worth, started another rendition of "Rule Britannia."

I turned toward Sissie, who was strenuously fending off the by-now amorous Turk. I nodded my head and winked. She at first raised her eyebrows, then smiled broadly.

Now all the women present were beautiful, elegant, and intelligent; all the men were handsome, debonair, and witty--and only one bottle of wine remained. Soon that, too, was in the pile of empties, placed there gently and precisely by the Finnish poet, who had to be supported by Gurdjieff's ex-lover, who in turn was supported by Willie the German and Rory O'Boggarty, the savant Son of Erin.

The following Tuesday morning, Tony and I caught the rackety Iberia Dakota plane from Ibiza to Valencia, then another Dakota to the great port-city of Málaga, and made our way in the late afternoon to the Hotel La Princesa.

If either of us had had any idea, any inkling, of what lay ahead of us, we would have caught the first plane back to Ibiza. I might have been forewarned by the following Halloween episode, which occurred shortly before our departure...?


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