The Pirates confused but Tom Captured
HISSING – DO YOU HEAR IT?
While Jasper was still wandering futilely around his chosen part of Summerdale, Rathbone’s pirates had reached Tumblegill wool mill. By now the Jimsonweed Tripper tea was starting to take effect and whilst some were still going vaguely forward, most were lurching in the general direction of side to side. Only the horse pulling the cart seemed totally sober.
‘Ain’t that nice man? Dem flowers am waving to us.’
‘On top of dat wall.’
‘You been on the ganja again? They’re birds, flapping their wings.
‘Stay cool man, them’s flowers… aren’t they?’
‘They’re birds I tell you. Funny colours they are though. Still, at least they aren’t nosy, crap plopping seagulls.’
‘That one is – on the roof. That’s funny…’
‘What is Morry?’
‘Vada the roof -its rippling, or me orbs are going…’
‘Don’t be daft. Whoops!’
‘Felt a bit giddy then. Anyway, let’s get to work.’
‘Pigs been ‘ere.’
‘How do you know, Eustace?’
‘My foot found out. And my nose.’
‘Never mind that. Kick the door in. Oh… It’s swinging open already. ‘
‘Must be the wind.’
‘What wind? Them mill sails aren’t even moving.’
‘What’s it matter? Let’s get inside and get looting. ‘
Tumblegill Mill had been added to through the ages. The miller’s empty home was on one side of a very large beamed hall which separated it from the mill tower and storage rooms. It was very dark inside the hall, and the pirates peered about in the gloom.
‘Wassat noise? Sounds like hissing.’
‘I can’t hear nothing. Must be the wind.’
‘I keep telling you – there is no wind. Put up those blinds – get some light in here. That’s better.’
‘You’re right. There is no wind. Look at those bits of mist drifting about.’
‘That’s not mist. They’re fairy farts. This place is bewitched.’
‘Don’t talk rubbish. Where’s your bottle?’
‘Empty. I’ve run out of rum. Had hoped to find some more by now. Or at least some local hooch.’
‘I still feel giddy.’
‘My eyes are going funny.’
‘I can still hear a hissing noise – must be me ears playing up.’
‘I think I’m having one of my turns.’
‘Well, there’s nothing in this hall. What’s behind these other doors?’
‘Nothing here. Oh yes there is, it’s a blooming snake!’
‘That’s not a snake, it’s a bit of rope.’
‘There’s nothing in here either, except another bit of rope.’
‘This room’s empty too, apart from rope.’
‘Them ropes is wriggling.’
‘No they’re not… Are they?’
‘They’re snakes, I tell you. They’re all over the place.’
‘They’re only bits of rotteny rope, you pillock.’
‘He sees ‘em, I hears ‘em. There is something hissing I tell you.’
‘See that long beam that goes right across the hall roof?’
‘What about it?’
‘Well, there’s another beam on top of it, a round one, like a tree trunk.’
‘So there is. And it bends – goes right up to the roof.’
‘Er, yes.. and down to the floor in the corner.’
‘Must be fifty foot long, that double bent beam…’
‘At least fifty foot. More like fifty five.’
‘Wonder why it’s painted with all those bright stripes an’ that?’
‘I wonder. And, er, the bit down by the floor is very like a head I fancy…’
‘Er, yes, so it is. And is it my eyes going funny again or is it starting to move?’
‘Er, no, I do believe you’re right this time. That long, thick, double bent fifty foot length of painted beam is definitely on the move.’
‘Now that is a snake, isn’t it?’
‘Oh, yes. I think we can agree there – no doubt about it. That’s a snake – mother and grandmother of all snakes by the look of it.’
‘I told you I heard a hissing.’
‘Not much point in firing at it I suppose?’
‘Not a lot – only aggravate it. Don’t move too quick.. Just shuffle, very gently…towards the door…
‘Hissssss… Ribbit !.. Hisssss!…’ said the snake, its forked tongue shooting in and out of its mouth and its great jaws snapping as it slowly started to slither across the floor.
‘Aaargh!’ screamed the pirates, and fled.
Now the mill was left in peace, the flowers on the wall no longer waving in the autumn sunshine, the main door lying with broken hinges in the yard (well, there was rather a crush during the escape), and Arnold the toad squatting on the doorstep with a rather smug expression on his face.
He always enjoyed the occasional swig of Paragon’s Patent Metamorphosis Mixture.
* * *
At Goldcaster Town Hall the Professor’s party had rather roughly bundled their captured pirates into one of the much utilised cellars in the basement.
The Gullnet was working well. Doctor Johnson and Fastnet had been informed about the success so far, and the Professor now knew that there were no pirates near the brewhouse and Umbrage and Barney then went with the heaviest horses to harness up the brewer’s dray so that they could carry off the bells and replace them in the church. The brewery was close by a crystal clear stream on the north slopes of the town and so was some way from the forge.
On Jasper’s instructions Speke had had the bells brought out of the forge and they were now laid in the road, covered by a tarpaulin, awaiting the building of a raft to transport them to the ship.
The seagulls had already reported that only two pirates were guarding them, and Professor Paragon was going to use the same plan as before, the armoured traction engine coming one way whilst other members of their force attacked from a different direction. As he and the rest of his party, some of them now armed with the captured pirates pistols, headed for the forge it seemed that all should go according to his plan.
Unfortunately no prisoners were to be captured this time.
The pirate whose foot had been run over as they drove into the town had painfully limped down towards the Town Hall. He had been too late to warn his comrades there, but hidden behind a tree he had seen them overcome.
Off he had limped again, now up to the Forge, cursing under his breath, but this time arriving before the Professor’s party. Because the Forge was some way from the Town Hall, the two guards there had not realised that the town was being recaptured. Now warned by their sore footed friend, and since they were obviously outnumbered by the townsfolk who had returned to Goldcaster, they decided to try and get back to their ship and warn the Quartermaster.
Wary of any of the attackers who might be about, the furtive three set off towards the harbour…
* * *
Even though only two pirates had to be overcome, Tom had been very clearly told to keep away from the forge. Left out of the action he idly kicked a stone along the gutter outside the Town Hall.
He wondered what the pirates on the Black Leopard might be doing. There would be no harm in going down to the harbour and having a look, as long as he was careful. He would be sure to keep out of sight.
He was taking a short cut down a narrow alley when an arm shot out from a gap between two buildings and grabbed him.
‘Gotcha!’ said the pirate, one of the three hunched in a dark doorway.
‘Ouch!’ said Tom.
‘Do ye ken who I am, laddie?’ asked his captor.
‘Er, no.’ gulped Tom.
‘I’m Foul Carnage MacCroon, the terror of Glen Groanin. Some people call me deranged. What are you going to call me, laddie?’
‘Er, how about “Sir”, Mr Deranged?’
‘Are you mocking me, boy?’
‘Oh, no sir, certainly not sir. I didn’t know they had pirates in Scotland.’
‘Och aye, the very worst, ye wee sassenach scrivit, ye. We creep up the creeks and lurk in the lochs, and reek our revenge.’
‘Revenge for what sir?’
‘I’ve forgotten. Dinna change the subject. How did ye ken I was from Scotland?’
‘Oh, just a hunch, sir.’
‘Bright little critter, ain’t he, Carnage?’
‘Aye, mebbe. Ye would’na know anything about running over my last good foot with a giant wheeled machine, would you, laddie?’
Tom shook his head vigorously. ‘That must have been painful sir. And your friends have been hurt as well?’ This was a reasonable assumption since one was leaning on a crutch and the other had a bandage around his neck and plasters on his hands.
For the three pirates Tom was a very welcome bonus. His recapture might keep Sir Jasper’s inevitable rage down to a tolerable level.
‘Now see you pal, ye know the score, we’ve had ye before. One squeak and we’ll throttle ye, an’ then ah’ll rip yer heid off by the way. Ah’m no kidding – D’ye hear what ah’m saying?’
Tom nodded his head, hard, several times. They then went down to the harbour, Tom secured by a great hairy hand clutching his collar, and the three pirates shuffling, lurching, and limping along as best they could.
As they came on to the quay the Quartermaster, with Steelclaw, Blackheart, Spud Tadmartin, and the Cook were approaching in the long boat, intending to join the others and start work on the raft. The three pirates with Tom bundled him aboard.
‘Back Mr Speke, we must go back! The griswolds have recaptured the town, hundreds of them there are. They’ve got a great armoured fighting machine… There’s skin and hair flying everywhere.’
Cursing, Speke abandoned his task, and they all rowed off back to the Black Leopard again as fast as possible.