Meadows of Fantasy
FANDOM IS BESET BY PIRATES
"DO ME A favour, Mine?" asked Owen.
"Mm-hm. Depends what is is."
"When Helmine becomes officially Warlockess of Wenlock, get her to send the Princess Carmine to Moland so that Prince Owen can have a chance at her."
Mine pinched together the surplus cloth at Owen's waist, and made a couple of quick chalk-marks on the fabric. "When Helmine becomes officially Walockess of Wenlock -- have to think of a better title than that -- the Princess Carmine will get married to Eodor, the Wenlockish ambassador to Minland," she returned thoughtfully.
"Huh?" said owen. "Wouldn't have thought those two had much opportunity for getting to know one another."
"Their paths first crossed in a sandstorm in the middle of the Karelian Desert," Mine improvised. "They were both on the way back to their respective homelands to report at the time and they spent three passionate hours -- I mean days -- together with no chaperon other than a our-humped camel named Baca. They met again on the return journey, and plighted -- plought -- plighted -- their undying troth. Turn around." Owen obliged. "When Helmine goes to live permanently in Wenlock, Carmine will of course have to return to Minland as regent. Wenlock will still require an ambassador to the palace of Minehall, so there out to be ample opportunities for the two of them from then on." She carefully unwound the piece of cloth and draped it over a chair.
"Right," she called. "who's next for a fitting?"
It was the millenniary of Thisbury's original charter as a borough, and all over town similar activity was taking place as the citizens prepared to celebrate one thousand years of corporate history in appropriate style. The climax of the festival was to be a pageant, with everybody in authentic Anglo-Saxon-type costume for the occasion. Much trouble was being taken over this. Every week the 'Echo' printed a double-page spread of material approved by the pageant's directory -- who was also the curator of the local museum: typical tenth-century costume, props, and backgrounds. (This, incidently, had acted as a useful if temporary shot in the arm for the paper's circulation.) The director was determined to get everything as completely authentic as it could be made -- mechanically-propelled vehicles were ruled out of order as a matter of course, for instance, and just about every horse in the county had been booked for the Day. And the Thisbury and District Science Fiction Circle was officially entering a float in the parade.
It had been Owen's idea originally. Cynthia had promptly poured scorn on it, with remarks about authentic Anglo-Saxon rocket ships. "Well," Bert had put in, "they have Viking rockets..." Then Dave had got on to something. "No," he had said -- "the idea of the pageant is supposed to be for everybody to sort of portray what their equivalents have been? What would the sort of people we are have done in those days?"
He had a point there, it had been conceded. Of course, the analogy was not to be pursued too far -- for one thing, the sort of heroic fantasy that fans often particularly enjoy was no minority matter then but was the nearest thing to popular fiction that they had. From the strictly sf angle, there were distinct possibilities -- no doubt some people have always dreamed of the future. Whilst specifically interplanetary travel was maybe a bit far-fetched, flight in general was the sort of thing that tenth-century Wellses or Gernsbacks might have speculated upon. then communications -- ways, perhaps, of making one's voice travel further, which in those days of horse and beacon would have been a boon indeed. Even more elementary, perhaps, but no less stefnic to Anglo-Saxon minds, would be the horseless carriage itself.
"That's easy," said Cynthia -- who had now been converted. "A handcart. Or a wheelbarrow. Bert could push it."
"Better still," Dave had suggested, "Bert could sit on it. then we could just push it down to the Meadows and duck barrow and Duckbarrow simultaneously."
"No," Bert had promptly come back with. "You should sit on it ,Dave -- you're Portable."
The general idea of fannish participation had been agreed to, and Dave had been delegated to ask the pageant director about it. Rather to his surprise, the director had been just as enthusiastic as any of them. "Do you know," he asked Dave, "that that's the first idea of any originality that's been suggested? I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to do everybody's thinking for them. The local Master Builders' Federation want to march past in costume carrying antique trowels and adzes and things. The Girls' High School want to file past dressed as Anglo-Saxon schoolgirls -- at least their headmistress wants them to, which is the same thing. All very historical and instructive no doubt -- but so uniformly unenterprising as to depress me. Then there's the Townswomen's Guild. They want to enter a float on the theme 'Women Could Make It -- Then As Now.' I'm keeping a careful eye on them-I have the strongest suspicion that they're going to try and pass off some of the most outrageous anachronisms in the name of group-participation, and they'll do that over my dead body. Your idea sounds entirely reasonable -- go right ahead, and I'll give you any help I can, and thank you very much indeed for coming forward."
So the project got under way.
And Mine was sewing costumes.
At last came the day. All the week there had been a succession of concerts, public speeches, specially-arranged sports events (some with a contrivedly archaic flavor that would have sent the museum curator up the wall had they fallen within her province) and the like. And now it was Saturday, and the spirit of carnival was abroad. Even a lot of the shops had closed for the week-end at midday, and the scattered elements of the grand procession assembled themselves ready for the off.
There were ten people participating in the S.F. Circle entry. There would probably have been more but for rival commitments, either within Thisbury or elsewhere. Dick, for instance, was now an undergraduate at Sidoup College, Oxford, and was not replying to letters. Harry the First had recently been elected to the Borough Council and would be marching amongst his fellow-councillors at the head of the procession. Tom was wanted by his wife for some reason. Still, ten wasn't a bad turnout. Six of the ten were, of course, the standard sextet of Dave, Owen, Ian, Bert, Mine and Cynthia, augmented on this occasion by Harry the Second, Russ Harbottle and Jean, and a newcomer, Geoff McNab. All the males now sprouted full beards -- in common with many other townfolk -- and Owen, for one, had declared his intention of keeping his.
The exhibit itself was mounted on a long narrow cart, pulled by two stalwart carthorses. In charge of them was a young woman of perhaps twenty, costumed as became a female waggoner of the tenth century. Her name was Shirley Gould and she lived at Laymans Cross, which is as much as one needs to know about her. Temporary stabling for all the horses had been fixed up at one end of Galley Meadows, which was to be the scene of the final review and subsequent jollification, so the Turtle was ideally situated as a base for loading up prior to moving to the assembly point the other side of town. The Nullgray Mouser looked on with a sardonic eye -- although it didn't quite know what to make of the horses, it was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt so long as they refrained from actually boarding the vessel. Theo Trunkard saw the wagon off -- he had come down for the week-end, although he declined to participate in the event itself. Barker could ride in the procession of he pleased (which naturally he did) -- Theo preferred to exercise his visitor's right to see the whole show as a spectator. Owen shot him with his camera as the cartload of assorted props and fans moved jerkily over the uneven turf of the Meadows and merged into the distance.
The procession that marched and rumbled off at two p.m. sharp was divided into three sections, each headed by a band. The first section comprised the Corporation and the various trades and professions, the second section was devoted to clubs and societies, and the third section was for schools. The director had had a good bit of trouble over the bands, and had laid down that sound rather than appearance was to be the criterion for the inclusion or exclusion of any particular instrument. All modern brass instruments were out -- about the only one which possibly bore any tonal relevance to the period was a hunting or coaching horn, which was not a band instrument. Wooden flutes and recorders were the staple, with a trio of bagpipes in a band of their own. Guitars -- strictly unamplified of course -- and mandolins were permitted on the grounds that the Anglo-Saxons had almost certainly had string instruments that might reasonably be supposed to have sounded similar. Side-drums there were, covered in assorted fabrics to disguise the modern appearance.
The clubs-and-societies procession was headed by the pipe band -- the three pipers with a couple of drummers. Behind the band walked the Sea Scouts, decked out as sailors -- not simply as Anglo-Saxon sailors, but as sailors from far and near who might have turned up at a small river-port not far from the coast. The variety of their costuming was extremely effective. They had with them a couple of non-floating mock-ups of small boats, that were pushed on handcarts, and every sailor carried an oar over his shoulder. the S.F. Circle's cart followed immediately behind the Sea Scouts, they being in turn followed by The amateur Dramatic Society's float. with a tableau representing Thor and the Devil cowering before a cross-wielding friar. Other floats -- the allotment-holders, the Townswomen's Guild, the United Nations Association and so on -- followed behind ad infinitum.
At the front of the S.F. Circle cart, just behind the girl driver, stood Bert Duckbarrow, resplendent in huge leather bird-shaped wings that he flapped as fetchingly as the period would reasonably allow, supported his arms on either side. Behind him, reaching over his head, was a gigantic three-stage megaphone into which Harry the Second intermittently bawled various gibberish. Due to the law of diminishing returns or something a three-stage megaphone was no more noticeably effective than an ordinary one-stage model would have been -- but it looked and sounded good. Behind harry was an equally non-functional arrangement of large toothed wheels that Dave, Owen and Ian by turns kept revolving. And finally as a tailpiece, following the cart, was a long specially-built wheelbarrow pushed by Russ Harbottle and Geoff McNab, in which sat Jean waving aloft a pole with a notice that read HORSELESS CARRIAGE Mk. I. Further notices on the megaphone barrel and on a banner overhead proclaimed the identity of the Circle and the nature of the entry. The notices were all in plain block lettering with standard spelling, as laid down by the director -- true Anglo-Saxon was obviously useless for the purpose, and fake archaisms were prohibited.
And to the skill of the bagpipe trio the procession rumbled its slow way through the crowded streets of Thisbury.
Barker wandered forward and laid his head on the driver's shoulder. the girl looked around.
"It's all right," Mine reassured her. "he won't hurt you."
"Oh, I don't mind dogs," said Shirley Gould, when she'd seen who was touching her. "Prefer horses though." And she turned back to her driving. Presently Barker rose and placed his forepaws on her shoulders, to get a grandstand view of the marking Sea Scouts or something. Harry the Second noticed him.
"Here, boy," he encouraged. "Come and earn your keep."
Barker dropped back to the deck and ambled amiably round to Harry. Harry told him "Up," and the dog placed his front paws where indicated. "Good boy. Now say a few words to the audience."
Barker uttered an experimental amplified "woof" into the three-stage megaphone, pondered for a moment on the result, decided it was rather effective, and did it again.
"You can see he's a born orator," said Ian, as Owen levelled his camera oblivious of Dave's peremptory gesture.
"Woof (amplified)" said Barker.
"Get that anachronism out of sight," said Dave.
"Woof (amplified)" Barker repeated.
"Here," said Owen, as he re-stowed his camera. "let's try him on the treadmill."
Dave surrendered his place at the controls of the non-functional machine, and guided Barker's paw to the treadle. Barker soon got the idea, and though he didn't seem to see much point in it, he kept it up for a couple of minutes to oblige his friends. After that he knocked off without waiting for permission, turned around, put his forepaws up on the megaphone-stand again and woofed loudly into it simultaneously with a gibberish announcement from Harry the Second, to the latter's momentary consternation.
"Sing a duet," Owen suggested.
"OK," said Harry. "Ready, boy? One -- two -- Kimmeries a sunny jim ("Woof") cool sling ("Woof") duckoo ("Woof"), koo ith sled an' ("Woof") iddis bed an' haggis rooly goo." ("Woof. Woof. Woof")
"Cool, man," said Ian appreciatively. "Just dig that bird-dog."
Owen, meanwhile, had caught sight of something behind the crowd ahead. He attracted Dave's attention.
"That", whatever it was, chose that moment to let forth with a brief pip on a motor-horn. The crowd in front of it looked round and edged away, and the S.F. Circle was able to get a good look at it. It comprised a small pick-up lorry, heavily draped, with a large rocket-ship model upright on the back and several men standing around it in very smart-looking spacesuits. A banner across the front, in the forbidden ye-olde-type lettering, proclaimed
Everybody spoke at once, or almost.
"But they can't..." "but that's..." "it's all..." "What the hell do they..." "Does the..."
"What are they trying to do?" Dave demanded of no-one in particular. "Collide?" He moved forward to stand behind the girl driver. She had seen the interloper, but had made no move to check or alter the placid forward movement of the cart. For a moment, indeed, it seemed as if the truck was intent on colliding with the S.F. Circle wagon as they came abreast of it. But it swung round parallel to them, and for a space the two vehicles continued along the none too wide thoroughfare side by side.
Dave leaned across to the nearest spaceman.
"What the hell's all this?" he asked.
The spaceman said nothing. For a moment Dave wondered if it was a dummy, then deicded it wasn't. Nevertheless, for all the good he seemed to be doing, it might have been. Then Mine, abandoning Bert's left arm, was beside him.
"They're trying to overtake," she opined.
"To hell with that for a lark," said Dave. "Can the girl hold our own?"
"I'll ask her." Mine moved round again. Owen, Ian, Harry and Barker all ranged along the left-hand side of the wagon, ready to support Dave in anything that seemed to require it. The pirate float was unmistakably trying to cut in now, but Shirley Gould nonchalantly held her team steady and it remained stalemate. Away in front the pipe band still wailed undauntedly forth. And then all of a sudden there was a commotion in the crowd right of the procession, and iut erupted a small army of hisute skin-clad figures. Cynthia was the first to spot them, and she lost no time in calling the others.
The skin-clad figures -- there might have been ten or twenty of them, it was difficult to tell at first glance -- seemed to hesitate, uncertain of the next move. Then -- "Yes, I think so," one of them was heard to say, and they came swarming. the defending forces transferred their attention from port to starboard. the savages whooped, brandished the ugly-looking clubs that they carried, and started to climb aboard the wagon. The defenders promptly pushed them off again. Cynthia stepped coolly on the fingers of one who tried to assail the starboard bow -- not hard, just enough to make him let go. He fell off in a hurry, nearly falling under the wheel, but a comrade dragged him clear. Barker, Dave noticed, seemed to have acquired a chunk of false hair from somewhere.
"Here, what's all this?" came a high carrying tenor above the general sounds of the melee. "Cut it out, you lot. Go away at once." It was the scoutmaster, Mr. Horton, splendidly attired as a blond-bearded sea-captain of old, come at the head of most of his troop to intervene. Dave let his breath out, spared a glance at the pirate float. This had taken the opportunity to push into the procession in the spot vacated by the Scouts. he didn't get it. It all seemed so utterly pointless. And what connection had skin-clad savages with a space-rocket?
"What's your college?" asked one of the savages of the Scouts.
"That is none of your business," said Mr. Horton. "Go away."
"Let's get 'em," a savage suggested, and the whole band advanced menacingly upon the Sea Scouts. "Steady, lads," said Mr. Horton over his shoulder. One of the savages took the opportunity to bring down his club on Mr. Horton's head. He may have struck harder than he intended, or Mr. Horton's headgear may have been less solid than it looked, but Mr. Horton promptly slumped to the ground. The savages seemed temporarily at a loss, and made no objection when two of the Sea Scouts picked their skipper up and lifted him bodily aboard the wagon, where the S.F. Circle ministered to him. This left the savages face to face with the sailors. The savages were armed with clubs. The sailors, however, were armed with oars -- and in a mood to use them. "Be prepared!" sang out a coal-black sailor (in real life a coal black Sea Scout), raising his weapon aloft with a flash of white teeth. The savages fell back, muttering among themselves.
All this time, Russ and Geoff had continued to push Jean along in the wheelbarrow, for want of anything better to do. They weren't at all sure what was going on, but no alternative course had so far seemed to indicate itself. Now, however, they turned to take evasive action as one of the savages said "Let's get the dame," and the gang moved in on them.
"Up here," said Dave. "Quick." He was standing at the tail of the wagon. he have a hand to Jean, and in a trice she was aboard. Dave made a split-second judgement. "now the barrow," he decided. There was time -- just. The two youths handed the thing over the tail, then swarmed over themselves. The Sea Scouts, too, were swarming aboard. The wagon was now distinctly crowded, but the horses responded nobly and never faltered in their steady plod. Sea Scouts and fans took their stations all round, ready to repel boarders from whichever direction they might materialise. And gradually the situation stabilised itself. The pipe band still led boldly, followed by a half-dozen of the Sea Scouts with their two handcarts. then came the pirate float, then the S.F. Circle wagon, the savages in a bunch followed the wagon at a discreet distance, and the Amateur Dramatic Society and the others continued as before.
Dave wormed his way up to the front of the wagon again, and laid his hand on Shirley Gould's shoulder.
"How you doing?" he asked. "OK?"
"Bit of a load," she said. "What's going on, anyway -- or shouldn't I ask?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Dave. "Looks like an organised attempt to break up this part of the procession -- though I can't imagine why. Anyway, I think I see a way out. Can you follow the band -- wherever they go?"
The girl nodded. "if the cart will go through."
"Fair enough." Dave gave her shoulder a squeeze, and moved back down the wagon again. Mine looked at him interrogatively.
"Don't look now," he told her "- but I think I see a chance."
Mr. Horton was now sitting up, wearing a somewhat dazed expression and rubbing his head. Dave spoke a few urgent words to him. Mr. Horton nodded, and clambered unsteadily to his feet, a Sea Scout supporting him.
"What are you trying to do, Dave?" Mine asked as Dave squatted beside her.
"I want to try to turn the procession into the Puritan's Arms yard. Mr. Horton's an expert with the megaphone -- he's just the man for the job."
"Well. Either the pirate float goes in too, or it stays outside. If it goes in, then it'll have to come out the same way again -- it's too high for the arch at the end. If it carries on along the road, then it'll be isolated and the marshals or somebody can deal with it at their leisure."
"And the wild men?"
"I'm not sure -- but I've a hunch that they're somehow connected with the float. That's what I'm banking on, anyway. The float is the key piece -- I hope." He rose again and stood by the megaphone. He judged the distances ahead.
"Ready, Mr. Horton?"
"Right then -- now."
Mr. Horton took a breath, put a hand on the mouthpiece to steady himself. "Baaaaand -- aaaand -- draaaahms... laaaaaft -- wheel!" the last word came out in a short sharp squeak. Dave looked ahead anxiously. Would they respond? Technically they would be perfectly justified in taking no notice -- in which case the uneasy status quo would probably last all the way to the Meadows. His heart sank -- they didn't seem to. Then one drummer wheeled round smartly. That was enough. the others took his lead, and the crowd parted ranks as the five-piece band marched through them into the open end of the inn yard.
"Follow the band, lads," sang out Mr. Horton through the megaphone. "Follow the band!" The two handcarts obediently followed in the pipers' wake.
Now came the turn of the pirate float.
Momentarily, the float made as if to follow the handcarts. Then it wavered, as if the driver suspected that he was being led into a trap, and turned back again into the direct line of march. Shirley Gould swung her horses to the left, and the wagon turned into the yard. Dave looked anxiously back at the savages now. What would they do? They seemed to be unsure of themselves. They looked at the pirate float, then at the S.F. Circle wagon, then back at the pirate float again.
"That's them!" declared one of the savages suddenly.
"Let down their tyres!" shouted another.
And next moment the whole gang had broken into a run and was swooping on the pirate float. The legitimate displays were free and intact. Another pair of horses was entering the yard now -- it was the amateur Dramatic float. Dave called to Shirley Gould to woah her team.
"Right, Mr. Horton," he said as the wagon ground to a halt. "I suggest that you take the opportunity to re-form your squad. I'd be obliged, though if you yourself would be so good as to stay aboard until we get back on course." he was not deliberately guying the scoutmaster by addressing him thus -- it just seemed the obvious way to express things in the circumstances.
"Aye-aye, sir," Mr Horton responded readily, and at his word, the Sea Scouts promptly abandoned ship again and marched off after their handcarts.
"Away all wheelbarrows," sang out Dave, and the tailpiece of the Circle's exhibit was restored to its rightful station. "Driver -- forward!" and the horses, now relieved of much of their previous burden, plodded through the low arch and continued on their way.
Some ten minutes later, the wagon swung back on to the official route once more. there was no sign of either the pirate float or the savages. Behind followed the Amateur Dramatic Society, the Townswomen's Guild, and all the other club-and-society entries. Bert flapped his wings energetically. Barker woofed happily into the three-stage megaphone. Ian pumped the treadle of the non-functional machine. Before them the Sea Scouts marched proudly, each bearing his oar. The band came to the end of a number, and the procession continued to the roll of the two drums.
Thisbury Fandom had come through with flying colours, and everybody was happy. Particularly Owen, who had a full record of the proceedings on film. Both the 'Echo' and the 'County Gazette' would be very interested in what he had to offer them.
The wagon debouched at last on to the Meadows, paraded past the judging stand, and joined the huddle of entries that had already arrived. The rest of the club-and-society entries crowded in on top of it, the schools procession duly arrove, the judges retired to consider their verdict over a couple of crates of appropriate refreshment, and then it was time for the prizegiving. "I am going to call out the names of the prizewinners," the announcer bumbled over the echoing loudspeakers. "Would each exhibit please proceed straight to the judging stand as it is called. I will repeat that..."
The first prize, amid loud and enthusiastic applause, went to the float from the Over-Sixties Club, which duly moved forward to receive the trophy and paraded round the perimeter to sustained huzzahs. The second prize went to the Sea Scouts, who, Mr. Horton striding proudly at their head, marched their handcarts across and then round as the old people had done. And then the third prizewinner was announced -- the Licensed Victuallers' Association float. "Who paid for the drinks?" somebody called as they moved out to follow in the wake of the Sea Scouts.
The Thisbury and District Science Fiction Circle heaved a collective sigh.
"Nobody loves us," said Owen. "Still, it's been fun and all that jazz."
"Well, I ask you," put in Cynthia "- how could they possibly have given us a prize when you were waving your pet anachronism blatantly in their faces as we went past?"
"Yes, Owen," added Mine. "You might at least have lain down out of sight with it if you wanted to get a picture."
"The camera cannot lie," Bert intoned.
The Licensed Victuallers completed the circuit, and the arena was momentarily deserted. Then the loudspeaker blared into echoing life again. "That was the prizewinners," it bumbled. "There are also a couple of special commendations. Would they please come to the stand as their names are called. I will repeat that..."
"Too late," said Ian. "The acoustics have beaten him to it."
The first of the special commendations went to the children of the Joseph and Mary Convent School in an entirely secular representation of a troupe of child entertainers. The children's float moved over to the judges; stand amid applause.
"and now..." bumbled the loudspeaker.
"The Townswomen's Guild," said Mine.
"The Thisbury and District Science Fiction Circle," the announcer corrected her.
This was something, anyway. Heartened by this late egoboo, the participants took their places on the wagon which moved out into the arena. Owen managed to remain reasonably concealed as he photographed the stand this time. Dave stepped forward to shake hands with the president of the judging panel -- the local M.P., Mr. Martin St. Martin -- and receive the scroll, the wagon paraded round the perimeter -- and the show as over until it was time for the evening fireworks and ox-roast.
An hour or so later, Theo dropped down the Turtle's ladder into the clubroom. It was occupied by Dave, Cynthia and Barker, the last of whom thumped his tail a couple of times in lazy greeting to his partner. The Nullgray Mouser, still somewhat apprehensive of Barker alebeit needlessly, was safely in position on top of the bookcase. Dave and Cynthia were still in costume -- costumes were to be worn all evening by special request. Theo had hardly had time to sink into a convenient chair when there were footsteps on the gangway, and a knock on the hatch.
It was the pageant director cum museum curator, who was readily welcomed aboard. Dave sat him down and poured him a drink. There was plenty on hand, it having been laid on for consumption that evening. The whole Circle would be there, including Tom. Shirley Gould had also accepted an invitation to attend -- although she admitted that she had not the slightest interest in science fiction. "Unless there are horses in it of course," she had added as an afterthought.
"I've come to give a personal word of thanks for the effort your lot took," said the director. "I'm sorry you didn't get a proper prize -- still, you had some stiff competition I'm happy to say. And also I'd like to apologize for the bit of extra-curricular activity in which you were involved. I understand you kept your heads in most praiseworthy fashion."
"Er -- it was the Sea Scouts more than us," said Dave, and watched Cynthia's face -- she was sitting behind the director -- go quietly deadpan. "We were just along for the ride."
"So I understand," said the director. "I've just been speaking to Mr. Horton about it. He surprises me, that man -- certainly has a cool head for an emergency."
Dave agreed. "By the way," he asked. "What was it? -- we're dying to know."
"Students from Oxford, so I'm given to understand," the director told him. "An unruly lot at the best of times. I'm a Cambridge man myself of course."
Oxford. That rang a bell. Dick was at Oxford. Dick seemed hardly the type to organise a students' rag. There might be a connection though...
They afterwards learned that Dick had been the unwitting cause of the trouble. He had talked about his town's millenniary celebrations to his fellow-undergraduates, and some of them had conceived the idea of gatecrashing the proceedings. Now Sidcup College, as any Oxford man will tell you, is situated next door to Boswell College, and the two colleges have a tradition of undergraduate rivalry going right back to the middle ages. Sidcup's plans had somehow leaked -- or, more probably, been leaked -- to Boswell, and the latter institution was thus morally bound to take a hand itself. So the two gatecrashing parties had taken shape. Sidcup had smuggled in the space-rocket float, and attempted to crash the procession at what seemed the appropriate point. Boswell had chosen to represent the tenth century B.C. rather than A.D., and their main objective had been to sabotage the Sidcup float. The two adjacent sf-slanted displays had confused them, and they had picked on the wrong one. The Sea Scouts prompt rallying to the aid of their allies had confused them still more. Dave's happy idea of arranging for the procession to excrete the Sidcup float had finally straightened everything out, the Boswell savages had demolished the Sidcup float, and both groups of students had made a successful getaway in the confusion, leaving onl the (hired) pickup lorry standing with flattened tyres amid the debris.
"I still think you ought to have taken the credit for what you did, Dave," Cynthia told him after the director had departed. "It's a shame to see that ninny of a nincompoop grab all the credit for simply doing what he was told."
"He did bring his boys to our rescue," Dave pointed out.
"What's all this?" asked Theo, interested. "Somebody been stealing our egoboo?"
"No," said Dave. "We're giving it away free. It's our good deed for the day."
"Well, the Sea Scouts are our friends -- and they can always do with that sort of publicity. Whereas it doesn't really matter to fandom either way."
"We didn't even get a proper prize thought," Cynthia lamented.
"So what? We kept our exhibit intact, so that anybody who would have benefited by seeing it got a chance to see it. That's the main thing. You must learn to take a fannish view of things. Theo'll agree with me anyway."
"Of course," Theo duly agreed. "So will Cynth when she begins to grow up."
Cynthia put her tongue at him. "By the way," she changed the subject. "As you're here, you might as well put your great brain to work on Dave's problem."
"What -- another one?" Theo asked.
Dave explained. "I'm trying to straighten out an incipient anomaly. Master David of Port Able has just brought his flagship safely to port through pirate-infested waters. Now this he has accomplished largely by the magnificent display of seamanship that is only to be expected of the High Admiral and Merchant-General of the Free City. However, he has been rendered valuable assistance by a mysterious fleet of small-boat mariners knows as the Watchers -- or possibly the Observers -- of the Ocean Ways. Now the point is -- how can they be most conveniently accounted for?"
Theo leaned back in his chair.
"Now let's see," he mused. "In which direction was Turlang last seen heading?"
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