CHAPTER TWENTY TWO: A WHOLE RAFT OF ADVENTURE (PART THREE)
Continued from Chapter 22 Part 2.
We continued on downstream for some hours, uneventfully. I tied a fishing line round my toe and placed a lure into the water, with my straw hat on my head and a corn cob pipe in my mouth. Soon enough, I caught a fish which we ate for dinner that night when we dropped anchor.
The next morning we set off again. A fog had descended and clung to the water so we couldn’t see any farther than our noses. Old Man Phelps’ nose is quite flat, and my nose is quite small, so as you can imagine, we couldn’t see that far at all. I decided to play a trick on Old Man. I let a roar out of me and splashed the water with my foot, before crawling into the centre of the raft and keeping quiet.
Old Man shouted:
“Paddy? Fallen in the water have you?” He scrambled over to where he reckoned I’d fallen into the water. “Oh God no!” I could barely see him make the Sign of the Cross on his chest. He watched the waters as best he could for an hour until I shouted
“Here I am!”
I stood up and grabbed him.
“Playing a trick on me were you?” he said.
“I was,” I replied.
Old Man Phelps looked hurt and affronted.
“Don’t do that again,” Old Man said.
“Sorry,” I apologised, feeling a little bit bashful.
The fog followed us down the river and we arrived at a small cove in which we deemed it a good idea to set down for the night. We still had two days’ worth of rations, but Old Man Phelps said that we should find something to eat in the forest such as the wild boar that roamed the surrounding flora. We anchored in the cove and disembarked, rifles loaded, to go in search of our dinner. We were walking for a while in the forest when in the distance I spotted a blazing bonfire. It was nightfall on May 1st, and Old Man Phelps grabbed my arm and crouched down behind a bush.
We watched twelve beautiful harlots dancing around the bonfire, on top of which was a huge cauldron.
“First of May this is—Walpurgsnacht!” Old Man Phelps explained, erudite as he was in the superstitions of the era, and reminding me, many years later, of the death of Hitler. “Those twelve strumpets be the most wicked witches of the world, and formed a coven have they to celebrate evil.”
I watched the witches and sure enough, I saw that there were two prisoners sitting before the cauldron, tied and gagged, and doubtless they were to be used as a sacrifice in the witches’ ritual. Now, as I’ve often stated, I don’t like the British by and large, but I have to qualify myself somewhat. I like the Scots. I like the Welsh. I’m fond of Geordies. I’m not averse to making conversation with Scousers. I’ll talk to Cornish people. In fact, it’s just the white English people who live in London or in its immediate vicinity and who are posh that I have a problem with.
Continued in Chapter 22 Part 4.