45. Anchors Away
Mr Brown gazed along the broad deck of the Karenia with a puzzled look on his face. “Has anyone noticed Paddington lately?” he asked. “He seems to be acting very strangely.”
The rest of the family followed the direction of Mr Brown’s gaze and were just in time to see a familiar figure emerge from behind a lifeboat some distance away, stand for a moment staring up at the sky with a very odd expression indeed and then hurry back to the rail.
“He was all right at lunch time,” said Mrs Brown. “I do hope it’s nothing he’s eaten.”
“Perhaps he’s got something in his eye,” suggested Mrs Bird, as Paddington stepped backwards and then almost fell over as he bent himself double in order to peer up at the sky again, “He was tapping the barometer outside the Purser’s office earlier on,” said Jonathan. “I thought he was going to break it.”
“And he’s got some seaweed hanging out of his porthole,” exclaimed Judy.
“It must be something to do with the weather,” said Mr Brown, turning his attention back to the ship’s newspaper. “Perhaps he thinks we’re going to have a storm.”
“Crikey! I hope not,” exclaimed Jonathan. “I don’t want to miss the party tonight.”
“If I know Paddington,” replied Mr Brown, “he won’t either. I expect that’s why he’s worried.”
Satisfied with Mr Brown’s explanations, most of the family returned to their various activities. After a morning spent exploring the great ship they were only too glad to have a rest. Travelling on an ocean liner was an exciting event, not unlike being let loose in a miniature floating town, and with Paddington acting as guide, almost as tiring.
During his long voyage he’d made friends with a good many of the ship’s crew so that apart from visiting the shops, the swimming pool, the gymnasium and various lounges, they’d also been taken on a tour of inspection of the ship’s kennels, the bakery, the engine room and many other places not normally open to the public.
The only person who wasn’t quite satisfied with Mr Brown’s explanation was Mrs Bird, and she wisely forbore to mention that to the best of her knowledge Paddington didn’t even know there was a party taking place that evening, let alone that he was going to it. From past experience she knew only too well that whatever it was Paddington had on his mind, matters couldn’t be hurried and that all would be revealed in due course.
Unaware that he’d been arousing so much interest, Paddington dipped his paw in a near-by mug of cocoa, held it up in order to see which way the wind was blowing and then peered anxiously over the side of the ship towards the blue waters far below.
All in all, he decided things looked much too calm for his liking.
It wasn’t that he was particularly keen on rough weather. In fact, on the few occasions when the Karenia had been caught in a storm and he’d had to miss a meal he’d been upset in more ways than one. But for once, alone among the many hundreds of passengers on the liner, he was hoping, if not for a storm, at least for some weather rough enough to slow the ship down.
It all had to do with the important matter of the ship’s sweep.
Each day on the homeward journey the man in charge of the entertainments on board had run a ‘sweep’ in which passengers had been invited to say in advance how many miles the ship would travel during the following twenty-four hours. The entrance fee was sixpence and the prize money went to the person who came nearest to guessing the right answer.
Paddington had had several pretend goes during the voyage but that morning he had for the very first time, and after a great deal of thought, actually invested his last remaining sixpence on a ticket.
In the hope that something unexpected might happen to slow the Karenia down before it reached port he’d made a wild guess lower than anyone else’s. However, now that he’d had time to view the weather he was beginning to regret his haste for as far as the eye could see there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sea was as calm as the proverbial mill pond and if anything the ship seemed to be going faster than ever before.
Paddington turned away from the rail, gave a deep sigh and made his way along the deck towards the group of Browns.
He was a hopeful bear at heart and despite the calm weather he still nursed a faint hope that something would happen which would cause the ship to slow down before the next morning. Losing sixpence was bad enough at the best of times, but when it was your last one matters became ten times worse, and he was just toying with the idea of approaching the man in charge of the entertainments to see if he could get his money back when Mr Brown broke into his thoughts with the news of the party that evening.
Paddington liked parties, especially unexpected ones and when he heard that the one that evening was to be a fancy dress one with everyone in costume he quickly forgot about the problem of the sweep in the excitement of the moment.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party on a ship before, Mr Brown,” he exclaimed.
“Neither have I, come to that,” admitted Mr Brown. “I must say I’m looking forward to it.”
“They’ve got Barry Baird as Master of Ceremonies,” said Jonathan. “He’s the chap we’ve seen on television.”
“He takes things out of people’s pockets without them knowing,” said Judy.
“And he hypnotizes people as well,” added Jonathan.
Mr Brown rose to his feet. “I can see we’d better go along to the entertainments office and make sure of getting some costumes,” he said. “Otherwise there’ll be some long faces tonight if they’re all gone.”
“Bags I go as Robin Hood!” exclaimed Jonathan.
“I rather fancy myself as Mark Anthony,” said Mr Brown thoughtfully. “How about you, Paddington?”
But Paddington had already disappeared along the deck. It wasn’t often he was allowed to dress up, and when it was dressing up and a ship’s party and an entertainment all rolled into one, then he was anxious to make sure of matters by being first in the queue.
Paddington wasn’t the only one looking forward to the coming party. Gradually, as the day wore on, bunting and other decorations began to appear over the ship and as the time for the party drew near strangely clad figures were to be seen flitting around the decks with an air of half-suppressed excitement.
“I reckon Paddington could go as himself,” said Mr Brown, as they stood waiting for him by the entrance to the dance floor. “I’ve seen at least six bears already.”
“Mercy me!” exclaimed Mrs Bird. “This isn’t him coming now, is it?” She pointed with her umbrella towards an approaching figure clad in what seemed to be a costume made up of several lengths of black concertina and a piece of white cardboard.
“It’s Paddington all right,” said Judy. “That’s his hat.”
“I don’t think it really goes with evening dress,” said Mrs Brown. “It makes him look rather like a penguin after a night out.”
“A penguin!” exclaimed Paddington, looking most upset as he caught Mrs Brown’s words. “I’m Beau Brummel – the famous dandy.”
“Beau Brummel!” echoed Jonathan. “I thought he died a long time before evening dress.”
“I must say you look more like a bow window to me,” said Mr Brown, as he examined Paddington’s shirt front.
Paddington began to look more and more upset as he listened to the others. “They didn’t have many costumes my size left,” he explained, giving Mr Brown a hard stare.
“Well, I’m sure he didn’t have marmalade stains down his front, whoever he was,” said Mr Brown lamely, as his wife dug him in the ribs.
“That’s not marmalade, Mr Brown,” exclaimed Paddington. “That’s glue!”
“Glue!” repeated Mr Brown. “How on earth did you manage to get glue down your front?”
“I’m afraid I had a bit of trouble with my dicky,” explained Paddington. “It’s a bit difficult with paws and it kept rolling up so I had to borrow some special glue from the carpenter’s shop.”
The Browns exchanged glances. “Well, they did say come as you like,” said Mr Brown.
“Quite right,” said Mrs Bird, as she followed Mr Brown into the ballroom, “And as no one here has ever met Beau Brummel, who are they to judge?”
“I think you look jolly smart anyway, Paddington,” said Judy, squeezing his paw as they made their way across the floor in the direction of the band.
Paddington was very keen on bands, especially when they played loudly, and the ship’s band, although it was only small, seemed unusually good value in this respect, particularly as several of the musicians had to play more than one instrument.
At the end of the first number he joined in the applause and then settled back in his seat as the leader, having bowed several times to the audience, raised his hand and signalled a fanfare on the trumpets to herald the arrival on stage of Bouncing Barry Baird, the Master of Ceremonies.
“Are you all right, Paddington?” asked Mrs Brown, as she saw him examining his paws with interest.
“I think so, thank you, Mrs Brown,” replied Paddington vaguely. “But I think something’s gone wrong with my claps.”
Mrs Brown opened her mouth but then, as the applause died down, decided against it. There were some things better not inquired into, especially when they were to do with Paddington.
Up on the small stage Bouncing Barry Baird clasped the microphone as if it was a stick of rock and beamed at the audience. “Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!” he boomed. “How are all me old ship-mates?”
“All right, thank you, Mr Baird,” exclaimed Paddington from his position in the front row, raising his hat politely.
Barry Baird seemed slightly taken aback at receiving a reply to his question. “I’ve got the bird before now,” he said, looking at Paddington’s costume, “but never quite so early in the act. I can see you’ve got your furbellows on, bear,” he continued, pointing towards Paddington. “In fact, come to think of it, you’ve even got fur below you’re furbelows!”
In the applause which followed, Paddington gave Barry Baird a particularly hard stare. Catching sight of it suddenly Mr Baird hastily averted his eyes and went on with his act.
“What is it?” he asked. “What is it – and I’m offering no prizes for the answer – what is it that has a green head, six furry legs and one purple eye?”
“I don’t know either, Mr Baird,” called out Paddington, who had seen Barry Baird’s act several times before on television, “but there’s one on your back!”
The applause which followed Paddington’s remark was even greater than it had been for Barry Baird and as it echoed round the ballroom the comedian put his hand over the microphone, leant over the footlights and glared down at Paddington. “Barry Baird does the funnies here, bear,” he hissed.
“So much for wit and humour,” he announced, as he straightened up and showed a row of gleaming white teeth to the audience. “Now we come to the serious part of the show. The fastest act you’ve ever seen, ladies and gentlemen. Before your very eyes – no mirrors – no deception – before your very eyes I will remove the entire contents of the pockets belonging to any gentleman in the audience who cares to step up here – and he’ll never know it happened! Now come along, ladies and gentlemen, all I’m asking for is one volunteer…”
“Oh, crikey!” groaned Jonathan, as there was a sudden movement from the front row. “Trust Paddington!”
Barry Baird seemed to lose some of his bounce as Paddington climbed up on to the stage, but he quickly recovered himself.
“A big hand, ladies and gentlemen,” he boomed. “A big hand for this young bear gentleman who’s volunteered to have his pockets picked.”
“He’ll be lucky if he gets anything out of Paddington’s pockets,” murmured Mr Brown.
Barry Baird signalled to the band to start playing and then, talking all the while, he hovered round Paddington, his hands gliding up and down through the air like two serpents.
There was a gasp of amazement from the audience as he held up first a pencil then a notebook for them to see. Paddington himself looked as surprised as anyone for he hadn’t felt a thing.
Signalling to the band to play even faster, Barry Baird, his white teeth gleaming in the spotlight, circled the stage once more, waving his arms in time to the music.
Suddenly he stopped and the expression froze on his face as he slowly withdrew his hand from one of Paddington’s side pockets.
“Uggh!” he exclaimed before he could stop himself. “What have you got in there, bear?”
Paddington examined Barry Baird’s hand with interest as the music came to a stop. “I expect that’s a marmalade sandwich, Mr Baird,” he replied cheerfully.
“I put it in there in case I had an emergency. I’m afraid it’s a bit squashed.”
Barry Baird, who looked as if he was about to have a bit of an emergency himself, stared at his hand for a moment as if he could hardly believe his eyes and then gave a rather high-pitched laugh as he turned to face the audience.
“I’ve been in some jams before now,” he announced feebly, “but this is the first time I’ve ever been in a marmalade sandwich!”
Wiping his hands on a small square of silk which he withdrew from his top pocket Barry Baird mopped his brow and held up his hand for silence as he turned hurriedly to the next part of his act.
“I want everyone,” he announced, “to raise their hands above their heads and clasp them together.”
While the audience did as they were told Barry Baird took a length of string from his pocket, tied a key to one end and then set it in motion like a pendulum.
“Now,” he said as the main lights went dim again and the swinging key was illuminated by a single spotlight. “I want you all to watch this key carefully as it goes from left to right to left to right to left…” Barry Baird’s voice grew soft and caressing as the light went lower.
“I’ve seen this trick done before,” whispered Mr Brown with a chuckle. “You wait till they put the lights up again. There’s always some chap who can’t get his hands apart again.”
“Gosh!” groaned Judy, as the lights suddenly went up and everyone relaxed. “Look who it is!”
“I am surprised,” said Mrs Bird. “I should have thought Paddington would be more likely to hypnotize Barry Baird than be put under himself. Some of those stares he’s been giving him have been very hard.”
The audience fell silent as they watched Paddington struggle to try and unlock his paws and even Barry Baird himself seemed slightly taken aback at the success of his trick.
“Never mind, bear,” he exclaimed. “I’ll soon have them apart.”
Without further ado he stood in front of Paddington and made several violent passes, clicking his fingers as he did so.
The audience grew even quieter as Paddington’s struggles grew more violent and Barry Baird’s efforts to free him were obviously in vain.
After some minutes Barry Baird ushered Paddington behind some curtains and then came back on to the stage.
“I’m sorry,” he announced, looking rather red in the face. “That young bear’s still under the influence. We shall just have to hope it wears off in time.”
Barry Baird made a half-hearted attempt to carry on with his act but somehow the spell had gone for most of his audience and certainly for the Browns as they hurried out of the hall and round to the back in order to find Paddington.
“Where on earth can he have got to?” exclaimed Mr Brown after they had searched the immediate vicinity without success.
“He can’t have gone far,” said Mrs Brown. “Not with his paws over his head like that.”
“Perhaps he’s gone back to his cabin,” said one of the stewards who’d been helping in the search. He led the way along a corridor and opened a door at the end.
“No,” he said. “Not a sausage – let alone a bear.”
“Never mind,” said Mr Brown. “We’ll wait in here for a few minutes. He’s bound to turn up sooner or later.”
Mr Brown tried to sound cheerful but as they settled down to wait and the minutes ticked by even he began to find it more and more difficult.
“You don’t think…” began Mrs Brown anxiously after some time had passed. “I mean he couldn’t have fallen overboard or anything, could he?”
“If he has and he’s still got his paws fixed together…” began Judy.
“Knowing Paddington,” said Mr Brown hastily, “he’s much more likely to have fallen in a bowl of dough at the bakery.” He rose and looked at his watch again. “All the same,” he continued, “I think it’s about time we did something about it. Though where we’re going to start goodness only knows.”
Mrs Bird gripped her umbrella. “I know where I’m going to start,” she said firmly. “With the Captain.”
With that she stalked off down the corridor leaving the rest of the family looking, if possible, even more worried than before.
Although Mrs Bird was very firm with Paddington at times, she was no respecter of persons when it came to looking after his interests and it was obvious a little later on by the sudden surge of activity on board the ship that she had got her way with the powers that be.
Men started running urgently about the decks, somewhere far below an alarm bell began to ring, and shortly after that with a series of blasts on its siren the great ship started to lose speed.
“Crikey!” exclaimed Jonathan, as a loud clanking noise came from the bows of the ship. “Things must be serious. They’re getting ready to drop anchor!”
The Captain of the Karenia looked up from his desk at the gathering before him.
It was the following morning and not only the Browns but quite a number of the ship’s crew had been called to his cabin in order to investigate the events of the evening before.
“So, this is the young bear who caused all the trouble, is it?” he asked, staring at Paddington.
“I don’t think it was his fault,” explained the Chief Engineer, coming to his rescue. “If only someone had shouted “bear overboard” instead of “man overboard”, I’d have known. I had him down in my workshop all, the time trying to get his paws apart.”
“What I don’t understand, Paddington,” said Mr Brown, “is why you couldn’t get them apart in the first place.”
“It was that special glue I used for my dicky, Mr Brown,” explained Paddington. “I must have left some on my paws by mistake.”
“Then when he put them together he couldn’t pull them apart again,” said Barry Baird, looking much more cheerful than he had done the previous evening. “Must admit it had me worried at the time.”
“It’s like that glue I’ve got in my carpentry set, Dad,” said Jonathan. “It’s some new stuff and it only works if you get it on both surfaces.”
“I must have got it on both my surfaces,” added Paddington. “That’s why my claps went funny.”
“And by golly,” said the Chief Engineer, “when it does stick – it sticks. Quite a job that young bear gave me.”
“I suppose you realize,” said the Captain, “you caused me to heave to last night?”
“Heave two?” exclaimed Paddington with interest.
“Not two, Paddington,” explained July. “To. That’s quite a different matter. The Captain means he had to stop the ship because he thought you’d fallen overboard.”
“Been on this run since I was a boy,” said the Captain gruffly. “Never had a man overboard yet, let alone a bear,”
“You didn’t really have one this time, did you?” said Judy bravely.
The Captain thought for a moment. “True enough, young lady,” he said at last. “Only trouble is I’ve got to write me log out and it doesn’t look very good. Takes a bit of explainin’. Especially when the same bear wins the ship’s sweep because we didn’t make as many miles yesterday as everyone else thought we would!”
“What?” echoed Paddington, hardly able to believe his ears. “I’ve won the ship’s sweep?”
“Ten pounds, fifteen shillings and sixpence;” broke in the first officer, handing over a large envelope. “I should count it to make sure it’s all there.”
“Congratulations, bear,” said the Captain, taking hold of Paddington’s other paw. “Mind you,” he added sternly, “if you travel in my ship again you’d better not
let it happen twice, Otherwise me suspicions might get aroused and I’ll have to clap you in irons.”
Paddington looked most alarmed at the Captain’s words, “I don’t think I shall be going to Peru again for quite a long time,” he announced hastily.
The Captain broke into a broad smile. “In that case,” he said, looking at the clock, “seeing we’re nearly back in England I suggest we all adjourn to my table for breakfast. Might not get the chance again.”
“Well, I think you’re very lucky, Paddington,” said Mrs Brown, as they followed the others down a long corridor. “It’s not many bears who have the honour of being invited to sit at the Captain’s table.”
The Captain paused as they entered the dining-room.
“Come to think of it,” he said, “I don’t know as I’ve had the honour of askin’ one before. Especially one who’s just won one of me sweeps.”