Extracts from a Diary
by Amelia Bourne-Phipps
-edited by Simon Barber-
16 July, 1937 to 17 July, 1937
Friday 16th July, 1937
Dear Diary – looking at the last thing I wrote last night, it seems I may be getting somewhat better at predictions. Then, considering we were due to rescue Maria anyway, it is hard to imagine it having been less than dramatic.
All started calmly enough with a few hours working the Hoele’toemi garden patch in the cool of the morning with no tourists to distract us. Helen and Marti arrived about ten, Helen looking suitably radiant. I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach as I reminded myself that I am taking her from Marti to the far side of the world, even if she did volunteer. Seeing her happy and (she believed) with nothing worse to do today than pick up her pack and head over to the airport, I really hated to spoil her mood.
After about half an hour I braced myself and told her of Maria’s decision, and that we were due to rescue her today. Helen gave a long-suffering look, sighed and remarked that we had better get to it. After our hunt for the Penningtons she says she is getting used to the idea, but hoped Maria had more sense after three years at Songmark. Some things one should not have to get used to, she says, and I can hardly disagree.
After some discussion we decided to take Miss Cabot with us. Molly would have relished the idea of kicking down doors and perhaps doing some wholesale demolition of unlicensed cellars. This one had been built by brought-in labourers from Italian Somaliland, who had (Maria discovered once she knew it existed) been paid with funds “diverted” from another budget and then returned straight back not even knowing where in the world they had been for three weeks, never having been allowed outside the Embassy grounds.
As grass skirts and flower leis are not the best outfits for such a mission, we slipped back into our Songmark fatigue outfits, unmarked heavy canvas with steel-lined boots that can resist having an engine-block fall on them. It felt jolly hot in them crossing back to the slips after wearing Spontoonie costumes since we finished term. Marti accompanied us – certainly as Helen’s husband he has every right to, and he will be parting with his bride all too soon as it is. He rather joked that he had never seen Helen in action before, although she has told him everything we have done including putting our Warrior Priestess training to use.
Once on Meeting Island the first problem was getting into the Embassy. Most of the staff do not know Maria is in there, so we can hardly just ask to see her – the only ones who know she is there have excellent reason to deny it, and Embassies are sovereign territory so without risking a diplomatic incident the Althing itself would have trouble in getting us in there officially. There are occasions when Plan A is hardly worth bothering with. Three years at Songmark have taught us a lot about getting over walls quietly, and we had the help of a very comprehensive sketch map of the Embassy and grounds Maria made me before heading over that way. We also have a general idea of where this hidden cellar is; close enough for counter-mining (as Father would say) but exactly how one gets there is another matter. Getting Maria out safely would not be served by countermining and “searching” with a few hundred pounds of Lyddite.
Technically speaking we were breaking and entering, so it was prudent to put our flying goggles on as a basic disguise just in case anyone spots us, or against glass splinters in case we had to break through any windows. While Marti kept watch outside we found our way over the ten-foot wall at the back and soon were in the Embassy compound. Maria’s map was accurate, and we found a spot behind the kitchen block where nobody would see us unless they came right round the corner. Then it was time for me and Helen to go to work.
With the rituals we had used in Kuo Han, we soon located Maria’s trail – it was rather like seeing the moon behind thick cloud in that one cannot exactly spot it but the direction is clear enough. It was localised by a twenty foot concrete paved area that the map says is used for taking the (small) parades of guards assigned to the Embassy. At first it was hard to spot any particular traces but then I found a trail leading to a blank area of concrete paving with slabs about a yard across.
Although Miss Cabot is not Molly, she is equally practical and perfectly adept at using the professional burglar’s folding crowbar that Molly has put to so many uses over the years. Twenty seconds of probing for the catch and a determined heave had the trapdoor open, a rather well-engineered double hinge with counterweight that opened almost silently – and five seconds later we were all in.
Twenty minutes later we were out again and helping Maria back over the fence. Hmm. It was a good thing we had thought to bring spare clothes for her, and indeed a set of cotton overalls packs down into one of our pockets. The first-aid kit was little needed though indeed a paraffin burn dressing and various dabs of tincture of iodine over scrapes and chafing were the best we could do until we got her to a doctor.
Actually Mr. Pettachi was in need of far more medical aid than Maria, by the time we left him. I think the worst blow was to his pride – when we had unfastened Maria she looked at him critically and announced that if that had been the best he could do in two days, he should give up altogether. She followed that by a somewhat roundhouse kick that added injury to insult, in the appropriate place and had him keel over with agony while we left.
There is a handy compound of bungalows not too far off, the McGee “resort” that does rooms by the day and I had noted it as a possible place to repair to for … repairs, assuming Maria had been a stretcher case. She was not walking too well, being very stiff from her confinement and her branded rump rather painful with clothing pressing on it. Helen had suggested we use the brand on its owner, as indeed it is his family crest. It is a good thing he had not done much more to Maria, as with two Warrior Priestesses extremely angry at him we could have left either his mind or body in screaming pieces. I would not have liked to do that, but I can all too easily imagine it being … justified, after what we saw on Kuo Han. Warrior Priestesses do not have to fill in paperwork when they must act as judge and jury (or if needs be executioner, as with that Dark Priestess) but as long as Saimmi would have been happy with our actions, we have a fairly free paw.
An hour later we were set up in the McGee Resort, with Maria thoroughly washed and lying on her front. It was rather a relief – first that she was not more injured, and that she had crossed that experience off her list. One cannot say Mr. Pettachi was unimaginative, whatever else one might call him. I think the domestic cow-bell Maria was wearing as her sole outfit was a rather amusing touch, and he would have had to send for that all the way from Europe. The unused dairy equipment was another piece of detailed advanced planning, and indeed there are herbs which could have had it put to use in a few weeks. Probably two days’ feeding on them will be too little to show any effect.
One annoying thing was the doctor prescribed at least two day’s bed rest. There goes our schedule! Obviously Maria will not be sitting down for awhile, not even in the luxurious wicker seats of the Caproni CA60 crossing the pole in the Midnight Sun. While Dr. Riverstone treated Maria I went out to cash in our tickets for a refund, and to tell Mrs. Hoele’toemi we would be around awhile longer.
We had just delivered our news and changed into Native dress when Povo’he, a South Islander we know from the Guide’s school, arrived with a message for me. It never rains but it pours! He had a request for Maria and for Lady Allworthy, of an official Italian party just having arrived and with orders to see us. What Povo’ve added was what really had my ears going up – they arrived in a very nice new Cant 506 tri-motor floatplane with not just the expected Italian markings but something else on the fuselage – the Allworthy coat of arms!
Definitely this will need investigating, and the one advantage of Maria delaying us is we have some time. The place to meet is Song Sodas; I have reason to believe that anything that happens there will be known to certain people, and though I may not be a graduate I have no objection to Miss Devinski keeping up with developments. So Miss Cabot phoned to reserve us a room, while I quizzed Povo’ve about the Italians. Three wolves in Reggia Aeronautica uniforms, mid-ranking or junior ranking by his description. I doubt even Spontoon Guides memorise all European rank badges, but he can certainly describe them over the telephone to someone on Main Island who is flipping through the relevant reference books. Probably the library is secure under two yards of coral sand and a yard of concrete in a “typhoon shelter”, would be my guess.
Having made arrangements art the Eastern Island end we decided to take a look ourselves. Staying in Native dress was cool and saved time changing, plus the officers would presumably be expecting a Euro dressed Lady Allworthy, in Songmark dress or something more fashionable. Fifteen minutes later we were back over by North Bay and spotted the wolves in question relaxing on the terrace bar of the Topotabo Hotel as Povo’ve passed on our message. Then it was a matter of getting on the water taxi ahead of them, which proved no problem.
It might be true enough that the Italians were more relaxed in front of two apparent Native girls and would let slip things they would not have said in front of Lady Allworthy – unfortunately they spoke in Italian, so it was rather hard to be sure. I knew there had to be a flaw in the plan. We were first off the boat and vanished around the corner while they were still asking directions, so were in Song Sodas five minutes ahead of them. Rather a shock for three wolves, who by their tone and gaze had been admiring us rather volubly in our Native costume!
Oh my. It seems I have an embarrassment of riches. I had spotted the seaplane moored by the slipway, with the Allworthy markings on it – it turns out it is mine, as it was ordered by Lord Leon shortly before he was arrested. There was delay in filling the order (The Italian Navy demanded all their order filled first) and then more delay while furs wrangled over whether to deliver it to me or just impound it as “undeliverable.” Three engines (radials, alas) and a very streamlined fuselage supported on elliptical wings, all in all rather resembling a DC-2 on floats. My paws were somewhat trembling as I signed the contract delivery note!
Of course, while very welcome this is yet more of a change in our plans. To get to Boston and Europe in a floatplane without going over the pole (the Cant has no skis to refuel at Byrd Field on the Magnetic pole unlike the Caproni CA60 we had booked on) will be tricky. We could go via the Abyssal Sea route and cross at Panama and up through the Caribbean and up the coast of the American South, but J. Edgar Hoover is waiting with G-Men in every port for Molly Procyk. The alternative route is presumably through Rain Island and Canada, where there are plenty of lakes but fewer with fuel and supplies and many wide areas of mountain and prairie we could not land on. Still, that is just a matter of the right maps and planning, something we are good at now.
Apparently the Italians are not just here to deliver an aircraft (they could have had it ferried to Barrow-in-Furriness to await me and still fulfilled their contract) but to deliver certain items and information to Maria. That should not be much of a problem; she is not sedated or anything, and is not going anywhere tonight. On her behalf we agreed a meeting for the evening and left - my heart skipping a beat when Captain Madaffari handed over the manuals (in English) and registration documents for the aircraft. I did ask how they were getting home having disposed of their transport, but the Captain assures me it is all planned.
My ears had been down when I signed away to Songmark my old Sand Flea. But this is something decidedly more useful! Definitely it would have been an offer I cannot refuse, and had they been a day later and Maria uninjured I would have missed it. I hardly know what would have happened then, but arranging everything via telegrams would have been jolly awkward. It would have been such a shame had I been unable to use it, and for the three officers to ferry it half-way around the world for me to just sell such an aircraft. It would have cost a lot to keep stored and maintained for however months until our return, and having seen Angelica Silfverlindh’s “Silver Angel” parked up on a beach for so long I would not want to do that to any aircraft of mine. Especially as the Cant’s airframe contains a lot more wood and canvas than Angelica’s shiny machine.
The first stop was to the airstrip administration building where I filed the registration papers under Spontoon law, which might turn out to be very useful. Then with the keys and manual we went out to inspect the 506 – an impressive aircraft indeed! It has the unheard-of luxury of a shower and a large bed onboard, definitely sized to suit Lord Leon Allworthy and company. My ears blushed furiously thinking that the company specified in the customised design might have been me. The Italian air-furs who delivered it were wolves like him although he weighed about as much as any two of them, and had a long flight with plenty of time to speculate about that.
We could have spent all afternoon examining the 506 but had to get back to Meeting Island and tell Maria and Helen the news. They were suitably impressed, and Helen started sketching out routes on the spot. It will take a few days getting familiar with the aircraft before we can contemplate heading East, as only Maria of us has flown any tri-motor before let alone this model and she is the one who is least able to help right now.
Back into Euro costume for the “formal” interview in the evening. Miss Cabot seems happy with the role of maid and dressed appropriately. I cannot help but think that had it been Molly with us this morning Mr. Pettachi would have ended up entirely minus ears and tail, rather than just having it broken in four places. He may lose it anyway without expert medical help, but I will not be shedding any tears about that. Miss Cabot is as absolutely competent as Molly ever was, but does not seem to get excited by razor edged saw-backed bayonets. Most furs would think this an improvement.
It most have been a day of shocks for Captain Madaffari and his comrades – first they discovered the two “Native girls” they had been admiring were me and Miss Cabot, and then they get to see us more or less as we plan to appear in Europe, without the flower leis but wearing a lot more. Actually the total weight is probably less; a grass skirt strong enough to avoid “in-flight structural failure” while dancing a vigorous hula is rather heavier than a single layer silk Rachorska design. They had half an hour’s interview with Maria, with Miss Cabot as “Chaperone”. I was somewhat busy with Helen looking through the flight manuals and making rough calculations of range which will determine the route we can take.
It felt jolly odd, the idea of Maria needing a chaperone. Even in her present state I would bet money on her unarmed against any two of those wolves if it came to it although they are serving military officers. We will have to adjust back to Euro social standards if only to be able to take furs by surprise should we need to. I have been doing my best for three years to educate the rest of my dorm, though with Molly and Helen’s previous standard of schooling it was always going to be hard work. Just spelling simple sentences I recalled from my school books such as “Catalogues of sulphur-coloured aluminium ploughs” caused them all sorts of trouble.
Although Mr. Pettachi was left in no condition to do more than moan for help (we left the secret door open so someone will surely have noticed and investigated by now) there is always a chance he can order revenge. I recall Kuo Han where Molly and I fought off those three highly acrobatic masked oriental felines oddly dressed in black with unusual traditional weapons who were trying to assassinate Lin Chung. On Spontoon we cannot guarantee such things are unknown, so decided to stay with Maria. The McGee resort is the sort of place where the owner looks out for her guests and if there are any suspicious strangers “casing the joint” she will know what to do.
A rather guarded evening, with Helen initially in rather a foul mood. I can hardly blame her; if we are delayed she could have at least spent more time with her husband. In fact Miss Cabot pointed out there was no reason not to, as an extra pair of sharp ears is always an asset. One telephone call to South Island, an extra room for the night and Marti rejoined us. Like all the Hoele’toemi family he served in the Guides, and needed very little explained as to the situation. So Helen at least should have a relaxing time of it – if relaxing is the word!
Saturday 17th July, 1937
A day that we have all inked in our diaries for a very long time – a week after our Songmark course officially ends, we lose our joint Spontoon citizenship (well, all of us except for Helen, and Prudence too. We have not seen Prudence this week; she is presumably off on honeymoon herself with Tahni). That final week was supposed to give us protection as we clear up loose ends and scatter across the planet heading home, possibly passing through debatable territories. Had we travelled back via somewhere suspicious and officious such as Vostok, officials who might have issues with our main nationalities would think twice about troubling a joint Spontoonie citizen if only for the quantity of paperwork involved. Indeed, on our original schedule right now we should be passing the North Pole at three thousand feet in a Caproni CA60 with the Nimitz Sea far behind us and the next stop Disko Island where the Natives perform such quaint folk dances under the flashing lights of the aurora in winter-time.
To our relief there were no hired assassins coming in through the windows or roof last night, and after a night’s rest on mild medication Maria announced that fully armed she was quite capable of handling any that made the attempt. Marti volunteered to stay around in the morning, which left me with Helen and Miss Cabot free to make our plans. Tuesday was the day we decided on, which is rather minimal to get the feel of a new aircraft let alone to start off a round-the-world flight in it – but the sooner we become moving targets the better, especially since losing the last legal privileges and protections of Songmark. In fact, as soon as the offices opened we had to get three-week visas like any tour-boat tourist, at the end of which we are liable to be deported! That idea was rather a shock to the system, I must admit. One gets rather used to being a Spontoonie.
The formalities of getting seaplane slip space for the 506 completed (much helped by its Spontoonie registration which saved me a lot of money) we got busy on learning the aircraft from tail aerial to front propeller spinner. Lunch was a rapid affair at the seaplane snack bar, then by two we fired up the engines and began taxiing around the central waters getting the feel of the controls. By two we had our first flights, half an hour each around Main Island. I must say, even for such a large aircraft the 506 handles superbly! I could find no real “vices” in any normal flight, and indeed we are not likely to put it to aerobatic tests. Folk say that the Italians tend to build tri-motors since most of their commercial engines have poor weight performance, but the 506 seems perfectly lively.
By four o’clock we had added an hour’s flight apiece in our logbooks including two takeoffs and landings. That was quite enough for the day; while Helen started ordering in fuel, maps and supplies at the airport servicing area I arranged to have the Italian registration on the wings and fuselage replaced by a Spontoon one for our trip. The Allworthy family crest is to go too – it is a pity, as some Italian artisans evidently worked hard on getting it just right. Still, Captain Madaffari had mentioned the reaction it got in New Penzance from folk who recognised it and the Allworthy reputation, and it would be about as welcome in some parts of the world as a Red star in Germany or a modern German runic registration in New South Zion! Spontoon registration will at least be a treat for any keen young pups aircraft-spotting on our trip, as there are not many seen outside the Nimitz Sea area. Even the airlines that fly through here tend to be registered by their head offices in Rain Island, America or Hawaii.
Helen has managed to get the relevant detailed navigation charts all the way across to Rain Island, and basic ones all across to Boston. The problem with the Cant is its lack of wheels to land on a runway, which rather cuts down our options especially over the great prairies. We could take a route far North across Canada where there are more lakes, but there are fewer fuelling depots there and we would be a very long way from help if things went wrong. In Europe there should be no problem; the latest issues of the air press have articles showing the new terminal at the converted gravel pits of Heathrow near London, with two thousand feet of sheltered water. In fact it is too sheltered some days, and furs are experimenting with wave machines at one end to help a heavily-laden passenger aircraft “unstuck.”
It is amazing what one sees presented as Pulp Magazines. Some of these are presumably bought by their target professions, such as “Weird Tales of sheet-metal polishing”, but others are not. I doubt there is enough of a native audience to support “Sixty-foot apes and the women who love them” * even if it does boast articles describing “those physical marriage problems solved, with practical advice and tasteful line illustrations.” Then again, nobody would think of the career listed in “Soldier of Misfortune” as anything to aim for.
Back to Meeting Island, somewhat worried about having left Maria behind. Still, we are fairly sure nobody saw her arrive at the McGee resort and we have never used the place before so it is not one of our usual haunts. Marti is watching out, and Mrs. McGee is a definitely formidable bovine lady who would probably take suitable action against any hostile trespassers after her guests. I heard from Major Hawkins about the events with Tatiana and Millicent awhile ago where the Italian Embassy organised an assassin. That fur will not be troubling anyone further, but it shows they keep such folk on their books and are prepared to use them.
Happily, Maria was all right though rather chafing with inactivity and understandably annoyed at not getting her share of the flying today. Her mood improved as we handed her the charts and plans for the voyage, which is something she can work on.
Although she does not tell us everything, Maria had a lot to say about the information and instructions the Reggia Aeronautica officers had brought her. The good news is that she is not commanded straight into her Uncle’s presence, though he wants her in Europe by the end of the month. We are mentioned as well – Maria has somewhat hinted to her Uncle that we have some abilities that are not mentioned in the Songmark Prospectus and if there is no conflict of interest with Spontoon, Il Puce would appreciate our opinions on “certain situations.” Possibly situations not unlike what we found in Antarctica. Although Maria has stopped thinking of us as “witches” she hints that the Church there would not take kindly if they knew what we do and how. They have even been saying unkind things about how Archbishop Crowley has reformed the Church of England, even though the Bible says in very clear detail exactly what sort of blood sacrifices and burned offerings are compulsory. The book of Leviticus, as I remember from Sunday school.
Maria mentions that the full technology exchange with Vostok is proving rather useful to both sides with Vostok benefiting from Italian design flair and Italy improving its efficiency. Vostok and Italy are no sort of territorial threat to each other (the closest Italian possession to Vostok is Italian Somaliland, and nobody much wants that by all accounts) but have similar outlooks and share many enemies. It is a complex world, Maria says, where countries such as Vostok and Japan are both in the anti-Comintern pact despite being close to a shooting war with each other – Italy and Germany are often on much the same footing no doubt much to Ioseph Starling’s relief and amusement.
It was a pity that we missed our last chance to get to the Casino Island dance school, but Maria is not up to it right now and certainly we needed to start learning to fly the Cant 506. Definitely a busy day - and considering the most strenuous thing we did was an hour and a half apiece at the controls, distinctly tiring. Time to rig the usual traps around doors and windows and grab a good night’s sleep while we can. The compound seems secure and short of someone knocking on the door with a howitzer, about as safe as we can make it. Tomorrow should be interesting.
* (Editor’s Note: the radically different 1936 re-make of “Proletariat Kong” with its surprise happy ending involving a Skull Island wedding scene seems to have inspired a good deal of… social experimentation.)