Collapsing on the shore, we notice that a small amount of Juan’s Special Reserve has leaked from my hip flask. Conveniently, this causes the creatures that are following us to fight each other for a while, then lie down and drift into a stupor. Juan, quaffing a dram of Benrinnes Vintage Reserve, says that he thought these kinds of creatures were like mermaids, and were extinct. I say that they don’t look extinct, but add that mermaids aren’t extinct; they never existed in the first place. Juan is surprised and says that he always thought they were real, in fact, he thought that, as long as it was the back half of a mermaid that was the fishy half, he would like to meet one.
He first heard about them, he says, when he learned the English alphabet, and he folds his hands and recites one of Arthur Mees’s dreadful alphabet rhymes, until he reaches ‘M’, ‘M is the Mermaid, that lives in the moat. N is the nutshell, she has for a boat.’ However, I tell him that it’s just a rhyme, like ‘B is for bunny, tucked up in bed, C is the caterpillar, out of his head.’ The truth is, I tell Juan, that the bunny might not have been tucked up and the caterpillar might be extraordinarily sane. Juan says that this proves that, if a poem isn’t written by Rabbie Burns, it’s not worth reading. I entirely agree and, offering toast after toast to the great man’s memory, cheering and singing The Deil’s awa’ wi’ th’ Exciseman and A Man’s a Man for a’ That, at the top of our voices, we drag ourselves on through the Unknown Region, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary