Stumbling toward Finedrawer, Juan worries that Mahalath is going to be cross because she had to wait a long time for us to rescue her, and then we didn’t. He adds that, to make it worse it’s her birthday, and he doesn’t have a suitable present, which will make her crosser. I suggest he dedicate this year’s edition of his memoirs to Mahalath, for her lively spirit, but he says that, as nothing of interest has happened, he hasn’t written anything. I ask him why, as he lacks material, he doesn’t just make something up. He snaps that, if he wanted to write fiction, he would become a historian and, besides, his readers only expect salacious tales from high society and have no interest in experimental aircraft or flatulent camels. Mentioning high society, Juan reminds me that Mahalath enjoys wearing shiny jewellery, and has a particular fondness for opals. Realising that we are in the middle of a desert, littered with things, we immediately dive to the ground and scrabble around in a frenzy.
Unfortunately, although we find some quartzy looking stones, we can’t tell one from another, and, as giving Mahalath a worthless heap of pebbles is a bad idea, we throw them away and, after quaffing a flask of Juan’s Special Reserve, to get over our disappointment, I remind Juan that we gneissishly behind schedule, and, blowing up our bagpipes and playing ‘The Kelpie’s Jig’ and ‘The Dance of the Duffers of Dull’ we blunder on, across the shining sand, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary