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Cheryl leaves



Fortunately, the driver of the first train to arrive is Cheryl’s cousin, Alan, from Buchanhavan.  He tells us that this is the Newcastle - Lubumbashi Express.  This is convenient for Cheryl, who has to resume tests on aunt Humperdink’s experimental engine.  Alan is one of our top drivers, trained by Bakulebe himself, with years of experience with the elite Subterranean Section of the Special Train Service, more importantly; he is also a true aficionado of single malt.  We are all delighted to see Alan and we know that Cheryl will have a safe, fun-filled journey.  To celebrate, Juan opens barrels of Vintage Tullibardine, Glen Elgin, Longmorn and Glenrothes Gold Reserve and we sit down to relax and drink each other’s health and salute all miners and miner’s wives, and miner’s husbands, if the miner concerned is a married women, but Cheryl says that there are very few female mining engineers, because, away from sunlight and fresh air, the job is bad for the complexion. 

Juan, half way through the barrel of Vintage Longmorn, told Cheryl that she shouldn’t leave, as he can't live without her, and he asks her to marry him.  Cheryl tells Juan that every time they meet, he asks her to marry him.  Juan says that there’s nothing wrong with persistence, if the goal is noble.  Cheryl tells him that everyone knows he is in love with Mahalath.  Juan says that that’s beside the point, besides, he adds, Mahalath is testing one of aunt Humperdink’s experimental airships, which, by now, has probably blown to smithereens, so Mahalath might be unavailable.  Cheryl says that he has a cold-hearted approach to marriage, but Juan defends himself saying that he is merely hedging his bets, Cheryl looks offended and says that, personally, she takes marriage very seriously.  Juan tells her that, strictly speaking, this is not true, as she had married the Lithuanian Treasurer shortly before all the funds in the treasury mysteriously vanished.  Then she divorced the treasurer as his treasury, lamentably lacking treasure, made him depressed.  In addition, being thrown in Lithuania’s deepest dungeon, made him inaccessible.  Cheryl divorced him on grounds of abandonment and left for Monte Carlo as soon as was polite.  Cheryl shouts that that was just business. 

Alan stands up, vomits, staggers back to the train and, after unloading some barrels of vintage malt for us, he starts the engine and blows the horn.  Cheryl kisses me goodbye and says that, as always, it has been a lot of fun; we arrange to meet in Buchanhaven, for the Buchanhaven Play, and, as a going away present, I give her a mossy heterodactyle.  Cheryl is very kind and tells me a cold, squishy, slimy, tentacly anemone was just what she always wanted.  Then she kisses Juan goodbye, then Juan kisses her goodbye, then they kiss for no reason at all.  Alan, waiting for Juan and Cheryl to finish kissing each other farewell, asks me why I gave Cheryl the heterodactyle and I tell him that the only other anemones I have is an opelet and a slimy corklet, the corklet is too slimy to carry easily and tends to ooze, and Cheryl prefers real opals over opal derivatives. Alan tells me that, since the time he was climbing a cliff in Norway and found a bag full of opals, he is superstitious about them and thinks they bring bad luck.  I say that, for most people, finding a bag full of opals is a lucky thing, but Alan explains that, just after he found the opals he was knocked off the cliff by falling lemmings, and broke every bone in his body.  

I wrench Cheryl and Juan apart and remind them that we are geriatrically behind schedule; Alan throws the train into gear, and Cheryl leaps on board. Cheering, and shouting goodbye, we run after the train until, yelling with excitement, and offering toast after toast to the success of our mission, Cheryl and Alan clank off into the stygian darkness, leaving us to blunder around in befuddled circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary