Professor Humperdink III

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29.12.11

To the Promenade








After inadvertently plunging into the ocean, we are rescued by the Agent Rescue Service and transfer to an Agency airship. On board, we head for the control cabin, to thank the captain and crew for picking us up. In the cabin, we are delighted to find that the captain is our old friend, Donald MacInnes, one of our top agents. Juan passes out the bottles of Vintage Glen Grant, Pulteney, Ardmore, and Talisker Private Reserve, which he keeps for such occasions and we offer toast after toast to Donald and his crew, the Agent Rescue Service, Katie Good Quiver, and all our Blackfeet friends, who helped us so much. Donald says that he can drop us off near the Moorfoot Hills. I ask Donald to fly at top speed because we are jaudishly behind schedule. Fatty tells Donald that, between lunch and dinner, he would like to have tea and scones on the promenade. Juan says he wants to meet women. Donald escorts us to the dining room, on the way, he tells Fatty that, knowing he was coming aboard, they are building a promenade, in his honour, it nearly finished, and, Donald informs us, it will be ready after lunch, and, he assures Juan, there are plenty of women on board.

In the dining room, Juan gets so excited at meeting the hostesses that, although they reciprocate with equal enthusiasm, I knock Juan out with a chair and apologise for his behaviour, and for breaking the chair, and for accidentally catching the table-cloth with the chair-leg and pulling all the cutlery on to the floor. The staff are surprised, but very gracious, and they start to put things back on the table, however, Juan regains consciousness and, performing a flying drop-kick, sends me crashing on to the table, reducing it to pieces. I retaliate by hurling a table-leg at Juan, but he ducks and the heavy wooden leg hits Rory in the stomach, making him expel projectile vomit directly into Donald's face. Horrified, Donald grabs at a hostesses dress to wipe his face, the hostess, disgusted, pushes Donald away, but he trips over some smashed cutlery and, grabbing at Albert for support, grasps at Albert's most prominent feature, and pulls half of Albert's moustache off.

Albert is famous for his moustache, both sides of it, so he is very irritated and, probably, in a good deal of pain, which explains why, although he is a peaceful man, you can see he takes great deal of pleasure in jumping up and down on Donald. It not often you see a world famous scientist, with half a moustache, jumping up and down on an airship captain, so, momentarily, we all stop to watch, and laugh. Fatty declares that he wants lunch. I point out that the hostesses are becoming hysterical and the dining room is a stinking shambles, Fatty says that the best thing to do is to quickly go to the promenade for tea and scones, and come back for dinner when they have got everything sorted out. This is a good idea, accordingly, between spates of confused brawling, we stumble around in rubble, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

28.12.11

The big plume




Katie Good Quiver told Rory that all he needed to do was to look out for a big, black, plume, and this is good advice, but, because Rory is scared of flying, he is curled up in the back seat with his eyes shut and, even when we tell him that we can see a really big, black, plume, he doesn't believe us and refuses to open his eyes.

Looking down at destroyers, sending out plumes of black smoke, George asks me if the ships are on fire. I tell him that they are just deploying a smoke-screen. Albert says that it isn't a very good smoke-screen, in fact, it just attracts attention. Juan says that it might be a trick, and, although we can see the destroyers, the smoke might be concealing important, and big. Fatty tells us that Katie will have told the destroyers that we are sleethishly behind schedule and to send out smoke signals, to tell us that there's an Agency airship in the vicinity. To celebrate, we break open our Vintage Glenrothes, Interleven, Auchentoshan, and Highland Park Private Reserve, and fly over the destroyers, offering toast after toast to all the crew and wishing them the best of luck when, with their vision obscured by the smoke-screen, they all crash into each other, then, coughing and gasping, befuddled, confused, and blinded by acrid black smoke, we hurtle into the darkness, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary


24.12.11

Leaving Montana










Rory is nervous about meeting warriors. I tell him that there is nothing to worry about, the Blackfeet People are fierce in combat, and as dangerous and unpredictable as angry wolves, evil-tempered and trigger-happy, in peacetime, and that's just the children. Blackfeet braves will launch a deadly attack with no warning and for the slightest reason, against their friends, people they don't like, they attack for absolutely no reason at all. Rory says that he doesn't want to say or do anything that would make them angry. I tell him not to worry about making them angry, they are always angry, they only really enjoy themselves in battle, but they have slaughtered all their enemies, so they attack trains instead, or random strangers, just for something to do. Rory says that he is a stranger. It is true that Rory is stranger than most people, but I remind Rory that he is with us, which, I admit, won't help, but, I explain, the Blackfeet People will see him as less than a dog, a weak, sickly, cowardly, pale-faced, half-witted, pathetic, dog, not worth kicking, certainly not worth slaying, so he will be perfectly safe from harm. Rory does not seem sure about this. Juan tells Rory that Blackfeet women are the most beautiful women in the world, so, instead of worrying, he should be excited.

We find our Aamsskáápipikani friends, taking a break between raids. It is very nice to see them. I pass out the brass objects and ceremonial tobacco-pipes that I have been carrying. Seeing the pipes, Rory says that, perhaps, we can share a pipe of peace. I tell Rory that, these are peace-pipes when smoked as part of a part of a peace ceremony, by the nicotine-addicted head-chiefs of Central Cameroon, however, because the Blackfeet People are not peacefully inclined and, as they always keep themselves in top, battle-ready, physical condition, they do not smoke tobacco, and we don't smoke tobacco because it dulls the taste buds, and anything that harms the sublime taste of single malt is to be avoided at all costs. These items, I explain, are specially made by in Bagam by our Eyāp colleagues as gifts to the Blackfeet People, however the health-conscious Blackfeet don't smoke with them, they use them as clubs and daggers, which, after Juan, stupidly, passes around hip-flasks of Vintage Duff's Defiance Founder's Reserve, they proceed to enthusiastically demonstrate..

While everyone puts their peace-pipes to good use by using them as lethal close-quarter weapons, I introduce Rory to Katie Good Quiver. I tell Rory that Katie is an expert on feathers, and I tell Katie that Rory is looking for a big feather, preferably from the plumage of a giant bird that doesn't exist. Katie asks me if Rory is insane. I tell Katie that he is very strange, but he is friendly, and, in some ways he is almost a dog. Katie tickles Rory's ear and says that he is a good boy and, if he wants a big plume, she is sure he will find one. Rory says, crossly, that I have got it entirely wrong, he is not interested in birds that don't exist or big plumes. I tap my my head and whirl my finger around my temple, silently indicating to Katie that Rory is barking mad. Katie tells Rory, encouragingly, that a big plume is not hard to find and, she predicts, that if he looks out for one, he might find the feather of a thunder-bird, and they don't exist, or, at least, there are very few of them. Rory, looking agitated, starts to explain, again, whatever it is that tries to explain, but I don't care and Katie doesn't care, so, before he can explain it, I knock him out with a heavy brass Adamawanese vase, which is ideal for such purposes, and Katie and I have a very nice time catching up on the gossip while we watch our friends, with their brains on fire from the effects of Duff's Defiance, trying to slaughter each other with ceremonial peace-pipes.

When everyone has fought themselves into a standstill, but before they can refresh themselves with more Duff's Defiance, and start fighting again, I tell our Blackfeet friends that, although we would like to stay, we are on an vitally urgent mission and, owing to Juan's stupidity, we are rimpishly behind schedule, therefore, unfortunately, we have to leave immediately. Fatty says he wants to stay to try out the Blackfoot version of Cherokee preserve; Blackfoot preserve, he informs us, is the same as Cherokee preserve, except that it's strained through the kidneys of a live wolf, this gives it a salty, tangy, flavour, but we have to catch a wolf, which may take some time.

Juan says that he wants to go on a train raid, I tell him that we don't want a train, we want an aeroplane. Juan, childishly, says that, if we have to have an aeroplane, he wants a fast aeroplane, one that's exciting to fly. Fatty says that we need a big aeroplane, with a lounge and a promenade and a first class chef. Juan says that we should get a sea-plane because a sea-plane can float, then, when we run out of fuel over the sea, we can paddle the rest of the way. Albert says that this won't work if we aren't over the sea, but I ignore him and, kicking Rory awake, I tell him that he will be paddling a sea-plane around the world, so he better do some exercises, to warm up.

Katie shows us a map and points out that we are near Almost-a-Dog Mountain, which is close to an air-shipping lane, and suggests that the best thing to do borrow the first aeroplane we find, fly out to sea and catch up with an airship. Fatty says that this is a very good idea because airships are famous for their wonderful dining facilities and excellent promenades. Juan says it's a good idea because the airship will have bars and women. Rory wants to know how we will find an airship. Katie, remembering Rory's bizarre interest in big feathers, pats him on the head and tells him that he shouldn't worry, when we are over the sea, all he needs to do is look out for a big plume. Rory asks me why it is that, when people talk to him, they treat him like a dog, and the only thing they ever talk about is finding a big plume. George shows us his latest picture and asks Katie if she means a plume as big as the white tail-feather of a sea-eagle. Katie says that the plume she is talking about is black, and much bigger than a sea-eagle's tail-feather. Rory wants to ask Katie something else, but I tell Rory to shut up and stop bothering people with stupid questions. Juan asks Katie if she would like to keep Rory as a pet.

Beaumont Crazy Lost Bear kindly offers to guide us to the nearest airfield. We leave our Blackfoot friends in a hail of farewell bullets, wishing them the best of luck in the next train raid, and promising to come back soon. Beaumont leads us through freezing, treacherous, mountains for several days before admitting that he doesn't know where we are. This is irritating, but, fortunately, knowing we were likely to be lost, Katie turns up and leads directly to a small airfield. As a parting gift, I give a compass to Beaumont, Rory gives Katie his painting of an eagle and Juan gives her a set of diamond encrusted throwing-dirks, then, quickly fortifying ourselves with Vintage Glenfarclas, Duftown, Mortlach, and Cardhu Private Reserve, we borrow the first aeroplane we see and, shouting, cheering, and hitting each other with excitement, we fly up over the jagged, rocky, peaks, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary


Cherokee (preserve)

Ingredients. 1 quart of best malt vinegar, 8 tablespoonfuls of walnut ketchup, 4 tablespoonfuls of soy, 1 ounce of cayenne, 3 cloves of garlic finely-minced.

Method. Put these ingredients into a large bottle, cork tightly, and let them remain undisturbed for 1 month. At the end of this time, strain the liquid into small bottles, keep them well corked, and store in a dry, cool place.

Recipe by Isabella Beeton, 1861

17.12.11

Stopping in Montana

















We run out of fuel, and crash-land in Montana. We consider our options, to help our considerations, we break open the Glenlivet Private Reserve, which we keep for such occasions. After much consideration, and Glenlivet, we decide that, although walking across America is always a lot of fun, if you are in a desperate hurry, as we are, and unable to walk very far without falling over, finding another aeroplane and flying over America is a much more sensible idea, so we decide to find an airfield, to borrow another aeroplane.

Fatty says that he hasn't had a decent meal for several hours, so he has to have a quick snack, to sustain himself. Juan tells Fatty that this is hunting country, so it will be easy to hunt something to eat. Rory says that this area is also known for several mysterious creatures, including something that looks like a porcupine, but with very few quills, and an ape-like creature called a 'bigfoot' because, Rory explains, unnecessarily, it has big feet, and, as we are here, Rory declares, we should find one.

Rory is a cryptoid hunter which, as far as anyone can understand, involves hunting for creatures that do not exist. I remind Rory of the urgency of our mission and tell him that, considering that we just reduced our aircraft into small pieces of burnt wood and twisted metal, that we are in the wrong country, heading in the wrong direction, and vakandishly behind schedule, so, even though hunting would provide us with something to eat, like a duck or goose, creatures which really do exist, it would still be stupidly irresponsible, but hunting a bigfoot, which does not really exist, would be utterly futile. Fatty says that it might not be futile, stewed bigfoot might be very tasty. Rory tells Fatty that we can't eat a bigfoot, it isn't anything like a duck or a goose. I point out that, compared to many other birds, ducks and geese have big feet, so Rory's mythical bigfoot is probably just a duck.

Rory, losing his temper for no reason at all, shouts that bigfoot isn't a duck, and it isn't a goose, or any other kind of bird, a bigfoot, he informs us, is a savage, hairy, stinking, half human, half ape sort of animal, and it doesn't have feathers or quills. George says that, if Rory needs a quill, he should definitely find a duck or a goose, because duck and geese feather make very good quills. Rory yells that we should try and understand that he doesn't want a duck or a goose, he doesn't want any feathers and he doesn't need a quill, and we should stop talking about them.

Albert tells Rory that he should not underestimate quills, they are very useful, for a example, a sofa or a chair can be stuffed with goose quills, so Rory should collect lots of them. This is good advice and I tell Rory that, when the great soft furniture designer, Sir Arthur Quiller-Ouch, discovered that, rather than the porcupine quills he had been using as sofa and seat-stuffing, which, as well as being needle-sharp, were leaping with fleas and stank like rotting cat, customers preferred fresh, clean, goose feathers, which made a soft, harmless, stuffing. Acting upon this discovery, Arthur incorporated goose quill stuffing into his range of soft furniture, and Arthur’s new, 'soft', sofas and chairs were such a great success that he changed his name to Quiller-Couch, to mark the occasion. George tells Rory to ignore everything I say, because it's rubbish.

Rory shouts that he knows that it's rubbish, and he doesn't care, he is only interested in the bigfoot, and the bigfeet species do not have quills or feathers. I tell Rory that he is getting his feet confused, he doesn't mean 'bigfeet species', he means 'Blackfeet People', but the Blackfoot People do have feathers, at least, they have feathers in their hats, so Rory is wrong. Rory starts banging his fists on the ground and yelling that, obviously, he knows the difference between a bigfoot and Blackfoot; a member of the Blackfoot People is a human being, the bigfoot is a savage, hairy, stinking,wild, half-human, half-ape creature, with no quills or feathers.

George says that Rory should not dismiss feathers so lightly, if Rory catches a bigfoot, he will the first person to catch a bigfoot, and, in the world of bigfoot hunters, that will be a big feather in his cap. I think this is funny, but Rory bangs his fists on the ground and shouts that he doesn't want a big feather in his hat.

I tell Rory that he might be right because putting a feather in your cap might make you look plucky, but it can make also make you look silly; in fact, I recall, this happened to Kicker, Manuel's horse, Manuel is one of our top agents and, one day, he had to to write an urgent message, but he didn't have a pen so he stole a feather to make a quill. After he had written the message, he put the quill into his hat and rode away on Kicker. But the ink he used for the quill dripped down over Manuel's face and into his eyes, this caused temporary blindness. When Kicker suddenly stopped at the edge of a cliff, Manuel, taken by surprise, swayed forward, tumbled head-over-heels over the Kicker's head, and fell off the cliff. All that remained was the feather and the hat, which, during Manuel's somersault, had fallen off Manuel's head and landed, neatly, on to Kicker's head. Rory stares at me, blankly. I think it's an amusing tale, Kicker did look silly, but, I realise, you probably had to be there.

Juan solemnly pronounces: “Mata,” ars' Iain, “cha do bhean mise do rud sam bith ach do dh' aon ite: agus rinn mi peann d' i; agus 's e sin a rinn an gnothuch so mar tha e.” Albert wants to know what Juan is saying. I tell Albert that Juan isn't saying anything interesting or unusual, its just a Scotsman complaining. Juan is reciting part of a story about a man called Iain; Iain came to America and, like Manuel, he also stole a feather to make a quill, but terrible things happened because of this theft and the story consists of Iain incessantly complaining about everything, to anyone who will listen to him. It is known to be the most boring story ever told, but it does act as a warning to Rory that, even if he insists on hunting a duck or goose, he shouldn't steal a feather, it's unlucky.

Rory, looking glazed, says that he can't understand why we don't get it, he wants to hunt a bigfoot, and that's all he wants to do, has no intention of hunting a duck or a goose, he does not need a quill and he is not going to steal a feather for his hat, in fact, he says, wearing a feather in your hat is vulgar. I tell Rory that no less a person than Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu said “Things homely and vulgar are sometimes more useful than the elegant, and the feathers of a goose may be better adapted to some occasions than the plumes of the phoenix.”

Rory, rather stonily, says that he doesn't want a phoenix, he wants a bigfoot. I have to point out that Rory doesn't have to go on a hunt to find a mythological creature, like a phoenix or a bigfoot, a standard goose will do, and he can find one in a farm, but, if he does insist on looking for a wild, stinking, savage, half-human, half-ape sort of animal, he only has to look at Juan. George says that, perhaps, the bigfoot that Rory is talking about is of a species that is something between a human and monkey. Albert says that there is no such thing as an in-between species, something has to be one thing or another. I tell Albert that, when it comes to creatures that don't exist, these rules do not apply.

George says that he isn't sure about this, and he shows us his latest painting. I tell George that it's a very nice duck. Juan says it looks like a badly drawn goose. Fatty says that it looks like a very tasty goose, Juan says that it looks like a badly painted duck. Albert suggests that, like the phoenix, it is a fictional bird, a mythological bird that George invented, something between a duck and a goose, so, Albert advises Rory, if Rory finds such a creature, he should definitely take a feather, because finding a feather from a mythological bird would, as George said, certainly be a big feather in Rory's cap, and probably worth its weight in gold. I tell Rory that he still might be disappointed, because, even if they are big, feathers don't weigh very much. Rory screeches he is not interested quills and he doesn't want a big feather in his hat.

Juan says that we have a lot of Blackfoot friends in Montana and, as Rory is so interested in the subject, he should meet Roselle Long Time Bad, who can do wonderful things with a feather. I tell Rory that he shouldn't meet Roselle, or her over-protective brother, Jim Kills Fast; it would be much better, I suggest, if I introduced Rory to Maggie Chief Top Feathers and her husband, Chief Big Feather in Hat. Maggie and her family are expert quillworkers, I tell Rory, they make wonderful quill leggings from the quills they pluck from porcupines, which accounts for all the bald porcupines in the area.

Fatty says that this is a good idea, also, they might have something to eat and they can tell us where the nearest airfield is, which will save a lot of time. Rory doesn't seem able to speak, but everybody else thinks this is a wonderful idea and, to celebrate, we break open our flasks of Vintage Jura, Speyburn, Springbank, and Craigellachie Special Reserve. After offering toast after toast to the great state of Montana, with its wonderful wide-open skies, shining mountains and big feet, saluting the spirit of the hunt and, drinking to the health and longevity of all mythological creatures, we stagger around in hopeless confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary


9.12.11

Racing away





I follow Juan's aeroplane; we fly around and around Mount Assinboine until I realise that Juan doesn't know were we are going. It is pathetic, out mission is desperately urgent, we are huddrounishly behind schedule, heading in the wrong direction, in the wrong country, and Juan behaves like a stupid child. To compound his idiocy, when I try to fly over him to take the lead, he thinks I want a race, and flies up to block me. I can rely on Juan to act like a clown, but it is exasperating that he thinks that he can out-fly me, I feint to the right, dive to the left, invert, spin through the gap between his aeroplane and the cliff edges of Mount Assinboine, and race in front, yelling with excitement and waving my fists in the air. Fatty shouts that I am about to fly into the ground, I release smoke, to act as a smoke-screen, and yell at Fatty that I know what I am doing, I am trying to stop Juan from flying under us and taking the lead. As I say this, Juan roars overhead, dives in front of of, releases smoke, to obscure my vision, and spirals upward, giving me rude gestures from the cockpit. I catch up with Juan's aeroplane, we quickly fortify ourselves with flasks of Vintage Dalmore, Caperdonich, Glenlossie, and Edradour Private Reserve, then, snarling the Highland War into our radios and yelling with excitement and fear, we chase each other through the sky, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary





2.12.11

Leaving the train







Rory looks chilly and pale, I ask him if anything is wrong. After clearing the crust of ice that has formed in his beard and sealed his mouth shut, Rory shouts that he is freezing, terrified and wants to get off the train. Fatty says that Rory probably just needs something to eat and, he points out, in the train, there is a warm and comfortable dining car where we can sit back and enjoy a good meal. I remind Rory that we had to leap on to the train because it didn't stop; it won't stop until it reaches its destination, we don't want it to stop because we are hinkishly behind schedule and, as Juan has proved time and again, jumping off a speeding train into wild terrain is inevitably disastrous. Juan offers Rory a hip-flask of Vintage Duff's Defiance Founder's Reserve, which has marvellously warming, heartening, qualities. I tell Rory that he should just relax, enjoy the fresh mountain air, and take in the wonderful view. Rory shouts that we are on a warm, comfortable train, but it is only warm and comfortable inside the train, and, he points out, unnecessarily, we are not inside the train, we are on top of the train, so, he yells, as he is hanging on for his life, he can't relax or enjoy the view.

Seeing a small airfield, Juan and Fatty hastily gather our provisions, I kick Rory off the train, to give us a soft landing, then, shouting “Geronimo”, we all leap after him. Rory tumbles along the ground like a broken doll but, fortunately, before he can tumble over a cliff, George, Juan, and I break his forward momentum, and, judging by the snapping, crunching sounds, several other things, by landing on him. Albert misses Rory but, as he hits the ground, he curls up into a ball and rolls off into the distance at high speed, eventually disappearing into a canyon. Fatty bounces along comfortably until he comes to rest, wobbling backwards and forwards, rubbing his stomach and saying that he needs some refreshment. Rory makes groaning noises and coughs up blood. Albert says that we should take him to a hospital. Juan says that making groaning noises and coughing up blood is perfectly normal after a flask of Duff's Defiance, it proves it's a fine malt.

We find Albert in a gorge, looking, with some alarm, at four cowboys. I tell Albert that there is nothing to worry about, cowboys do have an evil reputation, but this is a myth, invented in order to make the boring, safe, and easy job of herding cows sound challenging, tough and dangerous. The truth is, I tell Albert, is that, the word 'coward' comes from 'cow herd' and, true to the name, cowboys are, in fact, extremely timorous and gentle and they always run away at the slightest sign of danger. George tells Albert to ignore this advice because it's wrong. I tell George that the cowboys in this area are particularly peaceful, harmless, God-fearing, religious people, in fact, I point out, they are so religious, even their horses can walk on water. I think this is funny, but the cowboys take offence and we spend the morning having a shoot-out

Rory receives a couple of gunshot wounds and Albert falls into the river, but, apart from that, we have a lot of fun and nobody comes to any serious harm, except for three of the cowboys. Feeling somewhat guilty, I open my coffre-fort, take out a fistful of diamonds, which I keep for such occasions, and give them to the surviving cowboy. I tell him that I know this won't in any way make up for the loss of this three friends, but, although he must be saddened by the unfortunate demise of his colleagues, he takes the diamonds instantly and gallops away, whooping and shouting with happiness. This makes me feel a lot better.

Juan quickly lights a small fire, and thrusts his dirk into the flames. Albert dries himself out in front of the fire and Fatty suggests that, before we move on, we have a horse steak, but, I tell him, we don't have time for a meal, the fire is for Rory. Albert says that Rory doesn't need a fire, he needs a doctor. I remind Albert that Juan is a doctor, and I am a skilled medical assistant,which, when the blade of the dirk is glowing, I demonstrate by knocking Rory unconscious with a bottle of Glenmorangie. Juan gouges the bullets out of Rory's gut and cauterises the wounds with the red-hot blade and, throwing Rory on to a horse, we head for the airfield, fortify ourselves with Vintage Glen Garioch, Miltonduff, and Lochnagar Private Reserve, offer toast after toast to the valiant cow herders, borrow a couple of aeroplanes, then, yelling with excitement and singing 'Up amang yon Cliffy Rocks' and 'Farewell to the Land', at the top of our voices, we head up and over the Rockies, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary