by Chris "Childe Harold" Oakley
"That's it!" I said, "Finished. The Proceedings of
the Byron Society are now ready for publication. Blackwell's deadline
is 5 p.m. today, so that gives us ... uh ... twenty minutes to get back
"No sweat." said Prometheus Hoey, doing the straps up on his WW I flying helmet.
"No problem at all, I'd say." corroborated Don Juan Henrey, putting his skis on.
We left the Swiss hotel and zipped quickly down the slope, unaware that we were being followed. The track passed by a wood, and when we were about half way down, we were startled to find the way blocked with fallen trees. Suddenly the air was thick with a deadly hail of machine-gun bullets. I just remember seeing Don Juan lurch sickeningly forward - then everything went black.
"Enggleeesh schweine! You are vorse zan ze bluddy Chermanns! I vill end zis now vunse and for all!" a voice screamed. I could not understand how I had survived the earlier incident, but decided to put that to one side for the time being. We were all strapped face down on a sawmill. Don Juan seemed to know what the man was talking about and piped up, "Look, I can explain everything, you know! Your wife led me on! It takes two to tango, you know!"
"My vife?!" said the man, taken aback. Don Juan decided to change his tack.
"Look, your daughter is a very beautiful young lady, and we English graduate students don't live like monks - and in any case, this sort of thing goes on all the time, you know!"
"My daughter? Vot are you on about? I'm not vorried about my vife and daughter, Engleesh schwein, but my byoo-tiful, byoo-oo-ootiful Helga, who was a finalist in the All-Svitzerland Sheep Show. How could you. How could you!" He was sobbing now, but suddenly his face hardened: "Zis is it!" he shouted, "Zo zis is really too good for scum like you!"
He started laughing, manically, insanely and then switched on the saw. The air was filled with the sound of screaming steel.
Suddenly, in the moment before blacking out once more, I understood the meaning of the inscription on great-uncle Ebeneezer's gold and emerald snuff box, though this moment of enlightenment went, as I have never been able to understand it since.
"Phew," said Prometheus, "that was a lucky escape!" He was lying on a balsa wood raft, floating in a swimming pool filled with asses milk, surrounded by nymphs wearing orange robes, with large, orange circles on their foreheads. We were in a cool, richly ornamental room in an Egyptian palace. Don Juan was kneeling on a huge silk cushion being ceremoniously spanked by a beautiful maiden with jet black hair and almond eyes wearing all manner of golden and turquoise necklaces, rings, bracelets and bangles, the lightest possible gauze dress, and nothing else.
"Come on, chaps!" I said, "We're going to be late. I promised Basil we'd give him the manuscript today on Scout's Honour! It's ten to five now!"
"On Scout's Honour!" said Prometheus and Don Juan in chorus, suddenly attentive (actually, it was not quite in chorus: with Don Juan it was more like, "On" - spank - yelp - "Scouts" - spank - yelp - "Honour!" - spank -yelp).
"Get Hatchback!" said Prometheus. Don Juan called up his valet on his wrist radio.
"Ah, Hatchback old chap ... need a Tornado ... have to come from Cyprus ... yes, we'll parachute in ... no time for anything else."
"Dash it, Childe Harold," said Don Juan later in the aeroplane, "I rather fancied that dark-haired piece. Do we always have to rush around like this?" As if in consolation, he produced his Albanian Pig's Bladder hip flask, and poured himself some laudanum - into his silver-lined skull cup.
Prometheus was painstakingly cleaning his antique pistols. He was looking tense, and said, "I've got two pistols - I'll take one, and you, Childe Harold, take the other. We must arrange it so that we land close together." Don Juan was perplexed by this.
"What are you talking about?" He said, "We're going to land in Oxford, not Turkey. We don't need any weapons." But as he said this, the horrible thought dawned:
"Ah - but what if we land in Balliol!" said Prometheus in a low voice. I suddenly felt a sick feeling in my stomach.
"Can't we steer our parachutes away?" I said. No-one answered. A dark gloom had settled on the company. At length, Don Juan suddenly burst out:
"Damn it! There must be a way out of this! Can't we paint our faces black, or carry spears so that we can pass unnoticed, or make grass skirts out of the seat linings?"
"That's a thought." said Prometheus. He drew a knife and started cutting the seat covers. "Yes, this'll do the job - and there's tar here, for blacking our faces also."
Thus disguised, we leapt out of the aeroplane, glimpsing the spires, quadrangles and cupolas of our Alma Mater far, far below. It turned out not to be so difficult to steer our parachutes, except that we were caught by a gust of wind at the end, which smartly deposited us in Parson's Pleasure.
"Get off!" said Prometheus as aged hands reached under his grass skirt .........