Why I didn’t write straight off to Launebeck about the cigars, instead of “mem-ing” it, may seem a mystery. It isn’t. It is a comfortable habit of mine. Once having “mem-ed” an unpleasant thing in my diary, the matter is over. I dismiss it from my mind. But to return to Liosha—I find in my entry of sixty-two words thirty-five devoted to Susan, her donkey and the cigars, and only twenty-seven to the really astonishing events of the day. Of course I am angry. Of course I consult Barbara. Of course she pats the little bald patch on the top of my head and laughs in a superior way and invents, with a paralysing air of verity, an impossible amplification of the “story of meeting and Prescott marriage.” And of course, the frivolous Jaffery, now that one really wants him, is sitting astride of a cannon, and smoking a pipe and, notebook and pencil in hand, is writing a picturesque description of the bungling decapitation by shrapnel of the general who has just been unfolding to him the whole plan of the campaign, and consequently is provokingly un-getatable by serious persons like myself[A].
[Footnote A: Hilary is writing at the end of the late Balkan war.—W.J.L.]
So for what I learned that day I must trust to the elusive witch, Memory. I have never been to Albania. I have never wanted to go to Albania. Even now, I haven’t the remotest desire to go to Albania. I should loathe it. Wherever I go nowadays, I claim as my right bedroom and bath and viands succulent to the palate and tender to the teeth. My demands are modest. But could I get them in Albania? No. Could one travel from Scutari to Monastir in the same comfort as one travels from London to Paris or from New York to Chicago? No. Does any sensible man of domestic instincts and scholarly tastes like to find himself halfway up an inaccessible mountain, surrounded by a band of moustachioed desperadoes in fustanella petticoats engirdled with an armoury of pistols, daggers and yataghans, who if they are unkind make a surgical demonstration with these lethal implements, and if they are smitten with a mania of amiability, hand you over, for superintendence of your repose, to an army of satellites of whom you are only too glad to call the flea brother? I trow not. Personally, I dislike mountains. They were made for goats and cascades and lunatics and other irresponsible phenomena of nature. They have their uses, I admit, as windscreens and water-sheds; and beheld from the valley they can assume very pretty colours, owing to varying atmospheric conditions; and the more jagged and unenticing they are, the greater is their specious air of stupendousness. . . . At any rate they are hindrances to convenient travel and so I go among them as little as possible.