"Well, then," he said, "it could hardly have been that I was the first really keen fisherman to poke about there, and I may not have been the first to discover it. Possibly others unearthed it too, and kept their faces shut, as I did."
"Discovered what?" I asked eagerly, and Smythe-Preston laughed.
"Discovered what all those monstrous stones were put there for," he said. "It was all so absurdly simple, once I'd broken the code. And to think that it took me nearly five years to see what should have been obvious right from the start."
"For heaven's sake, man," I said, "what should have been obvious?"
Smythe-Preston looked at me in disbelief. "Look, old boy, since you seem a bit dense I shall spell it out for you. These chalk streams you've been fishing all week—they were here before man, of course. God knows who kept the weed cut then, but the trout were here, too, and when the ancient Britons came tromping onto the scene they found old Salmo fario ahead of them, and well established. And so they did what any self-respecting Briton would have done—they started fishing for trout! Of course, it wasn't easy. The poor brutes weren't much on finesse—just barely down out of the trees, you might say—and the arts of angling weren't highly developed. But, of course, the trout weren't so awfully sophisticated either, and that helped. At any rate, they fished—for food at first, and then, of course, for sport as well, since they were British.
"And being fishermen," Smythe-Preston went on, a mile a minute, "they soon developed most of the appurtenances of anglers everywhere—crude rods and lines, no doubt some type of artificial fly, since the principal food of the fish was, even then, natural insects. Do you follow me?"
"Yes, indeed," I said.
"Good," said Smythe-Preston, "because, frankly, you don't strike me as frightfully bright. Well, then. Along with the rods and such, these primitive trout fishers invented other necessities—the alibi, for example. The trout that keeps growing after being caught, more rapidly than it ever did in the water. The pre-Potter one-upmanship of the fly-fisher over the worm-soaker. And—as you've undoubtedly seen by now—the fisherman's calendar."
"Undoubtedly seen what by now?" I asked, bewildered.
"Sir," said Smythe-Preston, "if you will forgive my saying so and. indeed, even if you will not, you are most incredibly obtuse. Frankly, I wonder I waste my time with you. But you have asked me a question, and for some peculiar reason I feel impelled to answer it—truthfully!"