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I laughed. Suddenly it was very funny. Vintage W. C. Fields.
"No," said Dowle. "I really mean it. Why didn't you shoot him?" He pointed at the Greener in the bow.
Briefly I thought he was being serious. Then we were both laughing. When you got down to thinking about it, I mean it really was hysterical. In a gallows sort of way. The askari was still holding the oar. He joined in, cackling with glee. Across the lake, Sherlock Holmes had stopped fishing. He was sitting on a log watching us, shading his eyes with his hand. He rose slowly, as with great disgust, and began to unjoint his rod.
From his sack—a true horn of plenty—Dowle now produced a silver flask. He had filled it with good Jameson's Irish Whiskey, and in the growing chill of the lake it burned in the stomach. The askari watched us pass the flask, narrowly. "Grog for the officers," said Dowle.
We continued fishing the banks. The little No. 20 Olive Dun fooled three fat rainbows, fine fish not over a pound each but scrappy. Then I took a good brown from under an overhang. He shook his head like a dog worrying a bone. While Dowle kept an eye on the askari I worked him carefully. He had become involved with the bottom weed and therefore felt heavier than he actually was. He came to the surface reluctantly, surly. Big underslung jaw. A cannibal male of about three pounds. But it wasn't much of a fight. Rivers are the place for browns, not lakes. They are animals of cutbanks, the lees of rocks, the nooks and crannies of muskrat tunnels. They use them in the way a good counter-puncher suckers his opponent in the corners of a ring or along the ropes. A lake offers nowhere to hide.
The brown came obediently to the net, flopping against the mesh. I took him behind the gills and cracked his head against the gunwale. It was an assassination. The askari stroked him, then put him into a jute bag in the bottom of the boat. I was just as happy not having to look at him.
Dowle took a nice rainbow, another. They were acrobatic. Between us we now had half a dozen or so trout, more than enough. The askari was getting sleepy and was having trouble with the oars. We told him to row across the lake.
Dowle ordered the askari to beach the boat. We paid him and handed over three of the trout. While he was thus occupied I quietly broke the Greener and extracted the two cartridges. They were LGs, buckshot. The askari was still drunk and I didn't feel like being peppered by a shooting spree. Dowle gave him the flask for company, said we'd return. I said I didn't think that was a good idea, he'd had enough already.
"Only two or three sips left," said Dowle.
The askari did not seem displeased to quit this madness. He climbed up the bank and sat down on the pine needles. He hugged his knees and watched us go. I hoped he wouldn't check the shotgun. Later I could see he was on his back, apparently asleep.