Suddenly it was very funny. Vintage W. C. Fields.
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.
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
"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.