"Do you think
we might pinch it back?" The clerk had left the flask on the counter and
Dowle was eyeing it hopefully.
said. "Absolutely not."
was forming on the grass and our breath steamed against the lights of the
cottages. Somebody was playing a bagpipe in the bar. We followed the music down
the flagstone walk beneath the pines. The windows of the bar glowed and there
was sweat on the panes from the heat inside. A confusion of shadows was
reflected on the glass.
The bar was
jammed, foggy with tobacco smoke, deafening. Only half the occupants seemed to
be guests at the inn. You could pick out uniforms: the white jackets and berets
tipped with vulture feathers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers up from their
base at nearby Gilgil; blues and red piping, the mess kit of the artillery; the
khaki and knee socks of policemen. The piper was seated by the fireplace. His
cheeks bulged like little red balloons as he played and squeezed the pipe
We wrestled our
way to the bar. Dowle hammered for service on the wet wood.
"Innkeeper," he roared, "bring sides of beef and buckets of ale.
Prepare the wenches."
I examined the
room. It was built of logs and chinked with mortar, and there were trophies on
the walls. A bongo had been decorated with a garland of pine boughs for the
occasion; a forest hog mouthed an apple; mistletoe festooned the sweeping horns
of a buffalo above the door. A snooker game was in progress in an annex off the
main room and two policemen played loudly at darts. There was an old crank
telephone behind the bar. You had to shout to be heard above the din.
In this madness,
unimpressed and serene, I saw Sherlock Holmes. He still wore his deerstalker
and was sitting at the very end of the bar, poring through a fly book, sipping
a brandy. At close range I could see he had arranged a collection of small
medicine bottles on the bar. Each contained a pickled insect and was neatly
labeled in Latin. He would select a fly, a nymph, and compare it with the
appropriate natural. He sensed me over his shoulder.
"I find it
pleasant to work with people about," he said, hardly looking up. Then,
"I saw you on the lake."
He turned and
shook hands gently like a doctor feeling for pain. He picked up a bottle.
"That's the one, you know."