It was no great day when it came. There were a lot of ducks down at the middle finger of the Lily Pools, but, with this and that, we barely got a shot. Haggar told Preece that he was going through the bushes as if he were on the parade ground. Preece said that Haggar's yellow Labrador must have been brain damaged. And so on.
As the light started to fail, we headed away from the lake and into the woods. When Lindenburgh found out we'd got nothing he would be impossible, clearly, and now it seemed there was no chance of even a rabbit. Then Devan whispered harshly, "Hold it!" We froze, eyes following his pointing finger up the trunk of an oak. Squirrel, maybe? No. Now Preece's finger was directed right at the top of the tree. "Can't you see it?" he demanded.
Haggar spotted it first, then I did. A great clump of mistletoe growing on a bough of the oak, a mass of pearly white berries.
"Uh, mistletoe," Haggar said. Both of us looked at Preece, trying to catch his drift.
"You know what mistletoe is fetching?" Preeced demanded. "A sprig of mistletoe? Plenty of holly in the shops, but no mistletoe. And this is high quality mistletoe."
And so, as the winter gloom gathered, we moved through the wood, hunting down the wild mistletoe, blasting it off the oak boughs with the guns. When we had all we could carry we headed back to Old Man Haggar's car, borrowed for the holidays, loaded the trunk and sped back to Pembroke to catch the shops. Preece proved entirely correct. They couldn't take enough of it.
We were, for us, astonishingly well off when we met Lindy in the Hope. Even he, examining the small bundle of one-pound notes had to admit that. We had even kept a little mistletoe, which provided an entry into that crowd in from the country, to their party and to their Newcastle Brown. Mistletoe is a plant the ancient Druids of Wales held to be holy. Some of its influence must have rubbed off on Lindenburgh, so inspired did he become at the Eight-Arch Bridge on our homeward journey.
He flung a last challenge to the Green Devil:
"Six-foot two, eyes of blue, Big John Lindy's after you!"
We knew he had simply adapted an old rugby chant. But we knew also that he meant it.