Hurrying down to the landing stage, I descried a large canoe laden down with bulky packages, being steered towards me by a thickset bearded man in oilskins. As he alighted, a strong whiff of fish penetrated my nostrils. “Mr Zola, I presume”, I said. I am the new Burrow Beadle, Percival Flarge. You may call me Percy if you wish”.
“I shall do nowt o’t sort” snapped Zola. “I don’t indulge in familiarities with effing beadles. Fetch a trolley and unload this lot, my man. I have brought Anticant a fresh load of fish from
“Ah, there you are, Zola” cried Anticant. “Better have a shower before you join us in the Snug, or else Dame Barbara will twig that there’s something fishy going on”. When Zola returned, in somewhat more fragrant attire, discussion resumed on a new book featured in Stephen Law’s philosophy blog about ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ In my simple way I thought that the obvious answer was “Because there is”, but this did not satisfy the budding philosophers of the Burrow. They tossed the question around and around until I was utterly out of my depth. In the end, I decided that the Big Bang was rather a damp squib, and went to see how Dame Barbara was getting on. I found her supine on the settee, snoring loudly, with three empty gin bottles on the floor beside her.
I returned to the Snug in time to hear the headless Trousers declare that everything was just a piece of cake. Lavenderblue, however, insisted that life is just a bowl of cherries, while Anticant glumly observed that life is what you make it, and he didn’t think this discussion was making much of it, as it all seemed as clear as mud to him.
Feeling in need of some fresh air, I decided to patrol the Burrow grounds. Strolling along the towpath I perceived a beautiful piebald horse approaching whose rider was a bald, smiling, gleaming eyed, rustic-clad farmer-like person. “Hi, pardner”, he exclaimed in a strong American twang, “let the folks know that Ol’ Farmer Wook has crossed the pond to see what goes on in this neck of the woods”. He dismounted and threw me the reins. I led his splendid steed to our best loose box, and saw it was plentifully supplied with oats and water. I then escorted Wook to the Snug. His entry was greeted with a delighted chorus of welcome – not least from Lavenderblue, who flung her arms around his neck and, in classic Mae West fashion, invited him to come up and see her at her Studio sometime. “Ah!” Wook replied, “I’m always forecasting the end of modernity. How nice to land up at a place where it hasn’t even happened yet.”
This cosy atmosphere was suddenly disrupted by the dramatic entrance of a dishevelled Dame Barbara. “My pearls – my precious pearls” she screamed, clutching at her throat. “They’ve gone missing. It must be one of you lot. Send for Miss Marple! Judge Anticant must convene a Burrow court immediately. Meanwhile, no-one can leave the building.”
Everyone looked at each other in dismay. Each felt under suspicion, knowing they were innocent. Who could be the culprit?