Once again we are beholden to the current executors of the Knolly estate for letting us publish this, the second package of the great man's journals and memoirs.
We don't belong to Glasgae
Chapter 10 Part 10
We continued to shuffle forward as the numbers counted upwards. For myself, I was trying to slot the pieces of this puzzle together. The magazine article was extremely vexing doubly so if you consider it was hidden within a woman's journal. How many different threads were Bertie and I going to have to pick up on this journey and where was it going to end?
Bertie seemed transfixed by the back pages of the journal and kept pointing out advertisements to me with whispered asides such as:
"Look at that! Does Elspeth . . . ?"
"My goodness! I never realised they used those, did you?"
"How do they breathe?"
I decided it best to hold my tongue. Finally, "42" was called and we made our way to Position One over which a little flag was raised. Behind the glass sat the clerk, a wiry gentlemen whose name-plate read "Mr .Adams". He and I exchanged smiles and nods whilst Bertie was still immersed in his "literature". However, when Mr Adams spoke his offer of help, his strange, nasal voice shocked my colleague from his musings.
I explained that I had a number of telegrams to send to London and he explained that London was "easy peasy". He explained – seemingly speaking largely through his nose – that the days were long gone since London was the most popular of destinations for telegraphic missives, for now "we are global".
I think I came across as not very impressed at this, and Mr Adams pushed the necessary forms in my direction.
I scribbled away hastily at a note to Biggfat and made sure that it went to his home address. There wasn't too much that I could put in plain text but I hoped he'd grasp my meaning from:
"Met a lady friend, from Africa, buoys and toys it seems. Send regards?"
I showed it to Bertie who nodded.
"Makes perfect sense to me," he said "but then we are of a single mind are we not?"
He smiled and rolled his eyes. Sighing inwardly, but smiling outwardly, I handed the form back to the Mr Adams.
"Do you want to wait for a reply, sirs?" he asked.
"The fellow has a point, Knolly. What shall we do about replies if there are any?"
I screwed up my face in thought. Mr Adams sighed.
"That, Bertie, is a good question. We shall be taking a turn about the exhibition site and then we shall partake of some lunch, after which we will be journeying further North. So . . . I think we will have to be contacted sometime tomorrow whilst on route."
I leaned over the counter and spoke quietly to Mr Adams.
"Tell me, does any correspondence get delivered on a regular basis to Sir John Murray, who I believe is undertaking research into Loch Ness?"
Mr Adams behind the counter gave me a quizzical look and nodded in the affirmative. Even his nod was nasal.
"Most excellent!" I replied. "And now, can a note be delivered to him in the next day or so?"
Mr Adams and his nostrils told me that this would be possible if the note could be written that very moment.
"This is splendid news, Mr Adams. In which case, would you please be so kind as to ensure that any replies be sent care of Sir John and his current enterprise?"
I took a piece a paper from the desk and proceeded to hastily pen a note to Sir John. The purpose of the note was threefold. Firstly to provide a quick introduction as an addendum to that which Conan Doyle had sent in advance, secondly to inform him of our possible time of arrival and thirdly (but not leastly) to possibly expect some telegrams addressed to "Mr Stapleton".
The next note was directed to Hobbes. I included the phrase:
"How are our Rothwell travellers? Nell requests news of staff."
And then a final note to Merrick, instructing him to check up on our recently-discovered American visionary and also about the need to mount an extraction of a potential new recruit for the League.
Bertie elbowed me in the ribs and blinked "ASK HIM ABOUT WIDOWS TOO" .
I blinked back "GOOD POINT" and appended to both:
"Thinking of investing in Scottish Widows. More info pls."
Some people in the queue behind us were obviously getting fidgety with what they almost certainly perceived as shilly shallying, and I could hear many a "tsk tsk" as I wrote these last lines. Once our business was complete, we paid our tariff and then bade farewell to Mr Adams – who by now also appeared to be somewhat irritated ("somehere between miffed and peeved" said Bertie later) by our prolonged presence. We smiled and doffed our hats to him, and then turned and did the same to those behind us. This seemed to placate the majority there assembled, although I am sure that I heard at least two dissenting voices someone call us "posh gits" and "time wasting sassenach pisspots".
"Come along Mr Barrymore !" I said as loudly as possible as I took our receipt,
The morning was now ticking on towards the hour when luncheon must be partaken, so Bertie and I made our way back smartly out onto the street, where there was now a Widow in conversation with the duty constable we had spotted earlier. Whether this was related to our recent escapade or just a regular checking process I knew not, and now was not the time to find out. However, as the Widow pulled her cloak about her we could not help but notice a neat array of wooden stakes held in a bandoleer about her body.
"Oh dear," whispered Bertie. "I do hope that Merrick is able to act promptly and extract our new friend."
"Much as I agree, it is the League's decision, my friend. We have passed on the address, and so he just needs to stay hidden."
"Pah!" said Bertie. "The League's decision? You and I both know where the final yay or nay will lie, and Mrs C has wanted to get her hands on one of these creatures for a long time."
"That's as maybe, but what would you have us do then, eh? Go back, extract him ourselves and then introduce him to His Majesty's Naval representatives along with Elspeth and Charlotte?"
Bertie pondered. "It's a thought though, isn't it?"
"Yes it is, but it's not what we are here for."
"But we could make it so. And Elspeth would like to meet one I'm sure given her current reading material . . . "
"Bertie, we are not 'Extraction'. They have methods, rules to follow …"
"Indeed," he harrumphed, "and we are better than that."
"Well, even if that is the case, we don't have the time!"
"No . . . " he mumbled, "we never do". And with a shrug and a sigh, he realised that he was not going to change the wherefores and methods of those from whom we took orders.
The weather had decided to be kind by way of a change as we kept ourselves to the side streets. There, we could zig and zag our way in the direction of Kelvingrove Park, the site destined to host the Exhibition. Considering it was not due to open officially for a good three months hence, things were certainly in full swing. Pavilions were well established, and easily identified as to which nation state they represented. That of Canada was a wonderful sight to behold, and the Canucks seemed to be in the middle of constructing a "water chute" ride plunging down into the river Kelvin itself.
"Now then Bertie . . . where do you think Elspeth would have headed with our friend Mungo, hmmm?"
"Somewhere like that I expect ?" he said, pointing.
My eyes followed the direction of Bertie's extended digit.
"Oh dear!" I exclaimed rather too loudly as I took in the be-tartan-ed emporium.
"I had rather hoped that we would be able to avoid such monstrosities, especially as we were here and not in Edinburgh?"
"Perhaps you will be lucky this time," said Bertie. "I mean, what else is there that she can buy in that pattern?"
"Oh there will be something I'm sure., something that we would not have ever thought imaginable."
"I can imagine a lot now, you know . . . especially after seeing those advertisements earlier. Good heavens, those pictures and narratives were enough to make me want to . . . "
"Stop!" I said.
"I was just going to say 'loosen my collar'."
"Quite so!" I replied, hoping against all hope to bring that conversation to an end there and then before Bertie invoked any residual memories of his encounter with The Countess, and then Lord only knows what might happen.
The shop was a tourist's paradise, and as a capital venture it was sure to go from strength to strength as the opening day got closer. However of Elspeth, Charlotte or Ladybouy there was no sign.
"Good news, then?" Bertie remarked in a rather distracted manner.
His eye had been taken by a pair of trews that were of a tartan quite unlike any that I had seen before. Instead of the usual reds and blues greens arranged in a in chessboard fashion, these britches were hued with several shades of brown and tan and pale green arranged in a manner most higgledy piggledy.
"What clan does this tartan belong to?" I asked.
"Errrrm . . . 'Clan Destine' according to the label," replied Bertie.
"Bertie, I suspect that Elspeth has been here and has moved on. Alas all we can now do is check every window of every other building and marquee as we go along."
We headed off in the direction of the main building – the so-called "Eastern Palace" – which was a Scotsman's idea of Oriental opulence. It was a bit gaudy for my tastes and despite its use of modern technology, it paled in comparison to the sites we had seen recently in China. Still, it housed many restaurants and cafes according to the map that we had purchased. This was excellent news, given the debilitating effect of not having eaten since our early breakfast coupled with the lack of tea during the intervening period.
Believe me when I say there is a thing as "too much choice." Poor Bertie was in a frenzy by the time we eventually decided what it was that we wanted to eat, how we wished it to be cooked and from what corner of the Globe the method and manner of its preparation.
We had just finished an excellent mutton soup when I spotted Elspeth and company exiting from a Parisian styled eatery opposite. Ladybouy seemed to have assumed the role of baggage mule, the poor fellow. But now here was a quandary ! Should I wave and have my darling notice me, and then suffer from not having found them when we were wandering around looking for food, or should I simply keep my head down and be admonished later for not having met up for lunch at all?
The decision was soon out of my hands as I saw Charlotte spin on her heels and fix her gaze on the back of Bertie's head. Damn her superior feline sense of smell!
"Heads up Bertie! We are about to receive visitors," I said in as cheery a voice as I was able to muster.
"Eh? What?" was all he was capable of getting out before they were upon us.
I stood hastily to welcome them and to kiss my wife who was positively glowing. Elspeth held me at arm's length and looked me up and down my puckered lips beating a quick retreat.
"Good Heavens, Knolly! What on Earth have you been up to? You are filthy!"
Elspeth then turned to Bertie who had now also stood.
"This is your doing, isn't it?"
"Hello Elspeth! Why yes, um no. Er . . . if the question was about the choice of food then definitely the answer would be a resounding 'yes'. Otherwise the answer would be an even more resounding 'no'."
"We have been rather busier than expected," I said by way of explanation.
"You were only sending telegrams!" said Elspeth. I sometimes curse her memory.
"Indeed, but we were waylaid."
Charlie had plonked herself in my vacant chair. She leaned towards Bertie and inhaled deeply.
"Bertie smell of …." she started. She pulled a frown and hand signalled to Elspeth.
"He smells of birds?" said Elspeth. "Now this is strange, even for you two."
Charlie nodded and grinned. "Piggy Birrred," she said licking her lips and rolling the r's.
"Pigeons! Capita ! " clapped Bertie. "Well done, Charlie!"
Elspeth glowered and wrinkled her nose.
"Pigeons, Knolly? Where have you both been? No tell me later when you've scrubbed up."
"Bertie! Bertie!" said Charlie rather excitedly. "See my muff . . . "
Bertie and I went rather red.
"It go like . . . lights up! Look!"
Bertie and I watched aghast as an exited Charlotte put her hands into the furry article on her lap and a warm yellow light proceed to emanated from within.
"It was a prrrrrreeeeeesent," she purred.
I looked from Bertie to Elspeth.
"Better to hide her hands?" I asked.
Elspeth nodded. "Yes, I thought so," she said, "and she has been so well behaved . . . until now that is. Oh. Mungo . . . do put the bags down."
I noticed a worried look from Bertie as I took Elspeth to one side.
"He's frightened of you, you know that," whispered Elspeth.
"You know damn well I mean Ladybouy!"
"Elspeth! Language! Please . . . "
"Pah! And you think you know why, don't you?"
She emphasised this with a poke or a finger to my sternum.
"I have suspicions, and that was the gist of one of the telegrams I sent back home."
"Hmm . . . we are being watched and the kitten has big ears and a voice over which she has no control," said Elspeth.
I chuckled at this.
"Yes, and interesting vocabulary that grows by the minute. Look, I'm so sorry that we didn't meet for lunch, but you do seem to have enjoyed yourself without me around. Do you want to wait for Bertie and me, or are you going to head back?"
"I must admit that a long sit down on a comfy chair would not go amiss," she said with a smile.
I nodded and started walking back to our little group. Bertie and Ladybouy were in animated conversation with Charlie.
"Captain, can I ask you one more favour? Would you be so kind as to escort the ladies back to the train?"
"I was going to suggest the very same sir, seeing as how you are mid-luncheon. I'll send the carriage back for you in an hour. Would that give enough time?" said Ladybouy.
"Thank you, indeed it will. And once we are back, how soon can we move off northwards?"
"Is there a problem?" he enquired.
"Possibly not, but I think that our wanderings around the city have stirred up something unforeseen and the sooner we can make steam the better."
Elspeth made to say something, although her face said more than enough. Charlie picked up the tension and her claws extended straight into Bertie's thigh. Ladybouy saw what happened but was not quick enough to prevent the cloth of Bertie's trousers being torn and the skin beneath being nicked.
Bertie held back from a full-blown yell, opting instead for a strangulated gargle with veins on the temple going very blue.
We waved off our guests to the waiting carriage and sat back down to our meal.
"Did you see that Knolly," said Bertie. "She could have taken my bloody leg off!"
"It was an accident and you know it," I said. "Besides, young Mungo did a sterling job."
"He could have been quicker, though."
"And Charlie was very sorry . . . "
"She could have taken my bloody leg off!" said Bertie as if repeating something made it any more true.
"Bertie, will you stop fussing. I'm sure she will make it up to you," I said (and immediately wished that I had not),
"What . . . Charlie? Do you really think so?" he said with a bit of a blush.
I was saved at this point by the arrival of our choice of main course.