It is not easy to best Sherlock Holmes, as he is so very masterful and quick-witted. Sometimes, however, I have found an area in which he has little to no knowledge or skill.
We had just completed a case with Lestrade. It was a day or two after Boxing Day and the Christmas decorations were still in evidence throughout his welcoming home. He showed us into the parlor and offered us each a warming drink.
We had scarcely taken our seats when the sound of little feet approached the parlour door in great haste.
“Daddy! Daddy!” a small boy ran in with a ball tucked under his arm. “Can we go to the park now? You promised! You said we could as soon as you got home.”
Lestrade gave us a look that pleaded for sympathy and then took to one knee in order to look his son in the eye whilst giving his answer.
“Now, Tim, let me just tend to my guests and then we’ll go to the park. All right?”
Tim looked far from happy but he nodded. “Yes, Daddy,” said he with quiet obedience. He then turned to leave the room.
“Come over here, Tim,” Holmes instructed with a small smile and a flick of his long fingers. “Come and sit by the fire, with me.”
The boy did so rather shyly.
My companion slipped a hand inside his pocket for a moment and then crouched so that he was at eye level with the young child. “How old are you, Tim?”
“Mr. Holmes,” his father prompted.
“I’m six, Mr. Holmes,” he repeated with polite obedience.
Holmes allowed his smile to broaden. “Would you like sixpence?”
“Now, Holmes,” Lestrade began in protest.
He held up a hand for silence, still smiling at the young boy. “You seem to have something in your ear, Tim. Might I take a look. Ah! I thought that it was…”
To Tim’s astonishment he snatched something and held it up. It was a shiny six penny piece.
“Was that really inside my ear?” the boy asked as my friend handed it to him.
“Indeed it was, so it would be wrong of me to take it from you,” said he with another smile. “Now then, Tim, where is it that you wish to go to?”
The child smiled at my companion as if he were an old friend. “To the park, Mr. Holmes. Daddy said that he’d show me how to play football.”
Holmes pointed toward me. “Doctor Watson is good at sports. He used to play rugby for Blackheath, he has told me.”
How I wished at that moment that I had never mentioned it! All the same, I admitted that although I had once been strong and able, I was no longer the man I had been.
“Come now, Doctor,” Lestrade said with a smile. “I’m sure you and Mr. Holmes would be more than a match for me and my son!”
Holmes suddenly seemed less than enthusiastic about football and I suspected that he had intended for me to somehow entertain the child while he and Lestrade talked in peace. He did not back down however, and the four of us made our way to the park.
Lestrade chose a patch of grass upon which (he said) he had played football with his brother and friends as a boy and pointed out some trees that served as goal posts. The game then commenced.
I did not make a good sporting companion. I was already stiff and cold after the case and my leg and shoulder made kicking, running and stopping goals almost impossible. Holmes was fast and appeared to be almost everywhere at once and yet the ball still seemed to be everywhere that he was not.
Lestrade had not forgotten how to kick a ball and his son, though young and still without a strong kicking action, was not without some skill. They beat us soundly.
Holmes at last had to admit defeat and held up a hand to indicate that he had had enough as he leant wearily on the trunk of one of our goal posts. He was quite out of breath.
“I think we’ve won, Tim,” Lestrade announced, swinging his son up onto his shoulders. “Come on, let’s get back inside. Would you and Doctor Watson like to stay for tea, Mr. Holmes? Mrs. Lestrade will lay on a good spread for us.”
We returned to the inspector’s home to be greeted with the smell of tea, cakes and mince pies.
The meal was a pleasant affair, but Holmes was rather put out when our host boasted to his wife that he and their son had “finally found something that Holmes can be beaten at” and insisted that it was only because we were both so weary after the recent case.
It was of course quite true, but Lestrade was also quite right when he snorted and replied with the indignant words “And how do you think I feel?”