Here is Sherlock, coming upstairs now, bump, bump, bump, up the seventeen steps. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of getting upstairs, but sometimes he supposes it terribly inefficient, climbing the same seventeen steps every night. He could probably work out a better way, he thinks, if only he had some time to think of it. Maybe he could go home to somewhere else, without steps. Yes; that might be better.
I’m waiting for him on the first floor. He hangs up his coat and smiles at me, and then he feels that perhaps it wouldn’t be better at all.
Anyhow, here he is at the top, and ready to be introduced to you.
Sometimes Sherlock likes a game of some sort when he comes upstairs, and sometimes he likes to sit quietly in front of the fire and listen to a story. This evening—
“What about a story?” said Sherlock.
“What about a story?” I asked.
He pulls an envelope from beneath the stack of post on the sidetable. “‘Sherlock-the-Pooh,’” he reads. “The blog was bad enough, but a children’s book? Really, John?“
I shrug. I’d always known he’d find the proofs sooner or later.
“I was contacted by an agent,” I say. “She’d read my blog.”
“Your blog.” He rolls his eyes. He always professes annoyance, but he always reads it. Sherlock most likes stories about himself. Because he’s that sort of consulting detective.
“He’s a consulting detective. And you named him after me. Very subtle, John.”
“You know who I named him after,” I tell him.
(I’d found the photograph tucked into the back of one of his old schoolbooks; Sherlock, as a boy, half asleep on the sofa, holding a bedraggled stuffed bear.
When Sherlock first told me his name, I said, as you’re going to say, “But that’s your name.”
It is somehow entirely unsurprising that Sherlock would name his stuffed animals after himself.
“Problem? And not exactly. He’s Sherlock-ther-Pooh. Don’t you know what ‘ther’ means?”
“Ah, yes, now I do,” I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.)
Sherlock just narrows his eyes at me. “You’re mocking me.”
“Not at all.”
Sherlock flops down onto the sofa. “Fine, then. Tell me the story of Sherlock-the-Pooh.”
“I’ll try,” I said.
So I tried.
Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Sherlock-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Baker Street.
("'Under the name,' John? In a forest?”
“It means he had the name over the door in gold letters, and lived under it. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”
“Now I do,” said a growly voice.
“Then I will go on,” said I.)
One day when he was out walking, he came to an open place in the middle of the forest, and in the middle of the place was a large oak-tree, and, from the top of the tree, there came a loud buzzing-noise.
Sherlock-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his hands and began to think.
First of all he said to himself: “That buzzing-noise means something. You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee.”
Then he thought for another long time, and said: “And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.”
And then he got up, and said: “And the only reason for making honey is so that I can eat it.” So he began to climb the tree.
(”John, don’t be insulting,” Sherlock said. “I can think of a great many more uses for honey.”
His mouth quirked up into a smile.
“Oh,” I said. “I’m sure you can.”)
He climbed and he climbed and he climbed, and as he climbed he sang a little song to himself. It went like this:
Isn’t it funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?
(”For tea,” Sherlock said.
“It’s also for tea. I’d… put it in your tea.”
“Make a lot of tea, then, does he? Sherlock-the-Pooh?”
Sherlock steepled his fingers and sighed.
“I’d like to keep telling this story for a long time,” I said, “so it would be lovely of you to make me some tea.”
Then he climbed a little further… and a little further… and then just a little further. By that time he had thought of another song.
It’s a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,
They’d build their nests at the bottom of trees.
And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
We shouldn’t have to climb up all these stairs.
He was getting rather tired by this time, so that is why he sang a Complaining Song. He was nearly there now, and if he just stood on that branch….
“Inconvenient,” said Sherlock, as he dropped ten feet onto the branch below him.
“Well, it seems—“ he said, as he bounced twenty feet onto the next branch.
“Obviously, what I meant to do,” he explained, as he turned head-over-heels, and crashed on to another branch thirty feet below, “what I intended—“
“Of course, it was rather—“ he admitted, as he slithered very quickly through the next six branches.
“And all for a little honey. This,” he declared, as he said goodbye to the last branch, spun round three times, and flew gracefully into a gorse-bush, “is why I never eat on a case.”
He crawled out of the gorse-bush, brushed the prickles from his hair, and began to think again.
(”’Began to think again’? Come now, John.”
I just smiled at him.)
And the first person he thought of was Mycroft Robin.
(”John. Now you’re just being absurd.”
“Oh, like you’ve never called him when you were in trouble.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, and a faint blush bloomed up his throat.
“I’ve called him when you were in trouble,” he said at last, whereupon I fear my face may have got a bit pink, too.)
So Sherlock-the-Pooh went round to his friend Mycroft Robin—
“Enemy, then,” I said.
“Arch-enemy,” he added darkly.)
So Sherlock-the-Pooh went round to Mycroft Robin, who lived behind a green door in another part of the forest.
“Good morning, Mycroft Robin,” he said.
“Good morning, Sherlock-ther-Pooh,” he replied.
“I wonder if you’ve got such a thing as a balloon about you?”
“Yes, I just said to myself coming along, ‘I wonder if Mycroft Robin has such a thing as a balloon about him?’ Just as a curiosity, mind.”
“And what possible use could a Consulting Detective have for a balloon?” he asked.
(”You’d be surprised,” he muttered.
“I really wouldn’t.”)
Sherlock-the-Pooh looked round to see that nobody was listening, put his hand to his mouth, and said in a low whisper: “Honey!”
“One cannot procure honey by means of a balloon!”
“You perhaps cannot. I, however, have devised a method—“
(”Bloody Mycroft,” Sherlock said to himself. “Always underestimating me.”)
Mycroft Robin was about to send Sherlock-the-Pooh away, when he noticed two balloons—a green one and a blue one—on his kitchen table.
“Owl,” he said, “is worth her weight in gold. Which one would you like?”
Sherlock-the-Pooh scrubbed his hands through his hair and thought very carefully.
“As I’ve deduced,” he said, “the application is as follows. When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you’re coming. Now, if you have a green balloon, they might think you were only part of the tree, and not notice you, and if you have a blue balloon, they might think you were only part of the sky, and not notice you, so the question remains: If one were to eliminate the impossible, which condition seems most likely to persuade?”
“You’re supposing the bees wouldn’t notice you underneath the balloon,” Mycroft Robin said.
“I can’t make predictions with insufficient data,” said Sherlock-the-Pooh. “You can never tell with bees.” He thought for a moment and said, “I shall try to look like a small black cloud. That will deceive them.”
“Then logically you’ll want to take the blue balloon,” Mycroft Robin said, regarding the handle of his umbrella.
And so it was decided.
Well, they both went out with the blue balloon, and Sherlock-the-Pooh went to a very muddy place that he knew of, and rolled and rolled until he was black all over; and then, when the balloon was blown up as big as big, and both Mycroft Robin and Sherlock were holding onto the string, Mycroft Robin let go suddenly, and Sherlock-the-Pooh floated gracefully up into the sky, and stayed there—level with the top of the tree and about twenty feet from it.
(”John. Surely you’re aware that the buoyancy properties of carbon dioxide—“
“It’s my story. It’s about a talking bear. Drink your tea.”)
“Well done!” Mycroft Robin shouted.
“Meretricious,” replied Sherlock-the-Pooh. “How convincing is my disguise?”
“You look precisely like a Consulting Detective holding onto a balloon,” Mycroft Robin said.
“Not—“ said Sherlock-the-Pooh anxiously, “—not like a small black cloud in a blue sky?”
“Not very much.”
“I’m quite adept at disguises,” Sherlock said confidently. “Perhaps from up here, the deception is more convincing. You never can tell with bees.”
There was no wind to blow him nearer to the tree, so there he stayed. He could see the honey, he could smell the honey, but he couldn’t quite reach the honey.
(”Which, come to think of it,” I said to Sherlock, “is precisely what happened last night. Although then you just had me get it for you.”
“I was busy,” Sherlock growled.)
Mycroft Robin tapped his umbrella against the ground impatiently. After a little while Sherlock-the-Pooh called down to him.
“I’ve had the opportunity to make a few observations,” he said, “and I believe it possible that the bees suspect something.”
“Perhaps they suspect that you’re after their honey.”
“It may well be. You never can tell with bees. Call it an experiment.”
There was another little silence, then Sherlock-the-Pooh called down to Mycroft Robin again.
Mycroft Robin looked at it in some surprise. “What of it?”
“The solution to my dilemma! It’s so obvious. Open it up, and walk up and down with it, and look at me every now and then, and say ‘Tut-tut, it looks like rain.’ I think, if you did that, it would help the deception which we are practising on these bees.”
Mycroft Robin didn’t laugh at him, although he felt like it, because the truth is that he’s rather fond of Sherlock-the-Pooh.
“Drink. Your. Tea. Let me tell the story.”)
“Shall I put my umbrella up?”
“Yes but— oh, obvious, obvious! We must be practical. The important bee to deceive is the Queen Bee. Can you see which is the Queen Bee from down there?”
“A pity. No matter; the art of disguise is, after all, hiding in plain sight. It’s simply a matter of psychology, of getting inside the mind of one’s subject. If you walk up and down with your umbrella, saying, ‘Tut-tut, it looks like rain,’ I shall do what I can by singing a little Cloud Song, such as a cloud might sing…. Now!”
So Mycroft Robin walked up and down with his umbrella, wondering if it might rain, while Sherlock-the-Pooh sang this song:
How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
Every little cloud.
Always sings aloud.
“How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!”
It makes him very proud
To be a little cloud.
Despite the acuity of Sherlock-the-Pooh’s psychological technique, the bees were still buzzing as suspiciously as ever. Some of them, indeed, left their nest and flew all round the cloud as it began the second verse of this song, and one bee sat down on the nose of the cloud for a moment, and then got up again.
“Mycroft—ow!—Robin,” called out the cloud.
“I have reached a rather significant conclusion. These are the wrong sorts of bees.”
“Quite the wrong sort. This experiment is thoroughly invalidated. In addition to which, I should think they would make the wrong sort of honey, shouldn’t you?”
“Yes. So I think I shall come down.”
“And by what means,” Mycroft Robin said, folding his umbrella, “do you intend to accomplish that?”
Sherlock-the-Pooh hadn’t thought about this. If he let go of the string he would fall—bump—and he didn’t like the idea of that. So he thought for a long time, and then he said:
“Mycroft Robin, there is only one solution. You must retrieve a gun and shoot the balloon.”
“Guns being entirely illegal, I cannot think where one might procure such an item. Not to mention, it would spoil the balloon.”
“If you don’t do as I say,” said Sherlock, “I shall have to let go, and that would spoil me.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Mycroft Robin said, picking up a stone and throwing it at the balloon.
“Ow!” said Sherlock.
“Did I miss?”
“Not precisely, no,” said Sherlock-the-Pooh, “but you missed the balloon.”
“Terribly sorry,” Mycroft Robin said, and tried again with a new stone, and this time he hit the balloon and the air came slowly out—
(”That’s not how—“ Sherlock began, then took one look at me and closed his mouth.)
— slowly out, and Sherlock-the-Pooh floated down to the ground. But his arms were so stiff from holding on to the string of the balloon all that time that they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off.
"If only he knew some sort of ex-army doctor,” Sherlock said wryly.
“He should be so lucky.”)
And I think—but I am not sure—that that is why he was always called Pooh.
“That’s the end, then, is it?” said Sherlock.
“That’s the end of that one. There are others.”
“That’s absurd and childish and an utter misrepresentation of me.” Sherlock shot me a narrow look, pale eyes glittering.
“It’s meant to be absurd and childish, it’s a children’s book.”
In his pocket, Sherlock’s phone chimed. “Lestrade,” he said, glancing at the screen. “Coming?” He was already on his feet and had one arm through the sleeve of his coat.
“Of course,” I said.
“Hurry,” he said. “I’ll catch us a cab.”
“Right behind you,” I promised. He left the door open, and through it I could hear his footsteps, bump bump bump, all the way down the seventeen stairs.