"My dear Watson, your visit is opportune," Sherlock Holmes announced. "Last night Mr Hazelgrove, a local auctioneer, was brutally assaulted on the Downs. I would be grateful if you accompany my investigations."
My old comrade was soon nosing after a trail of footprints, which led us through the chalky mud of Sussex to a small stream. Here, even my unobservant eyes could spot that their pattern changed abruptly.
"The man began to limp..." I suggested.
"Not quite. Observe the alternating print of boot and sock. Somewhere here" – he ferreted rapidly through the grass by the bank – "we should find...Aha!" My friend pulled out a battered object, which he regarded with delight.
"A boot!" I ejaculated.
"A single laceless left-hand leather boot," he replied. "Hazelgrove's secret is revealed. But we must now follow his movements to confirm my hypothesis as to the assault."
We lost the trail soon after, but Holmes was not discouraged.
"There is an old hammer pond in a hollow nearby. I suspect that was his target. See, Hazelgrove's footsteps reappear, and by the marks he was dragging something with him. And here is the pond in question. Look, all is revealed!"
I stared at the pond. Then I stared at Holmes.
"I don't see anything–"
"Exactly. We have a remote pool on display, Watson, but no bedstead."
I stared at Holmes once again, concerned lest his keen mind had begun to suffer deterioration.
"There is no bedstead?" I replied, as calmly as I could. My friend smiled at my confusion.
"My dear Watson, you know of the Red-Headed League and the Ku Klux Klan, but have I ever told you of that other secret society: the League of British Bedstead Men?"
I shook my head. "Never."
"I encountered them first while sojourning on Dartmoor. Their aim is to place broken brass bedsteads and other impedimenta in the watercourses of Britain. A desperate and dedicated crew indeed."
"Hazelgrove dragged a bedstead all the way here?"
"Doubtless filched from his auction house. In his hurry to dispose of it, he acted alone. But he was attacked before he could introduce it to the pond. I suspect the work of another gang."
"Who?" I demanded in horror.
"The Society for the Preservation of England's Green and Pleasant Land, otherwise known as the Greens. They are the sworn enemies of the Bedstead Men. See the mud over here, Watson. The marks of a parasol, wielded by a middle-aged lady of strong principles and even stronger wrists."
"You mean?" I asked.
"It is Miss Lucas, the ringleader of the Greens, whom we must seek out, Watson. So now, come with me to Brighton!"
I will not record here the tedious details of our passage through some of the meaner streets of Hove, till we discovered Miss Lucas, a tall and trim woman wearing athletic bloomers and a disarming smile.
"Mr Holmes," she said. "I thought you had retired."
"How could I ignore such a serious assault?"
"And yet you ignore the daily assault on our native country!" she pronounced, her tone suddenly passionate. "Do you not fear for your bees?"
"They can doubtless survive a few bedsteads."
"But these miscreants' new proposals also involve the dispersal of" – she pulled out a paper from her shapely bosom – "treadless tyres, oil drums, hats, tarblocks and some kind of pie. The membership is divided on the merits of apple versus pork pies."
"What a waste of good food!" I exclaimed. "Holmes, we cannot allow the English countryside to be ruined. Surely our duty is to help Miss Lucas and her Greens."
"Indeed," Holmes said. "But there can be no more violence. Cunning and stealth must be our future watchwords." He turned to me. "Watson, I take it you have already sent off an excited telegram to the Strand Magazine regarding this case?"
I nodded guiltily.
"Send them another, then, announcing your lack of a story. Inform your would-be readers that on this occasion Sherlock Holmes is baffled!"