The spitting noises, albeit discreet, were hardly gentlemanly by any means.
Mycroft Holmes-Lestrade straightened from his task with a quiet groan and whispered, "Gregory, dearest, as alluring as I find your magnificent mouth, that SOUND is quite unbecoming."
Picking yet another feather from between his teeth, Gregory Holmes-Lestrade growled, "Apologies that you find me less attractive with these damnable things flying into my mouth, not to mention my eyes, nose and down my tunic."
"I believe I voiced my opinion that said garment was ill advised for this endeavor."
"Endeavor?! Were we in London, t'would properly be called thievery. Which begs the question, how is it, darling, that YOU seem so adept at our task?"
"Obviously, dealing with the members of Parliament has made me exceedingly talented at handling Dodos and, apparently, all other manner of stupid birds." So saying, he deftly tied the feet of yet another large turkey and, with a flourish, placed it neatly in a cloth sack.
Having secured his own "captive", John Watson attempted to squelch the threatened skirmish. "By the Queen's Guards, will you two please restrain yourselves, unless you WISH to arouse the Hudsons from their slumber. Gregory, dispatch with that last bird with haste if you will."
"A thousand pardons, Captain. I find my preferred occupation of Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard has failed to prepare me for a career of housebreaking."
"Gregory, beloved, within the parameters of the Law, this is to be considered pilfering, whereas housebreaking is..."
"Sweetheart", Greg hissed, "please refrain from sounding like your bloody brother, or I shall be forced to thump you."
John grabbed several bags and scowled, "Take up these ill gotten goods and let's away, before I am forced to thump BOTH of you. We have a few more 'visits' to make."
"Tell me again, John, why we need to liberate other poultry besides these valiant specimens."
"Greg, if we are to thoroughly convince the elder Holmes that there truly IS a large band of nefarious criminals about, we must stage a crime spree of epic proportion."
"Perhaps", sighed Mycroft, "we might do a kind deed to my abused feet and procure more bounty at the Turner home. It is the nearest by far, and since we are afoot, it would seem logical."
"Logical", John huffed, "but hardly advisable." The Turners have a pair of Guinea Fowl who are equally as vociferous as their Mistresses. It would not bode well for us to be discovered."
Greg began leading the way down the road towards the Vicarage. "The Reverend John Elton is known to keep a small flock of tame ducks, too fat from his benevolent care. They should come quietly if enticed, and then we may successfully end our evening at the home of the newlyweds, our friends Stella and Molly. They have a fine brood of freshly hatched chicks."
"A sound plan, husband. My feet and I approve. John?"
"Indeed, Sirs. The ducks can be lead by a trail of feed, and should the chicks create a din, well, I dare say those two fine ladies will turn a blind eye to that which is done in the name of love. To the church."
Having accomplished their intended goal, the three weary and bedraggled men crept, with cunning stealth, into the Great Hall at Hartfield. It was agreed that the birds would not be harmed and, strangely, would be discovered and returned to their rightful owners AFTER Mr.Holmes was sufficiently convinced that his ancestral home, and he, would be spared any fright or danger were he to be protected by a stalwart soldier; a new son-in-law perhaps.
Wanting naught but bath and bed, they were rudely startled by a squawking and indignant Sherlock. "Where have you been? How could you have gone off without me? What have you done that it should be hidden from me? I demand to know!"
"By our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, John, he is worse than the lot", Greg moaned.
"Brother mine, your discretion is required. Be content in the knowledge that all was for your benefit."
Verdigris eyes narrowing in concentration, Sherlock took in the appearance of the trio before him. "You have been on a mission. A mission that involved..."
John lunged forward clapping a firm but gentle hand over heart shaped lips. "Beautiful boy, as Mycroft instructed, this is NOT a matter for speculation or discussion. Now should you choose to pursue your 'investigation', I shall be very cross. Should you behave, however, I am sure a suitable reward will be forthcoming. Are we agreed?"
Not daring to speak, the younger man shook his head, placing a kiss on the palm across his mouth.
"Good lad. Now off to bed the three of you whilst I take myself to my Manor. Soon, my love, my home shall be here. Until then..."
"Yes, Captain. I shall be as silent as the grave."
In the coming days, Father Holmes was happy to give his consent to the marriage of his second son to Captain Watson. It was a simple ceremony with but two small touches which became the fodder for Highbury gossip for sometime. None could understand why the grooms and their groomsmen wore boutonnières adorned with feathers. More intriguing still was the insistence by the grooms that no poultry be served at the wedding banquet, only meat and fish.
When questioned as to their peculiar request, the only answer received was, that "one good turn deserves another."
Though the wedded bliss of Sherlock and John was undimmed by the passage of decades of time, no one was to ever suspect that the most honorable men of the shire had been the architects of that happiness by the commission of "Pilfering Most Fowl."