We arrived home quite safely. Sure enough, a few days afterwards I received a preposterous claim for damage to the farmer’s grass, which I left my solicitor to deal with; and more extraordinary still, I had a claim from Messrs. Piggott & Son for damages to a tent, which they “could not trace as having been hired to me, but which I must have hired at some time or another, since it bore their name marked as they only marked their tents let out on hire.”
This letter also went to my solicitor, and to this day I’ve heard nothing further about either matter.
MYSTERY NO. IX
SHIN SHIRA AND THE QUEEN OF HEARTS
It was many months after this last adventure before I saw my friend Shin Shira again.
The summer was past, and it was the time of fires and warm drawn curtains. One evening, after dinner, I was sitting alone in my study, puzzling over a chess problem, when the servant brought me a card on which I read—
“DR. SHIN SHIRA SCARAMANGA MANOUSA YAMA HAWA.”
“Oh!” I laughed, “show him in at once, please.” For I had been longing for an opportunity of thanking the gallant little fellow for the bravery he had shown in the matter of the mad bull—a bravery to which some of us, at all events, probably owed our lives.
“Come in, come in! Delighted to see you!” I cried, getting up and making him comfortable in “the Toad,” the chair which I know he likes best. I got out the tobacco jar, and we were soon chatting comfortably over our pipes.
“By the way,” I said, picking up his card again and looking at it, when we had exhausted most of the topics of conversation which came to our minds, “I didn’t know before that you were a doctor.”
“Oh, I don’t practise, and I seldom use the title except on my cards. It was given to me by the King of Hearts very many years ago. Ha-ha-ha!” And Shin Shira laughed heartily at what was evidently a humorous recollection.
“Won’t you tell me about it, please?” said I.
“I don’t know,” replied the Dwarf, “that there is much to tell.
“It was while I was travelling round the world in my earlier days, and I had come, in the course of my wanderings, upon the country ruled over by the King of Hearts and his most charming Queen.
“Talk about turtle-doves! I had never seen such a perfectly devoted couple before in my life. They were like a pair of happy lovers, although they must have been married several years before I knew them.
“I happened to appear at their Majesties’ dinner-table one evening when they were dining alone, just as dinner was being served.
“Of course they were greatly astonished at seeing me suddenly appear in their presence, especially as I arrived at a particularly awkward moment, when, the servants being busy with the dishes and having their backs turned, the King was squeezing her Majesty’s hand under the table, and looking lovingly into her eyes.