'Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip," I began. I was immediately interrupted.
I'm curious: Do others have difficulty telling jokes to their nearest and, on the whole, dearest?
"That's stupid for a start!"she barged in. "They'd never go on a camping trip."
I am not sure about that. For instance, in "The Final Problem" - when Holmes and Moriarty reel over the Reichenbach Falls - we know for a fact that Holmes and Watson had spent the previous night at the Englischer Hof at Meiringen. But what would have happened the next night? They were going to be "at the hamlet of Rosenlaui." But they never reached it. A mere hamlet might have had no hotel. It could be that they intended to pitch a tent in some nearby alpine meadow.
"Well," I said defensively - then hesitated. Of course I knew what she was up to. She was trying to make me forget the punchline.
I said firmly: "You just have to accept that they went camping."
"But - "
"But - "
"They were camping, OK? And as they lay down...."
"Did they have sleeping bags or camp beds?"
"As they lay down for the night, Holmes said: 'Watson, my dear fellow, take a look skyward and kindly inform me what you observe....' "
"Did Holmes bring his violin?"
"How do I know? So Watson said: 'I see millions of stars....' "
"It was a clear night, then?"
"Yes. A clear night. So Holmes said: 'Good. Good. And my good chap, old friend, what do you deduce?"
"Was brother Mycroft there, too?"
Ignore her, I thought. "So Watson replied: 'Astronomically, that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.' "
The opposition momentarily fell silent. Ominous, I thought, but I kept on going.
" 'Theologically,' Watson went on, 'that God is great and that we are small.' "
"Watson was quite a short man, was he?" she asked.
" 'And meteorologically that tomorrow will be a beautiful day.' "
"Not necessarily," she stated flatly. "It might snow. There could be fog. Even if the sun shines, it is likely to be frosty, too. What time of year was this, incidentally?"
"Midsummer. So - " (my persistence was heroic) "Watson then asked Holmes: 'What does the starlit universe say to you, you who are the best and wisest man that I have ever known?' "
"And the worst violinist."
And then, precisely, an awful and only-too-familiar blank space took over where my narrative had been. Had I forgotten the punchline? Was she going to win? Yes - yes - no - Ah! Got it!
"And Holmes answered: 'That somebody stole our tent.' "
A long, deep quietness ensued. Then, at last: "That's just silly," she observed. "Watson would have seen the thief running off with the tent under his arm. So what happened next?"
"Oh, nothing," I said. "It's over now."