Presently, he found himself pacing the beeyard as young Rogereager to impress him with how well the bees had been tended in his absence, roving now from hive to hive without a veil and with sleeves rolled highexplained that after the swarm had been settled in early April, only a few days prior to Holmes's leaving for Japan, they had since fully drawn out the foundation wax within the frames, built honeycombs, and filled each hexagonal cell. In fact, to his delight, the boy had already reduced the number of frames to nine per hive, thereby allowing plenty of space for the bees to thrive.
"Excellent," Holmes said. "You have summered these creatures admirably, Roger. I am very pleased by your diligence here." Then, rewarding the boy, he removed the vial from his pocket, presenting it between a crooked finger and a thumb. "This was meant for you," he said, watching as Roger accepted the container and gazed at its contents with mild wonder. "Apis cerana japonicaor perhaps we will simply call them Japanese honeybees. How's that?"
"Thank you, sir."
The boy gave him a smile, and, gazing into Roger's perfect blue eyes, lightly patting the boy's mess of blond hair, Holmes smiled in turn. Afterward, they faced the hives together, saying nothing for a while. Silence like this, in the beeyard, never failed to please him wholly; from the way Roger stood easily beside him, he believed the boy shared an equal satisfaction. And while he rarely enjoyed the company of children, it was difficult avoiding the paternal stirrings he harbored for Mrs. Munro's son (how, he had often pondered, could that meandering woman have borne such a promising offspring?).
But even at his advanced age, he found it impossible to express his true affections, especially toward a fourteen-year-old whose father had been among the British army casualties in the Balkans and whose presence, he suspected, Roger sorely missed. In any case, it was always wise to maintain emotional self-restraint when engaging housekeepers and their kinit was, no doubt, enough just to stand with the boy as their mutual stillness hopefully spoke volumes, as their eyes surveyed the hives and studied the swaying oak branches and contemplated the subtle shifting of the afternoon into the evening.
Soon, Mrs. Munro called from the garden pathway, beckoning for Roger's assistance in the kitchen. Then, reluctantly, he and the boy headed across the pasture, doing so at their leisure, stopping to observe a blue butterfly fluttering around the fragrant azaleas. Moments before dusk's descent, they entered the garden, the boy's hand gently gripping his elbowthat same hand guiding him onward through the farmhouse door, staying upon him until he had safely mounted the stairs and gone into his attic study (navigating the stairs being hardly a difficult undertaking, though he felt grateful whenever Roger steadied him like a human crutch).
"Should I fetch you when supper's ready?"
"Please, if you would."
So at his desk he sat, waiting for the boy to aid him again, to help him down the stairs. For a while, he busied himself, examining notes he had written prior to his trip, cryptic messages scrawled on torn bits of paperlevulose predominates, more soluble than dextrosethe meanings of which eluded him. He glanced around, realizing Mrs. Munro had taken liberties in his absence. The books he had scattered about the floor were now stacked, the floor swept, butas he had expressly instructednot a thing had been dusted. Becoming increasingly restless for tobacco, he shifted notebooks and opened drawers, hoping to find a Jamaican or at least a cigarette. After the hunt proved futile, he resigned himself with favored correspondence, reaching for one of the many letters sent by Mr. Tamiki Umezaki weeks before he had embarked on his trip abroad: Dear Sir, I'm extremely gratified that my invitation was received with serious interest, and that you have decided to be my guest here in Kobe. Needless to say, I look forward to showing you the many temple gardens in this region of Japan, as well as
Excerpted from A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin Copyright © 2005 by Mitch Cullin. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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