Nursing Holmes by Cenarth Fox


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


CHARACTERS

      Sherlock Holmes Ė a consulting detective
      Mrs Hudson Ė a landlady

      [Pre-show music could include solo violin pieces as might have been
      played by the great detective

      As the audience enters, the set is revealed in low light

      HOLMES is already in position in the sitting-room at 221B Baker Street

      A two-seater settee is about RC and the room is cluttered without being messy

      A large box/trunk is DR ready for any books or papers. Empty chairs face one another upstage
      before the fireplace

      Music fades as do the house-lights and up come the lights on the set

      It is a cold December night with Christmas fast approaching]

      HOLMES [We hear but cannot see him] Mrs Hudson! [Louder and peeved]
      Mrs Hudson!

      HUDSON [Calling from offstage] Coming Mr Holmes

      HOLMES [Pause. Louder still] Mrs Hudson!

      HUDSON [Sounds of movement offstage and her muttering] Iím here, Mr
      Holmes.

      [Door opens LC. HUDSON has difficulty opening door whilst carrying
      several large books. HUDSON appears. She is frail but manages]
      I do wish you wouldnít shout so. [She stops as there is no place for
      the books on the cluttered table] Oh you are the worst tenant in
      London. Wherever shall I put your books? [She looks for a place to
      place the books and realises she canít see HOLMES] Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES [Hands appear on the top of back of settee followed by his
      face] Good evening.

      HUDSON [Startled] Mr Holmes!

      HOLMES In kneeling to retrieve my magnifying lens, I have encountered
      difficulty in standing.

      HUDSON Oh dear. Allow me to help.

      HOLMES If you would be so kind. [Disappears behind settee again]

      HUDSON [Looking around] But itís impossible.

      HOLMES [Pause. Appears from behind settee as before] Is there a
      problem, madam?

      HUDSON There is nowhere to place these books.

      HOLMES [Is that all?] Just put them on a chair, anywhere, but kindly
      give me a hand. [Disappears from view again]

      HUDSON Very well.
      [She delicately places books on the chair by the table. Itís a
      difficult task and she is worried the books might slip]

      HOLMES [Head appears again] Please donít hurry. Iím currently
      engaged in an experiment testing the threshold of rheumatic pain.
      [Face contorts, he groans quietly then disappears] Ow.

      [HUDSON canít safely put down the books and finds herself slowly
      dropping to her knees still clutching the tomes. The books are now
      safely on the chair but she is kneeling before it. Alternatively one
      could slip to the floor causing her to bend]

      HUDSON [Needs some assistance] Ah, Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES Iím still here, Mrs Hudson.

      HUDSON Iím afraid I canít get up.

      HOLMES [Hands then face appear over back of settee again. Miffed and
      groans]

      HUDSON Shall I ring for help?

      HOLMES What a splendid idea. And any time this week suits me.
      [Disappears]

      HUDSON [Leans forward, reaches out but canít quite reach the bell on
      the table] Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES [As if heís not sure] Is that you, Mrs Hudson?

      HUDSON Iím afraid I canít find the bell.

      HOLMES [Face appears with sarcasm to boot] Never mind. Itíll be
      Christmas soon. Weíll get the goose to give us a hand.

      HUDSON Actually Iíve just remembered; ringing the bell wonít be
      much help.

      HOLMES Why, is the goose deaf?

      HUDSON No itís the maidís night off.

      HOLMES [Taking control of situation a la Basil Fawlty] Right you are.
      Jolly good. Leave it to me. Iíll just ... [He pushes himself up] Ow!
      [And cries in pain as his rheumatic joints give him curry. Dusts
      himself down] ... damn rheumatism.

      HUDSON [Impressed heís done it by himself] Oh well done, Mr Holmes.

      HOLMES [Looking for a small case] There must be something I can take
      to dull this pain. Where did I pack it? [He appears to offer hand to
      help HUDSON stand but is really reaching for a book on the table.
      Excited] There it is.

                [He takes book and flips through it excitedly]

      HUDSON Mr Holmes? [HOLMES turns towards settee. She louder] Mr
      Holmes?

      HOLMES [Reading] Not now, madam, not now.

      [She shrugs and with difficulty hauls herself up]

      HUDSON [Getting to her feet] Donít worry about me, sir. Iím sure I
      can manage.

      [Dusting herself] Now then, tea? [Pause] Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES [Looks up] Whatís that?

      HUDSON Shall I bring some tea?

      HOLMES [Back to reading] Not now.

          [HUDSON rearranges books etc on the table, then places the ones she
      carried in on the table. She tidies as she goes and talks all the
      while]

      HUDSON It seems hard to believe youíve lived under my roof for more
      than twenty years, give or take the odd Swiss holiday. And to think
      this is your last night at Baker Street.

      HOLMES [Fascinated by the book] Fascinating.

      HUDSON [Still tidying] Iíve lost count of the hundreds of cases
      youíve solved, and the many weird and wonderful visitors whoíve
      entered this room; crown heads of Europe, street urchins, even our
      very own Prime Minister. You are indeed famous, Mr Holmes, and rightly
      so. [Admires her handiwork] Now then, what can I do to help?

      HOLMES [Reading] Not now, Mrs Hudson. Iím busy.

      HUDSON [Smiles then sits and watches him] Iím going to miss your
      mood swings. You are untidy, unreasonable, uncontrollable and uncouth
      but I could never call you boring.

      HOLMES [Pause. Suddenly aware sheís in the room] Mrs Hudson?

      HUDSON Good evening.

      HOLMES [What are you doing?] Youíre sitting in my sitting-room.

      HUDSON I thought you might like company on the eve of your
      retirement.

      HOLMES [Puts down book] Ah, thatís extremely civil of you, dear lady
      but I wonít be gone forever. Sussex is just down the road.

      HUDSON But to a farm, Mr Holmes? Somehow I canít see you as a
      gentleman farmer.

      HOLMES [Fond anticipation] Iím five miles from Eastbourne and from
      my cottage on the South Downs, I have splendid views of the sea.
      [Heads to fireplace] Retirement comes to us all, madam; [Looks at her]
      even indestructible landladies.

      HUDSON So this retirement, is it definite?

      HOLMES [Amused, slight chuckle] Itís no use. Watson tried to talk me
      round and failed miserably. The worldís first and finest
      consulting-detective has retired.

      HUDSON Good.

      HOLMES I need only pack this final ... [What did she say?]  I beg
      your pardon?

      HUDSON [Sheís milking the moment] I said, ďGoodĒ.

      HOLMES I know what you said, madam, but am curious as to its meaning.

      HUDSON I need to be certain youíre leaving before I write my
      articles.

      HOLMES [Much more attentive] Articles?

      HUDSON Did I not tell you?

      HOLMES Indeed you did not.

      HUDSON The Strand magazine has offered to pay for my memoirs.

      HOLMES [Heís hooked] Your memoirs? [Incredible]  The Strand
      magazine?

      HUDSON Yes, I believe itís very popular.

      HOLMES [Miffed] Of course itís popular Ė I made it popular.

      HUDSON Oh yes. Forgive me.

      HOLMES But what of these Ďmemoirsí?

      HUDSON [As if reading a title] The Landlady of Sherlock Holmes.

      HOLMES [Not happy] Oh no.

      HUDSON The world knows of your cases but nothing of your private
      life.

      HOLMES [Starting to get angry] My private life!

      HUDSON [Assuring him] Of course I would never divulge any of your
      really unpleasant habits.

      HOLMES [How dare she] Unpleasant habits!

      HUDSON Such as repeating everything I say.

      HOLMES [Pause. Suddenly relaxes. Thinks sheís joking] Oh, very
      droll, Mrs Hudson. A comic turn before I go. [Finger wag] For a moment
      there, I thought you were serious.

      HUDSON [She is deadly serious] I plan to offer tours of our Baker
      Street address.

      HOLMES [Back to being worried] Tours!

      HUDSON I will call them, ďAt home with HolmesĒ.

      HOLMES You cannot be serious.

      HUDSON Visitors will enjoy a cup of tea then a viewing of this famous
      sitting-room.

      HOLMES Surely you jest.

      HUDSON [Changes subject] But first my memoirs. [She takes folded
      letter from apron or pocket and hands it to the astonished SH] I was
      quite flabbergasted at the fee.

      HOLMES [Back into panic/anger] Money? [He reads letter]

      HUDSON I suppose I should offer you a percentage. After all, youíre
      ...

      HOLMES [Scanning letter. Surprised] Fifty guineas!

      HUDSON And with an increase for each new installment.

      HOLMES [Rising disbelief] Installments?

      HUDSON However, and thatís why I asked if you were definitely
      leaving; under no circumstances will they accept my articles until you
      have retired.

      HOLMES [Trying to think of a way out of this] Mrs Hudson, I strongly
      advise caution.

      HUDSON [Genuine concern] You think I should ask for more money?

      HOLMES [Almost flustered] What? No. Look, writing is an art, a
      profession; it requires skill and knowledge. Think of the indignity
      when the editor rejects your work.

      HUDSON [Canít accept his logic] But theyíve already made me an
      offer.

      HOLMES [Hands back her letter] Dr Watson wrote splendid reports based
      on first-hand experience. You cannot just invent things.

      HUDSON [Stands her ground] But surely the basis of successful
      journalism is to never let the facts get in the way of a good story?

      HOLMES [Further thrown by her witty remark. Almost angry] Mrs Hudson,
      I am bound to warn you this bizarre behaviour has the potential to
      cause great harm.

      HUDSON [Corrects him] Not to my bank account.

      HOLMES You are so out of character itís absurd. In the decades
      Iíve lived under your roof, Iíve never once known you to think.

      HUDSON Youíve never once asked me to think.

      HOLMES As landlady and receptionist, you have admirable qualities.

      HUDSON [Nod of appreciation] Thank you sir.

      HOLMES And being a woman, you are ideally qualified for domestic
      duties.

      HUDSON [Almost teasing him] How kind you are.

      HOLMES But youíve never shown a spark of intelligence and have
      performed only the most menial of tasks. In my glittering career,
      madam, you are the walking wallpaper.

      HUDSON [Back to serious] Thatís as may be, Mr Holmes but the
      question remains. [Emphatic] Are you off in the morning?

      HOLMES [Angry] You cannot make bricks without clay and your feeble
      fading memory is simply not enough.

      HUDSON I agree.

      HOLMES The idea is preposterous. [Changes gear] You agree?

      HUDSON My memory is feeble and thatís why Iíve kept a scrapbook.
      [She goes to fetch it upstage]

      HOLMES [Stunned] A what?

      HUDSON You inspired me with all your scrapbooks.

      HOLMES [Groaning] Oh no.

      HUDSON Newspaper articles, photographs, letters, calling cards;
      everything.
      [Offers tatty scrapbook to SH] Iíd be honoured if youíd read it.

      HOLMES [Pause. In shock] Thank you but I must finish packing.

      HUDSON So many memories.

      HOLMES [Adamant] Madam, I have not the slightest interest in your
      scrapbook.

      FX     Doorbell sounds/Knock on door

      HUDSON Now who can that be at this time of night?
      [She puts scrapbook on table and heads to door]

      HOLMES Whoever it is, send them away. [Calling as she exits] Sherlock
      Holmes has retired.

      [She exits and HOLMES waits. He moves quickly for a man with
      rheumatism and opens the door a little to see if she has gone
      downstairs. Satisfied she has, he closes the door, moves to the table
      and flicks through her scrapbook reading aloud. He is shocked and
      argumentative]

      Thatís not me Ė is it? ... The case of the what? ... I would never
      wear that ... Not guilty? ... Drugs? ... A secret lover? ... [Tilts
      head] What is that?
      [He hears footsteps, hurriedly closes book and moves from table.
      HUDSON enters with envelope]

      HUDSON [Indicating envelope] Special delivery, Mr Holmes; from the
      good doctor.

      HOLMES [Waves her aside] Iíll read it later.

      HUDSON [Heads upstage and places letter] Itíll be a letter wishing
      you well in your retirement.

      HOLMES [Packing] Right now I have more pressing matters.

      HUDSON [Starts to collect scrapbook] Of course. líll leave you to
      your packing.

      HOLMES [Pause. Uncertain] Ah, Mrs. Hudson?

      HUDSON Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES Perhaps I might give your article the once over.

      HUDSON [Thrilled] Oh would you?

      HOLMES Just to check your spelling and syntax.

      HUDSON [With scrapbook, taking over] Thank you, Mr Holmes, thatís
      very kind. Now Iíve made a start on your family tree.

      HOLMES Mrs Hudson, I meant later.

      HUDSON [Ignores his protest going straight on] Somethingís not quite
      right.
      [HOLMES is no longer the dominant person. HUDSON has taken control]

      HOLMES [Mild protest] Madam, itís very late.

      HUDSON [Looking through pages to find the right spot] Here we are.
      [Sees him standing]
      Oh please, do sit. [Almost excited] Youíre going to enjoy this.

      HOLMES [Sits on settee and remarkably is a touch servile] How
      bizarre.

      HUDSON [Interviews him] Now, Mr Holmes, are you pedantic?

      HOLMES You know it is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of
      London.

      HUDSON Excellent and that is why I propose to correct the many
      mistakes made by you and Dr Watson.

      HOLMES [Shocked] Mistakes?

      HUDSON Youíre both to blame but rest assured, I will put things
      right.

      HOLMES [A vain protest] Madam.

      HUDSON My articles will tell future generations the truth about
      Sherlock Holmes.

      HOLMES [Thrown by the woman behaving as such] The truth?

      HUDSON Letís begin with the confusion surrounding your grandmother
      being a sister of the French painter Vernet.

      HOLMES Confusion?

      HUDSON And [Shaking head or wagging finger] this from a self-confessed
      pedant.

      HOLMES [Mildly offended] I am related to Vernet.

      HUDSON But which one? There are several French painters called
      Vernet?

      HOLMES [He didnít. Struggling] Well yes, I think you may be correct.


      HUDSON Think, Mr Holmes? Either you know or you donít.

      HOLMES [Annoyed] Look, what is your point?

      HUDSON There are four well-known French painters called Vernet. To
      whom are you related?

      HOLMES [Concedes] Oh I see, of course.

      HUDSON Your claim is akin to my saying my great-uncle was an Irishman
      named Murphy.

      HOLMES [Testy] Yes, yes, youíve made your point.

      HUDSON Or my grandfather was a Mr Williams from Wales.

      HOLMES [Snaps] All right. My great-uncle was Emile Jean Horace Vernet
      born in 1789. [Through gritted teeth] Is that precise enough for you?

      HUDSON [Writing] Seventeen ... eighty-nine.

        HOLMES     He painted gentlemen engaged in boxing and fencing, which,
      co-incidentally were my athletic pursuits when young. Now, is that
      all?

      HUDSON Is that all? Mr Holmes, you and Dr Watson have bequeathed
      enough blunders to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

      HOLMES [Under his breath] Which may not be much longer.

      HUDSON [Didnít hear] Iím sorry?

      HOLMES [Takes a stand] Enough, madam. This nitpicking of minutiae is
      invasive and of no interest.

      HUDSON Au contraire, Monsieur. Twas you who said, ďThere is nothing
      so important as triflesĒ.

      HOLMES [Temper rising] The trifles of others.

      HUDSON But forget minutiae, Mr Holmes, let us consider elementary
      errors.

      HOLMES Elementary, Mrs Hudson?

      HUDSON In your very first case, The Study in Scarlet ....

      HOLMES Oh please. Itís not The Study but A Study in Scarlet.

      HUDSON [Picks up on his correction] See, you are pedantic.

      HOLMES And this so-called error?

      HUDSON [Returns to tale] Dr Watson wrote that when fighting in
      Afghanistan he was struck by a Jezail bullet receiving a wound to his
      [Touching her shoulder] shoulder.
          [A Jezail or Jezzail was an Afghan musket]

      HOLMES Watson was correct.

      HUDSON But a short time later he referred to the very same wound being
      in his leg. Now that, sir, is a blunder. It is not a slip of the pen
      but a serious anatomical anomaly Ė and from, of all people, a
      medical man.

      HOLMES [Smug] Well if thatís your best shot, [Pun], your writing
      career is over.

      HUDSON [Shocked] I donít understand.

      HOLMES [Moves so as to turn side on to the audience] Watson was
      wounded and took cover like so, [HOLMES in a little pain bends almost
      double] the bullet struck him here, [indicates his shoulder] passed
      through and entered his leg [indicates] thus causing two wounds from
      the same shot.

      HUDSON [Shocked] Good heavens.

      HOLMES [Still bent over] In the colder months his leg gives him merry
      hell [Winces from rheumatic pain] whereas in summer itís his
      shoulder. [Winces again]

      HUDSON [Genuinely grateful. Writing/crossing out in her scrapbook]
      Bullet ... struck ... shoulder.

      HOLMES [Pause. He is frozen and cannot straighten himself] Mrs
      Hudson?

      HUDSON [Writing] ... then ... entered ... leg.

      HOLMES [Louder] Mrs Hudson?

      HUDSON [Stops writing] Mr Holmes?

      HOLMES [In pain] I cannot straighten myself.

      HUDSON [Stands, concerned] Oh dear. Is it your rheumatism?

      HOLMES No, I always take this pose of an evening.

      HUDSON Perhaps I could be of assistance?

      HOLMES Well as itís the maidís night off and the goose wonít be
      here Ďtil Christmas, perhaps you could.

      HUDSON [Goes to him] Very well, Iíll do my best. [Wonders how to
      handle him] Ah, where shall I place my hands?

      HOLMES [Impatient, in pain] Oh for pityís sake, woman - anywhere.

      HUDSON [Wonít be bullied] Mr Holmes, I would prefer somewhere.

      HOLMES [Irritated] Well somewhere then. Just unbend me.
      [HUDSON stands facing HOLMES, places her hands on the underneath of
      his shoulders and, taking her time, suddenly heaves upwards. In pain
      HOLMES straightens with a cry of agony]

      HUDSON [She assists him to settee] I think Dr Watson was right when he
      said, ďYou need nursing, HolmesĒ. [He sits. She returns to her
      scrapbook]

      HOLMES [Under his breath] I need to retire.

      HUDSON [Back into her routine] Now itís not just your mistakes, sir.
      I want to tell the world about life here in Baker Street.

      HOLMES How tedious.

      HUDSON Iím sure people will be fascinated to learn you were so
      untidy.

      HOLMES [Sarcastic] You are too kind.

      HUDSON [Pointed] And sarcastic. [Heading UC, referring to scrapbook
      and reminding herself of his habits] You kept cigars in the coal
      scuttle, tobacco in a Persian slipper and unanswered letters skewered
      to the mantle-piece with a dagger.

      HOLMES [Whatís wrong with that?] Everything in its place.

      HUDSON [Moving and picking up page of The Times] You discarded
      newspapers anywhere and look, your notes and books are [Indicates
      table] piled higgledy-piggledy around the room. If a herd of buffaloes
      had passed by, there could not be a greater mess.

      HOLMES So youíll be glad to see me go.

      HUDSON Iíll certainly not miss your smells.

      HOLMES Charming.

 

[end of extract]



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