Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra by Bob Bishop
This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent
In the darkness, we hear the voice of DR WATSON
WATSON: It was in the winter of '99 that my colleague, Mr Sherlock
Holmes, and I encountered the Giant Rat of Sumatra. For many years I
have respected Holmes's wishes that the full and lurid details of
the case should be withheld from the public gaze, but, now that he has
retired to tend his bees and takes so little interest in his former
career, I feel he would not begrudge me adding this story to my
memoirs, if only in the interests of completeness. I remember that
first morning vividly: I had a particular reason for feeling cheerful,
and there was a spring in my step and a smile upon my face as I set
out early upon a small errand. When I returned to our chambers, it was
to find Holmes up, and savouring his first pipe of the morning
Lights up on:
Scene One: The Consulting Rooms of Sherlock Holmes; 221b Baker St,
It is early, and SHERLOCK HOLMES is enjoying his first pipe of the
morning as DR WATSON enters and hangs up his hat.
WATSON: Ah, you're up, then, Holmes?
HOLMES: Very observant, Watson. What gave me away?
WATSON: I noticed yourahh! You're ragging me again, Holmes!
(Waggs a finger playfully in the direction of HOLMES.)
HOLMES: (Wagging one back, good-humouredly) Ahh! So. What dragged
you from your bed at such an early hour? Not a medical emergency, I
WATSON: Do you? Oh, of course no bag.
HOLMES: No bag, indeed, and a broad smile upon your features. Come.
Pull up a chair, and spill the news you are so bursting to impart. I
dare say a woman is involved?
WATSON: Is it really so obvious? Well, yes, I can't deny it. There
is a woman I've been seeing a bit. I've been meaning to say
HOLMES: You old dog, Watson! All those late emergency calls a
WATSON: Well, no, not really. You see, I've been treating a
patient out at Baron's Court - a titled lady. She has influenza.
Well, had it. She's better now, unfortunately.
WATSON: Well, not for her, obviously. But while I was attending her
I got talking with her housemaid. A lovely girl. Quite educated.
HOLMES: Indeed? Down on her luck, I presume?
WATSON: Quite. Her father used to be something in the City, but you
know how it can be a rash investment, a run of bad luck at Lloyds
it can all fall about one's ears.
HOLMES: So I believe. Family bankrupt, then?
WATSON: Well, yes. She told me the whole sorry story.
HOLMES: I bet she did.
WATSON: What is that supposed to mean?
HOLMES: Nothing, old man. Have a cup of tea. I'll ring for
WATSON: I don't want any tea, thank you. And I don't like your
tone, Holmes. You are jumping to all the wrong conclusions.
HOLMES: She's not after your money, then?
WATSON: Of course she isn't! Anyway, I've only got my stamp
collection and a couple of hundred under the mattress. And she
doesn't know about thatalthough I might have mentioned the
stamps. Anyway, there's no call to be cynical; the girl really does
appreciate me for my own sake. We just hit it off from the word go.
HOLMES: Well, how nice for you both. I dare say Mrs Hudson will be
glad to have your room free again.
WATSON: I say! Steady on, Holmes. There's no question of that yet.
We haven't even started walking out. I was only telling you because
you seemed interested.
HOLMES: I am interested. The follies of men and women never fail to
WATSON: If I'd known you were going to be facetious I wouldn't
have told you about Lettuce.
HOLMES: You haven't told me about lettuce. Lunch has not been
WATSON: Her name is Lettuce. Most of her friends call her Lettie.
HOLMES: I can see why.
WATSON: I suppose you're going to start making fun of her name,
WATSON: Honestly, Holmes, you're too bad! I'm sorry now I asked
her round here to meet you.
HOLMES: You have asked her round here?
WATSON: Yes. I thought she would like to see where I lived. And to
meet my friend. I've told her all about you.
HOLMES: And she still wants to come? All right, Watson. Of course I
should like to meet her, and I promise not to say anything out of
place. When will she be coming?
WATSON: Any time now. That's why I was up early to get her some
HOLMES: A kind thought. Where are they?
WATSON: Where are what?
HOLMES: The flowers?
WATSON: Oh dash it! Dash it! I must have left them at the stand!
WATSON: I'll pop back and get them.
WATSON: Look here, Holmes if she arrives when I'm gone
HOLMES: I'll offer her tea, and I won't say a word about green
vegetables. Off you go, now, Watson, before your peonies wilt.
WATSON: My? Oh yes. Right. (Exit)
HOLMES: Oh, Watson, Watson. What have you done now?
HOLMES knocks out his pipe, puts on his jacket in place of his old
dressing-gown, and moves a few papers. There is a knock at the door.
MRS HUDSON (Off): Mr Holmes?
HOLMES: You may come in, Mrs Hudson, I am quite decent.
MRS HUDSON enters
HUDSON: I just saw Dr Watson, Mr 'Olmes. He was all flushed.
HOLMES: He is a sufferer, Mrs Hudson. You might like to remember him
in your prayers.
HUDSON: In me prayers? Mercy me! What's 'ee picked up? I hope
it's nothin' catching.
HOLMES: Sometimes I think it is. Dr Watson is apparently in love.
HUDSON: Is that all? Bless him! I'll give him a change of sheets!
HOLMES: A change of sheets?
MRS HUDSON re-enters
HUDSON: Oh, sir I nearly forgot. That gennelman from the Yard
was here. I told him you was resting, and he said as he'd pop back.
HOLMES: Gennelman from theoh, you mean Inspector Lestrade?
HUDSON: I inspect it was the expector, yes.
HOLMES: Or it might have been young Gregson? He likes my opinion
from time to time.
HUDSON: The one with a face like a weasel.
HOLMES: Lestrade. I wonder what he wanted so early in the morning?
The door bell rings
HUDSON: There's me bell. Fairs-like that'll be him back again.
(As she goes:) All right! All right! Don't ring it orf! I'm
HOLMES: Lestrade up before ten. It must be something serious.
HOLMES seats himself to receive a visitor. MRS HUDSON enters with a
rather common-looking girl. It is CLOE, an East End tart.
HUDSON: It's not the hinspector, Mr 'Olmes. It's a young
person. For Dr Watson.
MRS HUDSON exits, on her dignity.
HOLMES: How do you do? I'm Sherlock Holmes.
CLOE: I know.
HOLMES: Dr Watson's friend.
CLOE: Nice for yer. Is 'ee in?
HOLMES: Not at the moment.
CLOE: I'll come back, then.
HOLMES: No, please, he will be back directly. Won't you sit and
HOLMES: Yes, that chair is as comfortable as any.
CLOE sits, facing Holmes.
CLOE: You a doctor an' all?
HOLMES: Doctor? No.
CLOE: Good job I didn't strip orf, then!
HOLMES: Yes, indeed.
CLOE: It's comfortable 'ere, ain't it?
HOLMES: We think so. Well, it's nice to meet you at last, er,
CLOE: No thanks. You 'aven't got a ciggy, I suppose?
HOLMES: I'm afraid not.
CLOE: I'm gaspin' for a fag.
HOLMES: I smoke a pipe.
CLOE: Do yer? My dad's a pipe man.
HOLMES: Is he?
CLOE: Yeah. Can't get on with one, meself. Makes me throw up.
HOLMES: Unpleasant. Um, how is your father?
CLOE: Me Dad? 'Ee's inside.
HOLMES: Very wise in this weather.
The doorbell rings
Ah, that's probably Watson, forgotten his key. Oh I suppose
you call him "John"?
CLOE: Nah. We only met once.
HOLMES: Really? I thought
Enter MRS HUDSON
HUDSON: He's back.
HOLMES: Dr Watson?
HUDSON: Mr Lestrade. Shall I show 'im up?
HOLMES: You might as well everyone else does! (HOLMES smiles at
his own joke. Then, to CLOE:) You must excuse me a visitor.
CLOE: You want me to go?
HOLMES: I hope it won't be necessary.
MRS HUDSON returns with INSPECTOR LESTRADE
HUDSON: Mr Lestrade.
LESTRADE: Mr Holmes. So glad you are up at last. Oh, you have a
HOLMES: This young lady is a close friend of Dr Watson.
LESTRADE: Oh, yes?
CLOE: Well, I dunno
LESTRADE: Have we met somewhere before, Miss?
CLOE: I won't tell if you don't.
LESTRADE: May I talk freely, Mr Holmes?
CLOE: Don't mind me. I'll just warm meself by the fire.
CLOE stands between them, hogging the fire. She hoists up her skirts
to warm the back of her legs. HOLMES looks shocked and pained,
Lestrade fascinated. He suddenly realises HOLMES is talking
HOLMES: If we might ignore the distractions? I presume from your
early arrival and your hastily completed toilet that you are here on a
mission of some urgency?
LESTRADE: I should say sowhat hastily completed toilet?
HOLMES: Your necktie is twisted, your waistcoat cross-buttoned, and
there is clear evidence of the re-use of yesterday's collar
since you press me for details.
LESTRADE: Humph. We have more things to worry about in the official
police than our collars, I should hope!
HOLMES: You have put on odd socks, too, I see.
LESTRADE: Or our socks, Mr Holmes.
HOLMES: Also, your fly is unbuttoned.
LESTRADE: Or ourgood lord! (He makes a hasty adjustment.) I'm
so sorry, Miss!
CLOE: S' alright. Me eyes went straight to it, only I was too much
of a lady to say anyfink.
HOLMES: (Glancing heavenwards) For these small mercies
LESTRADE: An unforgettable lapse, Mr Holmes. I hope you will not
think the worse of me?
HOLMES: Not possible, Lestrade, I assure you. Now, what is the event
which has thrown you into such disarray?
LESTRADE: Look at these, Mr Holmes.
LESTRADE takes the lid off an old tobacco tin drawn from his pocket.
HOLMES: I won't have one, if you don't mind too soon after
LESTRADE: Bless you, Mr Holmes, they aren't sweets! Won't you
please to look at them a little more closely?
HOLMES: (Employing his magnifying glass) Hmm. Large calibre
LESTRADE: (Enjoying himself at having wrong-footed the great
HOLMES: Suppositories? Termite egg-cases? I am really not overly
fond of guessing games.
LESTRADE: They are rat-droppings, Mr Holmes! What do you think of
HOLMES: I try not to think of any such things, Lestrade. Perhaps you
mistake me for a rat-catcher?
LESTRADE: Does it not strike you that they are rather large?
HOLMES: Are they, indeed? I really cannot claim to be au fait with
the precise dimensions of rodent excreta.
LESTRADE: These are the droppings of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, an
animal many experts believe to be extinct! What about that, then, eh?
HOLMES: I hate to dampen your ardour, Lestrade, but I fail to see
why you are consulting me. These are surely matters more of interest
to a naturalist than to a consulting detective?
LESTRADE: I haven't finished. The only known example of the
species stuffed of course- was to be found in the Natural History
Museum. In Kensington, you know.
CLOE: (Peeling off one of her stockings) Just look at those
HOLMES: Take no notice. Tell me about your rat.
LESTRADE: Um, yes. Well, two nights ago, it was stolen!
HOLMES: Who would want a stuffed rat?
CLOE: Folks'll pinch anyfink these days. You can't put a fing
LESTRADE: Stolen, it was, no doubt abarht itabout it.
HOLMES: A regrettable loss to science, but hardly the crime of the
LESTRADE: Just what I thought, Mr Holmes, just what I thought. So I
dispatched one of my young detectives to cover the case a promising
HOLMES: What of it?
LESTRADE: He went missing, that's what! Neither hide nor hair of
him have we seen these two days past, though we have searched the
museum from attics to basement.
HOLMES: I see.
LESTRADE: All we found was his helmet, and these droppings, in one
of the cellars.
HOLMES: (After a pause) So. You are proposing, then, that this
species of giant rodent was merely snoozing in its glass case
LESTRADE: Fifteen years, give or take.
HOLMES: Then, a couple of nights ago, it came back to life, burst
out of its case, and has been subsisting on the remains of your young
colleague ever since?
LESTRADE: Hardly that, Mr Holmes. You don't take me for a complete
fool, I hope?
HOLMES: Perish the thought.
LESTRDAE: It is not often I am at a loss.
HOLMES: Oh, I don't know
LESTRADE: Oh, you enjoy a bit of a joke, like, at my expense, and I
take it all in good part. I'll allow you have a bit of a brain, and
might have made it good if you had joined the force instead of
meddling about here on your own
HOLMES: You did say "meddling"?
LESTRADE: You won't begrudge me my own little quips, I'm sure?
Well, then, on the odd occasion when I comes up against a brick wall,
I freely allows I turns to you, two heads being better than one. So.
What are your thoughts on this occasion, Mr Holmes? What are we up
HOLMES: You know I never venture opinions in advance of appraising
the facts. I admit, however, that there seem to be some points of
LESTRADE: Then you'll join me on this one? See if the best two
brains in London can't crack this little mystery wide open?
HOLMES: You have a way of putting your invitations that makes them
all but irresistible, Lestrade. Watson and I will saunter over to
South Kensington when he returns from the florist.
LESTRADE: Thank you, Mr Holmes. It's all I ask.
HOLMES: Unless, of course, Watson has other plans? Lettuce?
CLOE does not realise she is being addressed, and carries on
toasting her toes. HOLMES places a hand on her shoulder.
CLOE: No, thanks. You already asked.
HOLMES: Do you know if Dr WatJohnhas any plans for the rest of
CLOE: 'Ow should I know? Here you haven't got a lavvy, I
HOLMES: I'm sorry?
CLOE: You know a doings? I need a pee.
HOLMES: Through there. Turn left.
LESTRADE: Did you say that girl and Dr Watson?
HOLMES: It doesn't bear thinking about.
WATSON enters, carrying flowers
LESTRADE: Ah, Dr Watson. Talk of the Devil.
WATSON: Lestrade! Is she here yet, Holmes?
HOLMES: Yes. She is.
WATSON: Well, where is she?
HOLMES: Powdering her nose.
WATSON: Ah. Well, Holmes, what do you think of her?
HOLMES: It's difficult to put into words.
WATSON: (To LESTRADE) Isn't she an absolute angel?
LESTRADE: Look, er, I ought to be going.
HOLMES: What are your plans for the day, Watson?
WATSON: I thought perhaps a stroll in St James's. Feed the ducks,
listen to the band, that sort of thing. Why? Has something cropped
LESTRADE: (Showing WATSON the tin of rat droppings) What do you make
of those, doctor?
WATSON takes a rat turd and eats it. The others regard him
curiously. CLOE slips back into the room quietly.
WATSON: Bit chewy. Nice flavour, though. What is it?
CLOE: Rat shit.
WATSON: Arrgh! Eugh! Pah! Oh, I say, Holmes, really!
CLOE: 'Ere did you know there's no paper in your lavvy?
HOLMES takes the flowers from WATSON while he chokes
LESTRADE: I'd best be going, Mr Holmes, before Dr Watson eats the
rest of my evidence. I'll see you up at the Museum, then?
HOLMES: Count on me, Lestrade. I'm not sure about Watson.
CLOE: Poor love. Did you swallow any?
WATSON: All of it! I thought they were liquorice comfits!
CLOE: Want me to get yer a glass of water? Wash it dahn?
LESTRADE: Good-bye, then, doctor. Bye, Miss. See you later, Mr
Holmes. Don't bother to see me out. I know the way. (Exit)
HOLMES: Feeling better, Watson? (To CLOE) Here, these are for you.
WATSON: No, they're not! (Snatches them back) They're for my
CLOE: What is it with you two and lettuce?
MRS HUDSON enters
HUDSON: Anyone fancy a salad?
CLOE: I bet they do.
HUDSON: Only I'm going to make lunch.
HOLMES: There might be one extra, Mrs H, if it's not putting you
HUDSON: No. I can always make me radishes go further. (Exit)
CLOE: Cor! She's a caution, ain't she?
WATSON: (Aside) Who is this girl, Holmes?
HOLMES: What do you mean, who is she? She's your girlfriend!
WATSON: My girlfriend? What are you talking about?
HOLMES: It's Lettie, isn't it?
CLOE: 'Ere, don't you two know it's rude to whisper?
HOLMES: You mean you're not Dr Watson's girlfriend?
CLOE: What? Do us a favour!
HOLMES: You said you were!
CLOE: I never! I said I come to see 'im.
HOLMES: Damn! I as good as asked her to lunch! Who the devil is she,
WATSON: How should I know? I've never seen her before in my life!
CLOE: 'Course you 'ave! You both 'ave. I'm Cloe.
WATSON: Wait a minute, Holmes! I remember! She used to work at that
house ofthatumyou know. In Whitechapelwhere the little red
light was. You remember, Holmes the Red Leech Affair.
HOLMES: Sorry, Watson. All girls look the same to me.
CLOE: 'Ere are you two both?
WATSON: (In a deep voice) No, we're not! Have you seen my pipe,
CLOE: Look, I don't care what you get up to. An' I didn't come
round 'ere for a natter. (To WATSON) I want you to look at me.
(WATSON looks at her closely.) Not like that! You're a doctor,
ain't yer? I got this rash on my thigh, look. (She shows him. To
HOLMES:) 'Scuse us.
HOLMES: When are you going to get your own surgery, Watson?
WATSON: Can you turn up the gas, Holmes? I can't see what I'm
CLOE: It's higher up. Shall I drop me drawers?
HOLMES and WATSON: No!
WATSON: I can see it now. You haven't been rolling in nettles?
CLOE: No. Nor lettuce, neither.
There is a timid tap at the door. HOLMES answers it. Sweet little
LETTIE: The front door was open, so I came up. Are you Sherlock
LETTIE: (Offering her gloved hand) It's wonderful to meet you at
last. John has told me so much about you. Is he here?
WATSON: Just go to my room and slip your knickers off. I want to see
how far up it goes.
LETTIE: Oh! John!
At the sound of LETTIE's voice, WATSON pops his head out of
CLOE's petticoats. They look at each other for a moment, then LETTIE
rushes from the room.
HOLMES: I think you could have put that better, Watson.
WATSON: Lettie! Lettie! Let me explain! (He rushes out after her)
CLOE: Get's busy in here, don't it?
HOLMES: I really think you had better leave now.
CLOE: I 'aven't 'ad me treatment yet.
HOLMES: You've had as much as you're getting. Here, rub this in
twice daily. (Gives her a small bottle from the table.)
CLOE: What is it?
HOLMES: Salad cream.
HOLMES hustles CLOE from the room. He takes a pistol from his drawer,
checks that it is loaded, and puts it in his pocket. He collects his
hat from the hatstand. WATSON re-enters.
WATSON: She's gone. Wouldn't listen to me.
HOLMES: Bad luck, old man.
WATSON: I didn't even give her the flowers.
HOLMES: (Putting a comradely arm around his shoulders) Watson, I
WATSON: Hey? What? Steady on, Holmes!
HOLMES: I fancy you and I have survived all these years together
well enough without women, haven't we?
WATSON: Oh, I see. Well, yes, but
HOLMES: A couple of bachelors gay. We can survive a bit longer,
WATSON: That's not the point!
HOLMES: Of course we can! (Thumps him on the back) Cheer up!
WATSON: Perhaps I should go after her?
HOLMES: (Punching his upper arm) Women! Who needs, 'em, eh?
WATSON: It's all jolly well for you. I have certain needs
HOLMES: Work! That's what you need, Watson! Work! The best cure
for love-sickness ever invented.
WATSON: There's a job, then?
HOLMES: There certainly is! A humdinger of a job, courtesy of our
old pal, Lestrade.
WATSON: I wondered what he came round for.
HOLMES: Get your hat and your revolver, and we shall be ready for
anything the world may throw at us.
WATSON: Where are we going?
HOLMES: Darkest Kensington. On the track of the Giant Rat of
WATSON: Giant rat! Is this a joke?
HOLMES: No joke, Watson. I'll tell you everything as we go.
MRS HUDSON enters
HUDSON: I brought a vase for those flowers. And you might as well
know, that policeman and that young hussy is canoodling on my
HUDSON: I can see their shadders on me door-glass. It's
WATSON: Which young hussy?
HUDSON: Her who was up here just now. Who do you think?
WATSON: Lettie! Oh no!
WATSON rushes to the window and peers downwards to the street below
CLOE: (Off) Oh, Inspector!
LESTRADE (Off) Oh, Miss Cloe!
WATSON: Oh, thank heavens! It isn't Lettie!
HOLMES takes the vase from MRS HUDSON and empties the water out of
the window. Screams from below. HOLMES throws the flowers out, too,
then, after a pause, the vase. He shuts the window.
HOLMES: I fancy that episode is behind us. I think, on reflection,
Mrs Hudson, you had better put your radishes on hold. We shall
probably not be back for lunch.
HUDSON: You're off out again, then?
HOLMES: Off out, as you say; combing the sewers of London.
HUDSON: What for?
HOLMES: Rats, Mrs Hudson, rats!
HUDSON: There's plenty of them in my scullery.
HOLMES: Not like these, Mrs H. These rats will eat a man whole,
right down to his hat.
HUDSON: Better not wear your new one, then. (Exit)
HOLMES: Strange woman. Come now, old chap the jungle awaits!
WATSON: So. The game's afoot, then, eh, Holmes?
HOLMES: Yes, Watson the game's afoot!
[end of extract]
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