Nursing Holmes by Cenarth Fox
Sherlock Holmes a consulting detective
Mrs Hudson 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]
HUDSON [Calling from offstage] Coming Mr Holmes
HOLMES [Pause. Louder still] Mrs Hudson!
HUDSON [Sounds of movement offstage and her muttering] I'm here, Mr
[Door opens LC. HUDSON has difficulty opening door whilst carrying
several large books. HUDSON appears. She is frail but manages]
I do wish you wouldn't 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 can't 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 it's impossible.
HOLMES [Pause. Appears from behind settee as before] Is there a
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. It's a
difficult task and she is worried the books might slip]
HOLMES [Head appears again] Please don't hurry. I'm currently
engaged in an experiment testing the threshold of rheumatic pain.
[Face contorts, he groans quietly then disappears] Ow.
[HUDSON can't 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 I'm still here, Mrs Hudson.
HUDSON I'm afraid I can't get up.
HOLMES [Hands then face appear over back of settee again. Miffed and
HUDSON Shall I ring for help?
HOLMES What a splendid idea. And any time this week suits me.
HUDSON [Leans forward, reaches out but can't quite reach the bell on
the table] Mr Holmes?
HOLMES [As if he's not sure] Is that you, Mrs Hudson?
HUDSON I'm afraid I can't find the bell.
HOLMES [Face appears with sarcasm to boot] Never mind. It'll be
Christmas soon. We'll get the goose to give us a hand.
HUDSON Actually I've just remembered; ringing the bell won't be
HOLMES Why, is the goose deaf?
HUDSON No it's the maid's night off.
HOLMES [Taking control of situation a la Basil Fawlty] Right you are.
Jolly good. Leave it to me. I'll just ... [He pushes himself up] Ow!
[And cries in pain as his rheumatic joints give him curry. Dusts
himself down] ... damn rheumatism.
HUDSON [Impressed he's 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 [Reading] Not now, madam, not now.
[She shrugs and with difficulty hauls herself up]
HUDSON [Getting to her feet] Don't worry about me, sir. I'm sure I
[Dusting herself] Now then, tea? [Pause] Mr Holmes?
HOLMES [Looks up] What's 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
HUDSON It seems hard to believe you've 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] I've lost count of the hundreds of cases
you've solved, and the many weird and wonderful visitors who've
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. I'm busy.
HUDSON [Smiles then sits and watches him] I'm going to miss your
mood swings. You are untidy, unreasonable, uncontrollable and uncouth
but I could never call you boring.
HOLMES [Pause. Suddenly aware she's in the room] Mrs Hudson?
HUDSON Good evening.
HOLMES [What are you doing?] You're sitting in my sitting-room.
HUDSON I thought you might like company on the eve of your
HOLMES [Puts down book] Ah, that's extremely civil of you, dear lady
but I won't be gone forever. Sussex is just down the road.
HUDSON But to a farm, Mr Holmes? Somehow I can't see you as a
HOLMES [Fond anticipation] I'm 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] It's no use. Watson tried to talk me
round and failed miserably. The world's first and finest
consulting-detective has retired.
HOLMES I need only pack this final ... [What did she say?] I beg
HUDSON [She's milking the moment] I said, "Good".
HOLMES I know what you said, madam, but am curious as to its meaning.
HUDSON I need to be certain you're leaving before I write my
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 [He's hooked] Your memoirs? [Incredible] The Strand
HUDSON Yes, I believe it's very popular.
HOLMES [Miffed] Of course it's popular I made it popular.
HUDSON Oh yes. Forgive me.
HOLMES But what of these 'memoirs'?
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
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 she's 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
HOLMES [Back to being worried] Tours!
HUDSON I will call them, "At home with Holmes".
HOLMES You cannot be serious.
HUDSON Visitors will enjoy a cup of tea then a viewing of this famous
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, you're
HOLMES [Scanning letter. Surprised] Fifty guineas!
HUDSON And with an increase for each new installment.
HOLMES [Rising disbelief] Installments?
HUDSON However, and that's why I asked if you were definitely
leaving; under no circumstances will they accept my articles until you
HOLMES [Trying to think of a way out of this] Mrs Hudson, I strongly
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 [Can't accept his logic] But they've already made me an
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 it's absurd. In the decades
I've lived under your roof, I've never once known you to think.
HUDSON You've 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
HUDSON [Almost teasing him] How kind you are.
HOLMES But you've 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] That's 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 that's why I've 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;
[Offers tatty scrapbook to SH] I'd be honoured if you'd 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
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
That's not me 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
HOLMES [Waves her aside] I'll read it later.
HUDSON [Heads upstage and places letter] It'll 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. l'll leave you to
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, that's
very kind. Now I've made a start on your family tree.
HOLMES Mrs Hudson, I meant later.
HUDSON [Ignores his protest going straight on] Something's not quite
[HOLMES is no longer the dominant person. HUDSON has taken control]
HOLMES [Mild protest] Madam, it's very late.
HUDSON [Looking through pages to find the right spot] Here we are.
[Sees him standing]
Oh please, do sit. [Almost excited] You're going to enjoy this.
HOLMES [Sits on settee and remarkably is a touch servile] How
HUDSON [Interviews him] Now, Mr Holmes, are you pedantic?
HOLMES You know it is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of
HUDSON Excellent and that is why I propose to correct the many
mistakes made by you and Dr Watson.
HOLMES [Shocked] Mistakes?
HUDSON You're both to blame but rest assured, I will put things
HOLMES [A vain protest] Madam.
HUDSON My articles will tell future generations the truth about
HOLMES [Thrown by the woman behaving as such] The truth?
HUDSON Let's begin with the confusion surrounding your grandmother
being a sister of the French painter Vernet.
HUDSON And [Shaking head or wagging finger] this from a self-confessed
HOLMES [Mildly offended] I am related to Vernet.
HUDSON But which one? There are several French painters called
HOLMES [He didn't. Struggling] Well yes, I think you may be correct.
HUDSON Think, Mr Holmes? Either you know or you don't.
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
HOLMES [Testy] Yes, yes, you've 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
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 [Didn't hear] I'm 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, "There is nothing
so important as trifles".
HOLMES [Temper rising] The trifles of others.
HUDSON But forget minutiae, Mr Holmes, let us consider elementary
HOLMES Elementary, Mrs Hudson?
HUDSON In your very first case, The Study in Scarlet ....
HOLMES Oh please. It's 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 and from, of all people, a
HOLMES [Smug] Well if that's your best shot, [Pun], your writing
career is over.
HUDSON [Shocked] I don't 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 it's 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 [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 it's the maid's night off and the goose won't be
here 'til Christmas, perhaps you could.
HUDSON [Goes to him] Very well, I'll do my best. [Wonders how to
handle him] Ah, where shall I place my hands?
HOLMES [Impatient, in pain] Oh for pity's sake, woman - anywhere.
HUDSON [Won't 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, "You need nursing, Holmes". [He sits. She returns to her
HOLMES [Under his breath] I need to retire.
HUDSON [Back into her routine] Now it's not just your mistakes, sir.
I want to tell the world about life here in Baker Street.
HOLMES How tedious.
HUDSON I'm sure people will be fascinated to learn you were so
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 [What's 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 you'll be glad to see me go.
HUDSON I'll certainly not miss your smells.
HOLMES Charming.[end of extract]