A Country Practice
Midhampton, England, 1898
Jenkins: Ah, there goes the new doorbell. Two rings. That means it is for us. These modern devices are most helpful. I deduce from the pressure applied and the obviously peremptory note that our caller is a large, muscular man, probably of the labouring classes. We mustn’t keep the poor fellow waiting. He is probably already somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of meeting a person of my status. Be so good as to trot along the corridor and show him in, Watson.
Porter: For Heaven’s sake, pull yourself together. You must rid yourself of this delusion that you are Sherlock Holmes, that I am Dr Watson and that this is Baker Street in the great metropolis. We are in a small country town, your name is Jenkins, you are an architect – of sorts – and for my numerous sins, I am your assistant, Porter. If you persist with this woolgathering, we shall lose yet another opportunity for a commission. You might also dispense with that ridiculous calabash pipe. You insist on displaying and handling the thing, though your respiratory condition precludes your smoking it. Actors would call it a stage property.
Jenkins: Never mind all that now. Bring the poor man to me and I shall soon get to the bottom whatever is disturbing him.
One minute later.
Porter: Here is your visitor. If you need me, I shall be in my office.
Jenkins (to visitor): Good morning. You are a woman, I see.
Visitor: I am indeed.
Jenkins: And not very large.
Visitor: No, I am two inches under five feet in height and am frequently described as petite, though I do not normally use that word myself. You seem to be surprised. Were you expecting someone else? Perhaps a big man?
Jenkins: I never expect anything, madam. That enables me to deal with what arises, without my being misled by preconceptions. Now, do take a seat and try to feel at ease. I am accustomed to assisting and comforting ladies in distress, so please tell me what is worrying you.
Visitor: I assure you that I am perfectly at ease and not in the least distressed or worried. My name is Mrs Fieldhouse and I have called upon you to ask about the drawing up of plans.
Jenkins: Ah yes, plans. Well, I have many. The Bruce-Partington ones come to mind at once.
Fieldhouse: The name is not familiar to me.
Jenkins: That is understandable. The whole affair was kept quiet. It went to very highest levels of society. My brother Mycroft was involved in it before I was. He asked me to help and I tracked down and apprehended the culprit.
Fieldhouse: The culprit? Well, be that as it may, my position is that I have bought a plot of land and –
Jenkins: In the countryside, due north of here, I perceive.
Fieldhouse: Whatever makes you say that?
Jenkins: Elementary. I merely observed the heel of your left shoe, which bears traces of the reddish soil found nowhere else in this vicinity. When a man has been in this business as long as I have, not much escapes him, Mrs Fielding.
Jenkins: I beg your pardon.
Fieldhouse: I have not left this town in the past ten years. My shoes are new, purchased last week. The plot of land is only five minutes’ walk from here. I acquired it a short time ago, when I became a widow.
Jenkins: Yes, yes. I see the sorrow in your eyes. I hope you are coping with your grief.
Fieldhouse: I am not troubled by either sorrow or grief. My husband was a brute and I am relieved that he has passed on. The first happiness I had since our wedding was gained by attending his funeral. You appear to set great store by your power of inference, but it is clearly faulty. First, you seemed to have it fixed in your mind that you were about to receive a male caller, so you were wrong there. Second, you assumed erroneously that I had been out in the countryside. Third, you perceived sorrow where there is none. You were mistaken in all respects.
Jenkins: Bear with me, Mrs Fieldmouse.
Jenkins: Yes, of course. I was about to say that I have my methods, which may seem a little out of the ordinary. However, I have usually been successful in solving the cases referred to me.
Fieldhouse: Solving cases? Your use of language puzzles me.
Jenkins: I have baffled many people, yet clients almost invariably find my results satisfactory. The gentleman who showed you in has recorded some of my little exploits as short stories. One might say that he regards himself as my biographer.
Fieldhouse: You appear to lead an adventurous life. That is not quite what I would expect of a man in your occupation.
Jenkins: I have my moments of drama. However, let us deal with your problem. I need details. They are the very essence of any investigation. Please tell me everything that you consider possibly pertinent, however trivial. Great issues may hang on the most mundane points. I recall an incident, superficially trivial, involving parsley and butter on a hot day –
Porter (entering and addressing Jenkins): Excuse the interruption. You asked me to remind you about your other appointment.
Jenkins: Oh, yes. Thank you. Well, Mrs Porterhouse –
Jenkins: Yes, quite so. I apologise for terminating our discussion, but I must catch a train. I am engaged in a most serious matter involving a church up in Derbyshire. Dark things are occurring there and it is necessary that I proceed to the place at once. If you will permit me to resort to metaphor, I suspect rats in the wainscoting.
Fieldhouse: Really? If I also may be somewhat figurative, are you sure that you are not contending with bats in the belfry?
Jenkins: A remote contingency, but I will take it into account. As I have often told my colleague here, when one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Now I must go, so I will leave you in my friend’s capable hands. Rest assured that I shall give your case my full attention when I return. (To Porter) Kindly look after the lady, Watson.
Porter: Very well. I hope you enjoy your journey and solve the mystery. I have everything in hand here, so please do not hurry back.
Jenkins: Au revoir, Mrs Moorhouse.
Fieldhouse: Fieldhouse!! Goodbye, Mr Holm . . . er . . . Jenkins.
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