Chapter 48: 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.