The Columnist

Baker Street. No 21b.

SHERL: Were all the fiery demons in the nether world
              To blow their poisonous smoke into London
              Compound it with a yellow hue and take
              Away our light, they could not make a fouler day
              Than we have now.
WATS:  It’s foggy out?
SHERL: It is.
             A wretched, vile and tedious kind of morning,
             And nothing in the post but thanks from Scotland
             That I did solve the sudden death of Duncan,
             Not to mention Banquo. No doubt by now
             You’ve written up the case and had it published?
WATS:   A little five-act tragedy, with notes
             On some of the more striking details.
SHERL:  And blood, and fights, deaths, witches, ghosts and all
 `           The melodrama that you inflict on logic,
             I’ll be bound. Once I ‘d seen the importance
             Of having not two murderers but three,
             The rest was simple. Have you read the paper?
WATS:   Only the Morning Post. King Lear’s
             Still lost. A fascinating trial in Venice.
             A case of changed identity in Verona,
             And sundry goings on at Windsor.
             Nothing else.
            (A noise on the stair)
SHER:  But here, unless I’m much mistook, comes one
            That needs our aid. A case at last!
   (Enter to them HAMLET)
HAM:   Which one –
SHERL:               Of us is Holmes? ‘Tis I. This gentle here
             Is Watson, my devoted friend and colleague.
HAM:    Good morrow to you both. You do not know me –
SHERL: Apart from knowing that you are a prince,
             From Denmark, I would hazard, and a solitary,
             That you take snuff, have lately been at sea,
             Were frightened by a horse at five and now
             Are sitting for your portrait, you are a stranger.
WATS:  Good heavens, Holmes!
HAM:                                                 Do you have magic powers?
SHERL: Sheer observation. You do wear a crown
             And are a prince. You have a Danish accent,
             Your shoes have late been knotted by a seaman,
             There’s snuff upon your ruff, and on your doublet
             Some Prussian Blue flicked by a careless painter.
             That you do not frequent society
             Was clear because you did not knock the door
             When entering, and then did leave it standing ope.
WATS:   But, Sherlock, what’s this about his childhood fright?
SHERL: Come, come, dear Watson! Lives there yet a man
             Who was not frightened by a horse at five?
HAM:    All that you say is true, and yet I fear
             You cannot guess my problem. To be brief,
             My father was King of Denmark, where
             Now reigns his brother, my uncle, Claudius
             With his wife, my mother, the late Queen
             And Queen again. Sir, I implore your aid.
SHERl: The grammar’s convoluted, but I think
             I have the picture. I have the answer too.
             The wrong man reigns – you should have climbed the throne.
HAM:    No, no that’s Danish law, to instate the brother
             Not the son. What I seek to know
             Is how my father was so cruelly murdered?
SHERL: Your father murdered? Are you sure of this?
HAM:    Quite sure. My father’s ghost has told me so.
SHERL: I see. (Aside) Quick, Watson, get your gun This man’s
             A raving lunatic (To HAMLET) You have a suspect?
HAM:    I fear the foulest of my Uncle, Claudius.
SHERL: No evidence?
HAM:                        Except that he poured poison
             Into the ear of my poor sleeping father.
SHERL: How know’st thou this?
HAM:                                       The ghost did tell me so.
SHERL: Hmm. (Aside) A talkative ghost.
             Would that he were
             Admissible in a court of British justice. (To HAMLET)
             This case is not without its points of interest.
             Within a day or two, sweet prince, I may well be
             With you in Denmark.
HAM:                                     My thanks! (Exit)
SHERL:                                                   Or there again
             I may well not. I’ve better things to do
             Than listen to the babbling of mad youths.
            (Enter CLAUDIUS disguised)
CLAUD: Have I the honour to address the well-known Holmes?
SHERL: You do not. He is my trusty colleague Watson.
WATS:  Hello.
CLAUD: Hello. And was the man outside
             Young Hamlet, Prince of Denmark?
             And did he spin you some far-fangled tale
             Of how his uncle has contrived his father’s death?
SHERL: That was the drift.
CLAUD:                           Pay him no heed. He has
             A most ingenious mind, but little sense.
SHERL: Indeed, Your Majesty?
CLAUD:                                You guessed?
SHERL:                                                   Of course.
             You too did leave the door ajar, and wear a crown
             Are there many more like you at home?
CLAUD: Nevertheless I swear there’s nothing to it.
             Remember – you come to Elsinore at your peril.
SHERL: Better and better! I think it would not hurt
             To spend a day or two at Elsinore.
             Watson, look up the boats and see which leaves
             Tomorrow morning on the Danish line.
WATS:  Right ho.

ACTS 11,111,1V AND V
WATS:  A draughty castle this, Holmes. Where a man
            Could catch his death of cold.
SHERL: I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamlet’s father froze to death.
             But look! What shape is this?
GHOST: For you to be in Denmark is not meet.
             Go now, and get you back to Baker Street.
(GHOST vanishes)
WATS:  I think he’s right, Holmes: I do fear that he
            Came from the other world to give us warning!
SHERL: (With lens)
              Then why did he leave prints in this soft earth
              Of hunting boots, size 10, one broken heel
              And marks of clay upon the instep? Tell me that?
(Enter HAMLET)
HAM:    ‘Tis good to see you, Mr Holmes. Have you
             Found aught that might reveal the murderer?
SHERL: A clue or two. But tell me, Prince, is there
             A man who served your father at court
             Of whom I might a few light questions ask?
HAM:    Alas, alas, one such there was, but he
             -Polonius- I mean - has just been stabbed in’th’arras.
WATS:   Sounds painful. Is this a Danish malady?
SHERL: And does he live?
HAM:    No, sir, his life has ebbed.
SHERL: Most interesting. And tell me, Hamlet, too
             If Claudius should die, have you a queen?
HAM:    I would have had, in fair Ophelia.
SHERL: You would have had. You mean –
HAM:                                                               She’s also dead.
WATS:   I told you that the castle was unhealthy.
SHERL: I think I start to see some light amid the gloom
            I’ll take a walk and meet back in our room.

A graveyard with diggers
SHERL: Good fellows, may I talk to you and ask
            What is’t you do?
1ST DIG: Why sir, ‘tis meet we dig, though ‘tis not meat
              We dig, but bones, of that we make no bones,
              And then into this hole we place the bones,
              Though being bones they are not whole…
SHERL: Here’s five bob.
2nd DIG:                     To answer questions?
SHERL:                                                   No, to stop thy puns
             Here’s five bob more to answer question with.
             Now, tell me straight, is business good or bad?
1st DIG: Not bad, not good. Not good for us, but good
             For those that stay alive. ‘Tis many a year
             Since we did have good digging, people live so long.
SHERL: Except for Hamlet’s father.
2nd DIG:                                         A one-off job.
             Since then, nothing. Still it may pick up.
             Ours is a dying business –
SHERL:                                          I said, no puns!
1st DIG: We’re sorry, guv. That’s one of our favourite ones.

In Elsinore Castle
SHERL: You know my methods, Watson; when in doubt
             Eliminate th’improbable – what is left
             Must be the truth howe’er unlike it seems.
WATS:   So you have always said, but still I am
             In some uncertainty over the murderer’s name
             Who was it?
SHERL: I will tell you presently.
             But first I expect some news. This may be it.
(Enter to them FORTINBRAS)
FORT:   Alack! What a dreadful day! The heavens themselves
             Could no more cease from weeping than the sea –
SHERL: Come, pull yourself together. I have not time
             To listen to long speeches. What’s your news?
FORT:   Hamlet is dead!
SHERL:                        I thought as much. Go on.
FORT:   And Claudius! Laertes! Also Gertrude!
SHERL: The whole bang shoot, in fact. That’s life
             Or, as my digger friend would say, that’s death.
              You asked just now what was the murderer’s name.
             I told you. Eliminate all else
             And what is left…
WATS:                            You mean, it’s Fortinbras?
SHERL: No, no, he’s just the man who brings the news.
             The gravediggers. Their trade was bad and threatened by
             Redundancy. So they conceived a plot
             To slay the highest in the land and profit
             By their piecework. Only one mistake they made.
             To imitate the ghost and wear their boots the while.
             I wrote a monograph on soles you may have read.
WATS:   May God have mercy.
SHERL: Mercy on what?
WATS:   Their soles.
SHERL: That settles it – let’s leave this cursed place
             Where none do ope their mouths but they do utter puns
             Besides, I have a telegram from Lestrade in the Yard,
             Begging for my help with some new case.
WATS:   What says he now?
SHERL:                               ‘Othello’s wife is dead.
             We found her lying lifeless on her bed’,
WATS:   No sooner is one case accounted for,
            Then we go chasing after -
SHERL: Don’t say it!
WATS:                    -some Moor.
(SHERLOCK HOLMES knocks WATSON to the ground. Exeunt omnes. Curtain)


The Sherlock Holmes Magazine * Issue 28 *1998


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