Character(s): Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Holmes in absentia
Summary: Experimental research does not always yield the desired results.
Author's Notes: ACD-verse. Fill for July 30th prompt: "Is that __(item name)__ supposed to be _(doing that) ?"
Word Count: 583
Dr. Watson lugged his valise wearily along Baker St., muttering under his breath. What is the point, after all, of taking a week in the country, when the simple act of returning home leaves a man more exhausted than when he left? His feet were wet, his trousers were wet, his collar was wet, and he doubted his hat would escape that musty scent that had led to the retirement of its predecessor. He started to unlock the door of 221B, paused to examine the paint more carefully, and then shook his head and stepped inside. Mrs. Hudson met him with a placid contentment, tsking comfortably over his wet clothes and dripping hair. When he had shed his dampest layers, he asked,
“Surely the door was not quite so dark when I left. Has it been repainted?”
“No, Doctor. Mr. Holmes did that just after you left; he was experimenting with a waterproof shellac, and used the front door as his first experiment. Dreadful color, isn’t it? It smelled worse when it was first applied, but he assures me the wood will not suffer any water damage. Do watch your step there—he has been in and out every half hour to inspect the effects of the rain upon the varnish, and quite a puddle has collected since last night.”
A muffled exclamation interrupted her flow, and she looked back. Watson was staring at his hand, which was covered in a sticky powder. A handprint on his vest indicated an unsuccesful attempt to wipe his palm clean, and he waved it helplessly at the landlady.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “that has been there since Tuesday. Mr. Holmes has been exploring something he calls dactylography, although as far as I can see, all he has discovered is that fingerprints stick to surfaces, and anyone with children could have told him that. His powder ruined my best towels before he mentioned it to me. Why don’t you come into the kitchen and wash that off before you spread it all over?”
They made their way to the back of the house, Mrs. Hudson gossiping cheerfully the whole way. The messenger boy’s voice had started cracking; Mr. Holmes had been rubbing cigarette ash into the carpets; Susan Gailey’s mother was prepared to introduce her to society next month, but she (Mrs. Hudson) thought the girl was far too young—although you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Oh, yes, that crack in the wall was from Mr. Holmes’s most recent visitor, who would have been more at home in an opium den., although he hadn’t been nearly as loud as the previous caller, a young woman who was obviously no better than she ought to be.
By now Watson’s hands were clean, although the fate of his vest looked less rosy. He turned to go upstairs, but then stopped, sniffed, and asked,
“Mrs. Hudson, is that soup supposed to smell like that?”
She turned to the stove and took a deep sniff, her nose wrinkling in distaste.
“You mean Mr. Holmes’s dinner? Oh, dear—indeed, no, something’s not right.”
She took a bottle of vinegar and a jar of powdered mustard, upending them both into the pot. Turning her nose away, she stirred vigorously, then lowered the flame under the pot and put a lid firmly over it.
“Now, then,” she said, a beaming smile crinkling her eyes, “you must be starving. Would you like some tea and biscuits while I get your roast started?”