“Good afternoon, dear. Is your Mother at home? She is expecting me. Could you tell her that Mr. Holmes is here to see her?”
I clenched my teeth together so tightly that they hurt. At scarcely two o´clock, it was as dark as if dusk was already falling. The open door was allowing thick, yellowish fog to billow in to my hall; that nasty, sulphurous mixture of coal smoke and stale breath and gas light fumes that Londoners complacently call a “London Peculiar”. Nothing like it anywhere else, they say; thank God for that, say I! I was half way inclined to give the stranger the benefit of the doubt, until he spoke again. Slowly, as if he thought I was either deaf or daft. Or both.
“Your Mother, child. I wrote to her yesterday to make an appointment for this afternoon.” He slid his fingers into his waistcoat pocket and extracted a gold half-hunter watch. It was so murky he had to hold the watch nearly to his nose to read the time. “And I see I am exactly on time. I take it Mrs. Hudson is at home?”
That did it.
I stepped back smartly and swung the door in his face. Or at least I would have done, if his foot hadn´t already jammed itself against the door frame.
He was in my hall before I could stop him. I took a step back and watched in powerless fury as the tall, top-hatted man reached up casually towards the gas mantle and turned up the flame. It sputtered and flared before settling to cast a warm glow over us both.
“Ah. I see. I appear to have made a mistake. I do apologise. Sherlock Holmes at your service, Mrs. Hudson.”