Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The milk and cookies man

These days when one speaks of someone lying stretched out on the bearskin rug in front of the 221B Baker Street fireplace, thoughts are probably going to come to mind of sexy-time Holmes or Watson in one of their younger personas. This is a fairly recent development, however, and for most of the century prior, that someone was most likely the more comic figure of a man with the more comical name of Thorneycroft Huxtable laying spread-eagled and face-down on that same rug.

When Thorneycroft Huxtable rouses himself from this collapsed state, his first sentence to to beg forgiveness, and his second sentence is to ask for milk and cookies.

But here's the thing: Sherlock Holmes gets volume "H" of an encyclopedia. Dr. Watson has plainly stepped back when Huxtable scrambles to his feet. But no one goes for . . . or calls Mrs. Hudson to ask for . . . the milk and cookies. And yet Thorneycroft Huxtable is eating milk and cookies.

Were the milk and cookies already present in the sitting room, and Huxtable was just asking for something readily available?

Which brings up the question, whose milk and cookies were they? Suddenly anyone who had any love for Nigel Bruce surely has visions of that fine fellow with his hand caught in the cookie jar, and a milk-and-cookies Watson becomes very easily envisioned. Sherlock certainly doesn't seem like a guy who eats a lot of cookies, with that waistline. But Watson . . . the guy who first came to Baker Street "as thin as a lath" . . . is just the sort of guy a caring landlady like Mrs. Hudson is going to want to feed cookies to, and Watson is just the sort of guy who would eat the cookies out of social niceties alone. (But, still, who doesn't like cookies? Other than a detective who doesn't eat while thinking hard on a case, of course.)

This, of course, happens in "The Adventure of the Priory School," which I love for two reasons, among all the others, the milk and cookies up front, and the cocoa that Holmes uses to help lure Watson into early morning action when they are staying on site. And any man that is going to go for morning cocoa, is probably also a milk-and-cookies man, plainly not being lactose intolerant.

I'm sure we'll discuss deeper aspects of "Priory School" at Thursday night's meeting of the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at the Peoria Public Library's North Branch, but at this very moment? I can't seem to get past the cookies and cocoa.

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