In which Holmes and Watson consider the solution to a most curious mystery, in an excerpt taken from Arthur Conan Doyle’s recently discovered collection ‘The Ludography of Sherlock Holmes’.
“And what do you make of these, Watson?” asked Holmes, taking his pipe from his mouth and tapping its tip on the paper scraps we had found at the abandoned house.
“Some sort of message?” I said. Holmes nodded. “An anagram perhaps?” But he seemed unimpressed with this suggestion.
“The question is, what is our unfortunate client trying to tell us? We now know, of course, that he has fled the country by boat.” He looked at me quizzically, his pipe back in his mouth.
I thought for a moment. “His destination!” I exclaimed. “Of course, Holmes! But how are we to understand his meaning?”
Holmes leant forward and placed his fingers on the scraps. “Each of these represents one of the modern parlour games that I believe are now quite the rage in the major European capitals.”
“So,” I said slowly, seeing Holmes’ mind at work and hoping I might keep up, “if each is part of the name of one of these parlour games, then we must first discover what those names are?”
“Indeed,” said Holmes, “and we can also surmise that those names must be arranged in a particular order before the message may be understood.”
“But what order Holmes?” I asked. “Alphabetical, perhaps?”
Holmes shook his head at this, and sank back into his chair. He turned his head deliberately toward the clock on the mantel and spent a short while considering the slow, measured movement of its hands.
I spoke again, suddenly remembering what else we had discovered at that wretched house. “And what are we to make of the number scrawled on the window pane? What can ‘13’ possibly mean?”
“Those digits are indeed a clue,” Holmes said slowly.
And then, quite suddenly, he sprang up. Brandishing his pipe at me he said “I have it, Watson! And I would wager that even you might fathom this particular puzzle if you spend even a little time thinking about it! Quickly Watson! The game is afoot!”
A most curious mystery indeed! Fortunately for Watson (and us!) there is a useful catalogue available containing details of these so-called ‘modern parlour games’ of which Holmes spoke. And it seems likely, does it not, that not only may the information needed to solve this puzzle be found there, but that the answer to the riddle itself is also present within its pages.
Holmes may already have realized the truth, but perhaps you can beat Watson?
- What are the names of the parlour games?
- In what order should they be placed?
- How can the mysterious number ‘13’ help?
- And where, finally, can Holmes’ latest client be found?
Please feel free to add your answers, notes and queries as comments to this post. There are no prizes I’m afraid; the reward on offer is a purely intellectual one.
I hope you enjoy the puzzle. Good luck!