The Adventure of the Strange Sound

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Adventure of the Strange Sound is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche written by Alain C. White published in the Bulletin of the Good Companion Chess Club in april 1914 and in The Chess Amateur in may 1914.


  • in Bulletin of the Good Companion Chess Club (april 1914 [US])
  • in The Chess Amateur (may 1914 [US])
  • in Flights of Fancy in the Chess World (1919, Whitehead and Miller [UK])

The Adventure of the Strange Sound

The Chess Amateur (may 1914, p. 229)
The Chess Amateur (may 1914, p. 230)

The following story appeared in the April bulletin of the Good Companion Chess Club (Philadelphia). No further recommendation is needed than to state that the writer of the "Adventure" is Mr. Alain C. White, and the composer of the "Strange Sound" is Mr. Murray Marble.

The Adventure of the Strange Sound
(With apologies to Sir A. Conan Doyle.)

It was already late in the afternoon, but as my way :home from my round of professional visits happened to lead by the very door of our old chambers in Baker Street, I could not resist the impulse to drop in for a moment, to see how Holmes was doing. I saw him so seldom since the honor of Knighthood had been conferred on me; indeed, to-day was the last of March, and I had not seen him since early in February. I jumped from my motor and started briskly up the old steps, when a crouching figure in shabby black with bulging pockets and an absurd little felt hat surmounting an enormous head of hair crept forward and touched me on the arm. "Mr. Holmes," he began. I was familiar enough with Holmes' strange clients to see that this was no beggar, and I explained to him that I was not Sherlock Holmes, and invited him to come into the house with me.

A moment later Holmes in his old dressing-gown welcomed us at the door of his room. "Ah, Watson, you are quite a stranger," he began. He never called me Sir John. "But who is this gentleman yon have brought with you? I see that he is a distinguished musician with a passionate fondness for chess."

"Hardly distinguished," the man stammered with amazement. "But how could you tell, Sir, so much about me?" "Surely that is very simple," replied my friend, "Such hair only grows on the musician's head, and when I glanced at your fore-finger, I ventured to surmise that you were probably a 'cellist."

"Yes," put in the visitor, "I belong to the great Symphony Orchestra; but the Chess?"

"Why, my good man, when I see a folding chess hoard full of clippings distending your whole form, it requires little imagination to decide that you study problems at every opportunity, even on your way home in the 'bus. But you have not told me your name?"

"My name, Sir, is George, Tappin."

"What!" exclaimed Holmes; "Were you the judge in the recent great four move tourney of the "Review"?"

It was now my turn to express astonishment. "Since when have you taken up chess?" I asked. Holmes laughed. "Why, Watson, a man who has as much to do as I with the solving of problems cannot neglect the Goddess Came. But surely you remember how useful my knowledge of the Rice Gambit was in that little scatter of the Prince of Monaco?"

I nodded gravely, for the affair had come near having international complications.

"We are wandering from your case, Mr. Tappin," Holmes continued, again addressing the stranger. " In what can I be of service? What is your difficulty?"

"Mr. Holmes, I am being pursued by a strange sound."

"Ah!" said Holmes, languidly reaching for a cigarette, "and pray what does it sound like?"

"That is the mystery, I have not yet heard it."

Holmes sprang up. "This promises to be interesting, it may be in your line, Watson."

"No, Mr. Holmes. I know what you mean; I am not insane, although I have almost been driven so. I am being persecuted by these post-cards which have been coming every morning for a week."

Here he drew from a pocket a little packet of cards which he showed us, each one hearing just one sentence, and all referring to the "strange sound." The first one read: "The strange sound is coining," and the others told of its nearer approach, the last one swing: "Stop! the strange sound is upon you."

"These have reached me, Mr. Holmes, as I have said, every morning. They are unsigned, but postmarked right here in London, so whoever is sending them might come up to me any moment in the street. At first I thought that it was some mistake, but yesterday when I was at the rehearsal at Queen's Hall I was called from my sent to the telephone, and a muffled voice said: " Flow about the strange sound'? "

"This is very curious," said Holmes. "Tell me, Mr. Tappin, can you think of any explanation at all?"

The man's voice trembled as he answered. "The only thing that I can think of is this: there is great competition to get into the Symphony orchestra, especially this year when so many of us have been out of week, and I wonder whether some man desperate for a place is trying to intimidate me into giving up mine, or perhaps is trying to hypnotise me into giving playing my instrument all wrong so as to have me dismissed — she has almost succeeded too; when I went back from the telephone yesterday I slid indeed make some strange sounds. Mr. Holmes, such a man will not stop at sending postal cards; I have some straight to you, tell me what I shall do?"

"Don't be so apprehensive," said Mr. Holmes cheerily. "I think the matter is quite a simple one. Tell me, when is your next rehearsal?"

"To-morrow morning, and the concert is in the evening. If I don't pull myself together before then I can never play through it."

"You must step in on your M., to the hall in the morning, and meanwhile dismiss these terrors entirely from your mind. I hope I shalt have good news for you before then. And you too, Watson, suet arrange to drop in; you've not bees present at the finish of any of my little experiences for many a long day."

I did not need to be urged. I was on hand bright and early, having turned over my professional cases for the day to my assistant, young Phil Robertson, M.D. I found Holmes still alone, lying back in his old easy chair chuckling softly to himself.

"You don't seem very worried about our friend Tappin," I said to him when I had taken a chair near by, in the dense cloud of cigarette smoke which already filled the apartment.

"No, he is an easy one to hoax; shall I tell you how I spent my evening?"

"There is nothing I would like more to hear."

"Well, Watson, I went down to Simpson's Divan hoping to find out something about this man Tappin from some of the chess players there. You heard me tell him that he had been prominent in s recent tourney?" — I remembered that much — "The first thing which I picked up was a copy of the "Review" containing his award. I am sorry to say it was very poor. He had given the prizes to some second rate staff which I suppose had caught his fancy, entirely overlooking what a man at the Divan told me was a really magnificent problem by Devoure. As the prize was the largest that has been offered for chess problems in many years I at once suspected that this foreigner Devoure might have been none too well pleased at the result. When my informant told me further that Devoure had been for about ten days on a visit to this country, the mystery was cleared. Devoure is evidently amusing himself by a little mystification at the expense of our good friend the musician."

"But what is it all about?" I queried eagerly. "What will it lead up to be can't make him lose his place in the orchestra?"

"Lose his place, Watson! And to think that an English sovereign should have promoted you to Knighthood, presumably for your brains! Do you know what day of the year it is?"

"Why yes," I answer, "it must be April."

"April, of course it's April Fool's. Day, and I suspect the fools are not far off!"

I felt little injured at this old time sally, and to change the topic asked: "What form do you suppose this Devoure's joke has taken?"

"We shall know right away, for if I am not mistaken that is now our client's footstep on the stair."

Tappin came into the room as he spoke, his face more perplexed than ever. In his hand he held another postcard; it read: "Here is the strange sound! I wish you many April Fishes" and was signed Jacques Devoure. Below was this diagram:

Mate in 2.

"And what sort of a problem is it?" asked Holmes.

"A very poor one," answered the composer-player sourly. "I thought Devours could do better; he had a problem in the Review tourney which would have ranked high if it had not been for a dual mate! But this problem isn't even 'sound,' so that if he intend, a pun on that word the Fishes will have to be eaten by him."

Holmes meanwhile was looking attentively at the diagram while Tappin went on garrulously: "You see he intends a simple tour with the Knight at d2; his key with the Pawn unpins it. This is all pretty enough, but he has overlooked that the King can move to f6 with just the same result — the man ought to know better! He should clearly have added a Black Pawn at e7 to prevent the King's move."

Holmes lay back in his chair and laughed convulsively. "You must look again, Mr. Tappin; you have been favoured with one of the World's great problems. Believe me, it is quite sound, yes, it is strangely sound. The manner of its announcement may have been unconventional, but it has deserved its prolonged heralding. It is indeed a Strange Sound!"