Sir Reginalds Jest

"As to poetry, you know," said Humpty Dumpty, stretching out one of his great hands, "I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that—

"Oh, it needn't come to that!" Alice hastily said, hoping to keep him from beginning.

"The piece I'm going to repeat," he went on without noticing her remark, "was written entirely for your amusement"

Alice felt that in that case she really ought to listen to it; so she sat down and said "Thank you" rather sadly.

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We were all delighted with Robert's solution. "And now," said Sir Reginald with a very mischievous expression, "I have a little problem for you, Mr. Holmes, which I've been waiting all evening to show you."

Holmes was visibly tired, and did not respond with much enthusiasm.

"The piece I am about to present," continued Sir Reginald, more lively than ever, "was composed entirely in your honour."

Holmes (as he later confided to me) felt that under those circumstances he really ought to see it. "Thank you," he said rather sadly.

"Yes, yes, Holmes," continued Sir Reginald, growing more mischievous and enthusiastic by the minute, "this problem is really your type of problem. As a matter of fact," he continued proudly, "I composed it myself!"

"Oh?" replied Holmes.

"Ah, yes, indeed!" replied Sir Reginald, gleefully rubbing his hands. "It was inspired by your brilliant solution last month of the missing bishop. My problem, like yours, involves identifying a missing piece. It might be said to be a variant of the other."

"Really, now?" said Holmes, with genuinely growing interest. "In that case I really would like to see it."

"I thought you would, Holmes, I thought you would," Sir Reginald said as he set up the following position:

Black-9 or 10

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|

it

i

S

i

1

i

&

ft

£

a

& :

i

A

White-8 or 9

On a5 Sir Reginald placed a shilling. "The problem is, what is the piece on a5?"

We all looked at the position. Almost at once, I saw the joke and could hardly refrain from bursting out laughing. Arthur and Robert Palmerston caught on a few seconds later, and the four of us found it all we could do to show no visible signs of amusement. But Holmes was quite seriously absorbed in studying the position. He muttered, half to us and half to himself, "Let's see now; Black is in check. What could have been White's last move? Obviously a rook from s i r Reginald's jest b7 capturing a Black piece on a7. I guess the next question now is, what was the Black piece? If it was a rook, then Black has promoted earlier... "

At this point, we could no longer contain ourselves, and all burst out in a roar.

"I really don't see what's so infernally funny; I really don't," said Holmes, visibly irritated.

"Come, come, Holmes," said Sir Reginald, "I really can't bear to tease you any longer. The missing piece, Mr. Holmes, is obviously the White king."

Well, it did not take long for Holmes—good sport that he is—to join heartily in the mirth. "Capital," roared Holmes, "capital, indeed! I have really been given a good dose of my own medicine. How many times have I not told Dr. Watson: 'In looking for the subtle, be careful not to overlook the obvious.' ''

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