It was somewhere close to midnight on Friday night, when I was finishing the John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt quiz, in an unexpected last minute burst of Sherlockian vigor. And I came to the last three questions . . .
"From [Tottenham Court Road] find the item whose value could not be conjectured."
Okay, simple enough. Already in "Blue Carbuncle" for that last answer and how does Holmes describe the carbuncle?
"It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured . . ."
Well, like I said, it was close to midnight and the word "conjectured" was there, so I answered "The blue carbuncle."
Next question: "With the splendid us of [that item] in mind, find the red connector."
What was the use of the blue carbuncle? Well, as Holmes was describing it, he called it one of "the devil's pet baits." And, hey, the devil is red, isn't he? So the devil is the "red connector," obviously.
Next question: "The final treasure -- find the [answer to previous question] who runs through all the sixty adventures of Holmes and Watson, although he is mentioned only once in the Canon. Who?"
Well, there's only one devil mentioned by name in the Canon, and then only once: Satan.
Imagine my surprise when the official answers were given out today and that final answer, according to the JHWS Treasure Hunt officiary was . . . prepare yourself . . . Arthur Conan Doyle.
Now, in "Devil's Foot," we know the vicar came running in going "We are devil-ridden, Mr. Holmes! My poor parish is devil-ridden! Satan himself is loose it it!"
That's an actual mention by an actual character. And all the crime, all the human suffering, all the mistaken identities running through the Canon, could, if you are of that religious point of view, be attributed to Satan. Kind of an evangelical turn for a Sherlock Holmes quiz, but to each their own, I say.
Conan Doyle, however, isn't mentioned in the Canon itself. He signs his name to the preface to Casebook, but his name is on the title page too . . . do we count the title-page as Canon? I suppose that's a religious doctrine choice as well, given "Canon." But the inserting of "Conan Doyle" in a place that obviously belonged to Satan, well, I guess he did kill Sherlock Holmes with malign intent, but putting him on equal footing with Satan still seems a little extreme a conjecture on the part of the John H. Watson Society as an official body.
But, as you might recall from that first question in this little adventure in quiz-taking, some things can "not be conjectured." And I suppose that is what shows the difference between Conan Doyle and Satan and the paths to either. Or why I might have made a mistake with horrific consequences in that near-midnight hour on Friday.
The John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt continues to be an adventure which can lead to madness for the unwary Sherlockian who ventures upon that path alone. Maybe next year I had better team up again to avoid the demonic pitfalls that awaited this time around.