[An inevitable article in any decent magazine at Christmas-time. Read it carefully, and then have an uproarious time in your own little house.]
It was a merry party assembled at Happy-Thought Hall for Christmas. The Squire liked company, and the friends whom he had asked down for the festive season had all stayed at Happy-Thought Hall before, and were therefore well acquainted with each other. No wonder, then, that the wit flowed fast and furious, and that the guests all agreed afterwards that they had never spent such a jolly Christmas, and that the best of all possible hosts was Squire Tregarthen!
First we must introduce some of the Squire’s guests to our readers. The Reverend Arthur Manley, a clever young clergyman with a taste for gardening, was talking in one corner to Miss Phipps, a pretty girl of some twenty summers. Captain Bolsover, a smart cavalry officer, together with Professor and Mrs. Smith-Smythe from Oxford, formed a small party in another corner. Handsome Jack Ellison was, as usual, in deep conversation with the beautiful Miss Holden, who, it was agreed among the ladies of the party, was not altogether indifferent to his fine figure and remarkable prospects. There were other guests, but as they chiefly played the part of audience in the events which followed their names will not be of any special interest to our readers. Suffice it to say that they were all intelligent, well-dressed, and ready for any sort of fun.
(Now, thank heaven, we can begin.)
A burst of laughter from Captain Bolsover attracted general attention, and everybody turned in his direction.
“By Jove, Professor, that’s good,” he said, as he slapped his knee; “you must tell the others that.”
“It was just a little incident that happened to me to-day as I was coming down here,” said the Professor, as he beamed round on the company. “I happened to be rather late for my train, and as I bought my ticket I asked the clerk what time it was. He replied, ‘If it takes six seconds for a clock to strike six, how long will it take to strike twelve?’ I said twelve seconds, but it seems I was wrong.”
The others all said twelve seconds too, but they were all wrong. Can you guess the right answer?
When the laughter had died down, the Reverend Arthur Manley said:
“That reminds me of an amusing experience which occurred to my housekeeper last Friday. She was ordering a little fish for my lunch, and the fishmonger, when asked the price of herrings, replied, ‘Three ha’pence for one and a half,’ to which my housekeeper said, ‘Then I will have twelve.’ How much did she pay?” He smiled happily at the company.
“One–and–sixpence, of course,” said Miss Phipps.
“No, no; ninepence,” cried the Squire with a hearty laugh.
Captain Bolsover made it come to Ll 3s. 2-1/2d., and the Professor thought fourpence. But once again they were all wrong. What do you make it come to?
It was now Captain Bolsover’s turn for an amusing puzzle, and the others turned eagerly towards him.
“What was that one about a door?” said the Squire. “You were telling me when we were out shooting yesterday, Bolsover.”
Captain Bolsover looked surprised.
“Ah, no, it was young Reggie Worlock,” said the Squire with a hearty laugh.
“Oh, do tell us, Squire,” said everybody.
“It was just a little riddle, my dear,” said the Squire to Miss Phipps, always a favourite of his. “When is a door not a door?”
Miss Phipps said when it was a cucumber; but she was wrong. So were the others. See if you can be more successful.
“Yes, that’s very good,” said Captain Bolsover; “it reminds me of something which occurred during the Boer War.”
Everybody listened eagerly.
“We were just going into action, and I happened to turn round to my men and say, ‘Now, then, boys, give ’em beans!’ To my amusement one of them replied smartly, ‘How many blue beans make five?’ We were all so interested in working it out that we never got into action at all.”
“But that’s easy,” said the Professor. “Five.”
“Four,” said Miss Phipps. (She would. Silly kid!)
“Six,” said the Squire.
Which was right?
Jack Ellison had been silent during the laughter and jollity, always such a feature of Happy-Thought Hall at Christmas-time, but now he contributed an ingenious puzzle to the amusement of the company.
“I met a man in a motor-‘bus,” he said in a quiet voice, “who told me that he had four sons. The eldest son, Abraham, had a dog who used to go and visit the three brothers occasionally. The dog, my informant told me, was very unwilling to go over the same ground twice, and yet being in a hurry wished to take the shortest journey possible. How did he manage it?”
For a little while the company was puzzled. Then, after deep thought, the Professor said:
“It depends on where they lived.”
“Yes,” said Ellison. “I forgot to say that my acquaintance drew me a map.” He produced a paper from his pocket. “Here it is.”
The others immediately began to puzzle over the answer, Miss Phipps being unusually foolish, even for her. It was some time before they discovered the correct route. What do you think it is?
“Well,” said the Squire, with a hearty laugh, “it’s time for bed.”
One by one they filed off, saying what a delightful evening they had had. Jack Ellison was particularly emphatic, for the beautiful Miss Holden had promised to be his wife. He, for one, will never forget Christmas at Happy-Thought Hall.
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