"Speaking of perplexities——"
said Mr. Wilson, throwing down a magazine on the table in the
commercial room of the Railway Hotel.
"Who was speaking of perplexities?" inquired Mr.
"Well, then, reading about them, if you want to be
exact—it just occurred to me that perhaps you three men may
be interested in a little matter connected with myself."
It was Christmas Eve, and the four commercial
travellers were spending the holiday at Grassminster.
suspected that the others had no homes, and perhaps each was conscious
of the fact that he was in that predicament himself.
In any case they
seemed to be perfectly comfortable, and as they drew round the cheerful
fire the conversation became general.
"What is the difficulty?" asked Mr. Packhurst.
"There's no difficulty in the matter, when you
rightly understand it. It is like this.
A man named Parker had a
flying-machine that would carry two.
He was a venturesome sort of
chap—reckless, I should call him—and he had some
bother in finding a man willing to risk his life in making an ascent
However, an uncle of mine thought he would chance it, and one
fine morning he took his seat in the machine and she started off well.
When they were up about a thousand feet, my nephew
"Here, stop, Wilson! What was your nephew doing
there? You said your uncle," interrupted Mr. Stubbs.
"Did I? Well, it does not matter.
suddenly turned to Parker and said that the engine wasn't running well,
so Parker called out to my uncle——"
"Look here," broke in Mr. Waterson, "we are
Was it your uncle or your nephew?
Let's have it one way
or the other."
"What I said is quite right.
Parker called out to
my uncle to do something or other, when my nephew——"
"There you are again, Wilson," cried Mr. Stubbs;
"once for all, are we to understand that both your uncle and your
nephew were on the machine?"
"Certainly. I thought I made that clear. Where was
I? Well, my nephew shouted back to Parker——"
"Phew! I'm sorry to interrupt you again, Wilson,
but we can't get on like this. Is it true that the machine would only
"Of course. I said at the start that it only
"Then what in the name of aerostation do you mean
by saying that there were three persons on board?" shouted Mr. Stubbs.
"Who said there were three?"
"You have told us that Parker, your uncle, and
your nephew went up on this blessed flying-machine."
"And the thing would only carry two!"
"Wilson, I have known you for some time as a
truthful man and a temperate man," said Mr. Stubbs, solemnly.
"But I am
afraid since you took up that new line of goods you have overworked
"Half a minute, Stubbs," interposed Mr. Waterson.
"I see clearly where we all slipped a cog. Of course, Wilson, you meant
us to understand that Parker is either your uncle or your nephew. Now
we shall be all right if you will just tell us whether Parker is your
uncle or nephew."
"He is no relation to me whatever."
The three men sighed and looked anxiously at one
Mr. Stubbs got up from his chair to reach the matches, Mr.
Packhurst proceeded to wind up his watch, and Mr. Waterson took up the
poker to attend to the fire.
It was an awkward moment, for at the
season of goodwill nobody wished to tell Mr. Wilson exactly what was in
"It's curious," said Mr. Wilson, very
deliberately, "and it's rather sad, how thick-headed some people are.
You don't seem to grip the facts.
It never seems to have occurred to
either of you that my uncle and my nephew are one and the same man."
"What!" exclaimed all three together.
"Yes; David George Linklater is my uncle, and he
is also my nephew. Consequently, I am both his uncle and nephew. Queer,
isn't it? I'll explain how it comes about."
Mr. Wilson put the case so very simply that the
three men saw how it might happen without any marriage within the
Perhaps the reader can work it out for himself.