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"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. Stubbs.

"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. 
Probably each 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 with him. 
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 suddenly——"

"Here, stop, Wilson! What was your nephew doing there? You said your uncle," interrupted Mr. Stubbs.

"Did I? Well, it does not matter. 
My nephew 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 getting mixed. 
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 carry two?"

"Of course. I said at the start that it only carried two."

"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."

"That's right."

"And the thing would only carry two!"

"Right again."

"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 yourself."

"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 another. 
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 his mind.

"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 prohibited degrees. 
Perhaps the reader can work it out for himself.

See answer




Math Genius