young fellow named Dawkins, just home from Australia, was introduced to
the club by one of the members, in order that he might relate an
extraordinary stroke of luck that he had experienced "down under," as
circumstances involved the solution of a poser that could not fail to
interest all lovers of puzzle problems.
After the club dinner, Dawkins
was asked to tell his story, which he did, to the following
"I have told you,
gentlemen, that I was very much
down on my
gone out to Australia to try to retrieve my fortunes, but had met with
success, and the future was looking very dark.
I was, in fact,
to feel desperate.
One hot summer day I happened to be seated in a
Melbourne wineshop, when two fellows entered, and engaged in
conversation. They thought I was asleep, but I assure you I was very
"'If only I could
find the right field,' said one
would be mine; and as the original owner left no heir, I have as much
right to it as anybody else.'
"'How would you
proceed?' asked the other.
"'Well, it is like
this: The document that fell
into my hands
clearly that the field is square, and that the treasure is buried in it
at a point exactly two furlongs from one corner, three furlongs from
next corner, and four furlongs from the next corner to that.
worst of it is that nearly all the fields in the district
and I doubt whether there are two of exactly the same size.
If only I
knew the size of the field I could soon discover it, and, by taking
simple measurements, quickly secure the treasure.'
"'But you would not
know which corner to start
from, nor which
to go to the next corner.'
"'My dear chap,
that only means eight spots at the
most to dig
as the paper says that the treasure is three feet deep, you bet that
wouldn't take me long.'
continued Dawkins, "I happen to
be a bit of
mathematician; and hearing the conversation, I saw at once that for a
spot to be exactly two, three, and four furlongs from successive
of a square, the square must be of a particular area. You can't get
measurements to meet at one point in any square you choose.
happen in a field of one
size, and that is just what these men never
suspected. I will leave you the puzzle of working out just what that
found the size of the field, I was
not long in
the field itself, for the man had let out the district in the
And I did not need to make the eight digs, for, as luck
would have it, the third spot I tried was the right one.
a substantial sum, for it has brought me home and enabled me to start
a business that already shows signs of being a particularly lucrative
I often smile when I think of that poor fellow going about for the
rest of his life saying:
'If only I knew the size of the field!' while
has placed the treasure safe in my own possession.
I tried to find the
man, to make him some compensation anonymously, but without
Perhaps he stood in little need of the money, while it has saved me
have discovered the required area
those details overheard in the wineshop?
It is an elegant little
and furnishes another example of the practical utility, on unexpected
occasions, of a knowledge of the art of problem-solving.