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A Midsummer Madness
by [?]

“Have you tried letting the Queen be taken by Black’s pawn, then sacrificing the Knights, and finally mating him with the King alone?”

“Yes,” said Carey.

Then I was baffled. If one can’t solve a chess problem by starting off with the most unlikely-looking thing on the board, one can’t solve it at all. However, I copied down the position and said I’d glance at it…. At eleven that night I rose from my glance, decided that Herbert’s problem was the more immediately pressing, and took it to bed with me.

I was lunching with William next day, and I told him about the subaltern. He dashed at it lightheartedly and made the answer seventeen.

“Seventeen what?” I said.

“Well, whatever we’re talking about. I think you’ll find it’s seventeen all right. But look here, my son, here’s a golf problem for you. A is playing B. At the fifth hole A falls off the tee into a pond–“

I forget how it went on.

When I got home to dinner, after a hard day with the subaltern, I found a letter from Norah waiting for me.

“I hear from Mr. Carey,” she wrote, “that you’re keen on problems. Here’s one I have cut out of our local paper. Do have a shot at it. The answer ought to be eight miles an hour.”

Luckily, however, she forgot to enclose the problem. For by this time, what with Herbert’s subaltern, Carey’s pawn, and a cistern left me by an uncle who was dining with us that night, I had more than enough to distract me.

And so the business has gone on. The news that I am preparing a collection of interesting and tricky problems for a new “Encyclopaedia” has got about among my friends. Everybody who writes to me tells me of a relation of his who has been shearing sheep or rowing against the stream or dealing himself four aces. People who come to tea borrow a box of wooden matches and beg me to remove one match and leave a perfect square. I am asked to do absurd things with pennies….

Meanwhile Herbert has forgotten both the problem and the girl. Three evenings later he shared his Hollandaise sauce with somebody in yellow (as luck would have it) and she changed the subject by wondering if he read Dickens. He is now going manfully through “Bleak House”–a chapter a night–and when he came to visit me to-day he asked me if I had ever heard of the man.

However, I was not angry with him, for I had just made it come to “three cows.” It is a cow short, but it is nearer than I have ever been before, and I think I shall leave it at that. Indeed, both the doctor and the nurse say that I had better leave it at that.