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FARMER LAWRENCE'S CORNFIELDS.





(The Guarded Chessboard)
One of the most beautiful districts within easy distance of London for a
summer ramble is that part of Buckinghamshire known as the Valley of the
Chess--at least, it was a few years ago, before it was discovered by the
speculative builder. At the beginning of the present century there
lived, not far from Latimers, a worthy but eccentric farmer named
Lawrence. One of his queer notions was that every person who lived near
the banks of the river Chess ought to be in some way acquainted with the
noble game of the same name, and in order to impress this fact on his
men and his neighbours he adopted at times strange terminology. For
example, when one of his ewes presented him with a lamb, he would say
that it had "queened a pawn"; when he put up a new barn against the
highway, he called it "castling on the king's side"; and when he sent a
man with a gun to keep his neighbour's birds off his fields, he spoke of
it as "attacking his opponent's rooks." Everybody in the neighbourhood
used to be amused at Farmer Lawrence's little jokes, and one boy (the
wag of the village) who got his ears pulled by the old gentleman for
stealing his "chestnuts" went so far as to call him "a silly old
chess-protector!"
One year he had a large square field divided into forty-nine square
plots, as shown in the illustration. The white squares were sown with
wheat and the black squares with barley. When the harvest time came
round he gave orders that his men were first to cut the corn in the
patch marked 1, and that each successive cutting should be exactly a
knight's move from the last one, the thirteenth cutting being in the
patch marked 13, the twenty-fifth in the patch marked 25, the
thirty-seventh in the one marked 37, and the last, or forty-ninth
cutting, in the patch marked 49. This was too much for poor Hodge, and
each day Farmer Lawrence had to go down to the field and show which
piece had to be operated upon. But the problem will perhaps present no
difficulty to my readers.


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