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The Parson's Puzzle





(CANTERBURY PUZZLES)

The Parson was a really devout and good man. "A better priest I trow there nowhere is." His virtues and charity made him beloved by all his flock, to whom he presented his teaching with patience and simplicity; "but first he followed it himself." Now, Chaucer is careful to tell us that "Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, But he neglected nought for rain or thunder;" and it is with his parochial visitations that the Parson's puzzle actually dealt. He produced a plan of part of his parish, through which a small river ran that joined the sea some hundreds of miles to the south. I give a facsimile of the plan.





"Here, my worthy Pilgrims, is a strange riddle," quoth the Parson. "Behold how at the branching of the river is an island. Upon this island doth stand my own poor parsonage, and ye may all see the whereabouts of the village church. Mark ye, also, that there be eight bridges and no more over the river in my parish. On my way to church it is my wont to visit sundry of my flock, and in the doing thereof I do pass over every one of the eight bridges once and no more. Can any of ye find the path, after this manner, from the house to the church, without going out of the parish? Nay, nay, my friends, I do never cross the river in any boat, neither by swimming nor wading, nor do I go underground like unto the mole, nor fly in the air as doth the eagle; but only pass over by the bridges." There is a way in which the Parson might have made this curious journey. Can the reader discover it? At first it seems impossible, but the conditions offer a loophole.








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