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The Riddle Of The Fish-pond


At the bottom of the Abbey meads was a small fish-pond where the monks used to spend many a contemplative hour with rod and line. One day, when they had had very bad luck and only caught twelve fishes amongst them, Brother Jonathan suddenly declared that as there was no sport that day he would put forth a riddle for their entertainment. He thereupon took twelve fish baskets and placed them at equal distances round the pond, as shown in our illustration, with one fish in each basket.

"Now, gentle anglers," said he, "rede me this riddle of the Twelve Fishes. Start at any basket you like, and, always going in one direction round the pond, take up one fish, pass it over two other fishes, and place it in the next basket. Go on again; take up another single fish, and, having passed that also over two fishes, place it in a basket; and so continue your journey. Six fishes only are to be removed, and when these have been placed, there should be two fishes in each of six baskets, and six baskets empty. Which of you merry wights will do this in such a manner that you shall go round the pond as few times as possible?"

I will explain to the reader that it does not matter whether the two fishes that are passed over are in one or two baskets, nor how many empty baskets you pass. And, as Brother Jonathan said, you must always go in one direction round the pond (without any doubling back) and end at the spot from which you set out.

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