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The Snail On The Flagstaff


It would often be interesting if we could trace back to their origin many of the best known puzzles. Some of them would be found to have been first propounded in very ancient times, and there can be very little doubt that while a certain number may have improved with age, others will have deteriorated and even lost their original point and bearing. It is curious to find in the Solvamhall records our familiar friend the climbing snail puzzle, and it will be seen that in its modern form it has lost its original subtlety.

On the occasion of some great rejoicings at the Castle, Sir Hugh was superintending the flying of flags and banners, when somebody pointed out that a wandering snail was climbing up the flagstaff. One wise old fellow said:—

"They do say, Sir Knight, albeit I hold such stories as mere fables, that the snail doth climb upwards three feet in the daytime, but slippeth back two feet by night."

"Then," replied Sir Hugh, "tell us how many days it will take this snail to get from the bottom to the top of the pole."

"By bread and water, I much marvel if the same can be done unless we take down and measure the staff."

"Credit me," replied the knight, "there is no need to measure the staff."

Can the reader give the answer to this version of a puzzle that we all know so well?

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