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Robinson Crusoe's Table


Here is a curious extract from Robinson Crusoe's diary. It is not to be found in the modern editions of the Adventures, and is omitted in the old. This has always seemed to me to be a pity.

"The third day in the morning, the wind having abated during the night, I went down to the shore hoping to find a typewriter and other useful things washed up from the wreck of the ship; but all that fell in my way was a piece of timber with many holes in it. My man Friday had many times said that we stood sadly in need of a square table for our afternoon tea, and I bethought me how this piece of wood might be used for that purpose. And since during the long time that Friday had now been with me I was not wanting to lay a foundation of useful knowledge in his mind, I told him that it was my wish to make the table from the timber I had found, without there being any holes in the top thereof.

"Friday was sadly put to it to say how this might be, more especially as I said it should consist of no more than two pieces joined together; but I taught him how it could be done in such a way that the table might be as large as was possible, though, to be sure, I was amused when he said, 'My nation do much better: they stop up holes, so pieces sugars not fall through.'"

Now, the illustration gives the exact proportion of the piece of wood with the positions of the fifteen holes. How did Robinson Crusoe make the largest possible square table-top in two pieces, so that it should not have any holes in it?


The diagram shows how the piece of wood should be cut in two pieces to form the square table-top. A, B, C, D are the corners of the table. The way in which the piece E fits into the piece F will be obvious to the eye of the reader. The shaded part is the wood that is discarded.

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