HERE IS A LITTLE study in subtraction and division which shows the importance of being well up in elementary arithmetic, no matter what our vocation in life may be. Solvers with an aversion to figures, however, need not be deterred from tackling the puzzle, for the subtraction and division here referred to calls for the cleverness of a Sherlock Holmes rather than the learning of a mathematician.

It appears that a gentleman's wine cellar had been burglarized to the extent of two dozen bottles of wine, which the robbers carried off and might have kept if they had been as proficient in division as they were in subtraction.

They stole a dozen quarts and a dozen pints of champagne, but finding the same somewhat heavy to carry, they proceeded to reduce the weight by drinking off five quarts and five pints to the success of their respective candidates in the next alderman's election. To leave no traces behind, as well as on account of their value, they took the empty bottles with them, but upon reaching their rendezvous they could not hit upon an equitable division of seven full quarts and five empty ones, and seven full pints and five empty pints, so that each should have the same value in bottles and wine, although the same would have been an easy matter, probably, if they had not already imbibed so freely as to muddle their brains.

Not knowing enough to keep “mum,” which was very essential in this case, they quarreled and made a great racket, which attracted the attention of a couple of policemen, who descended upon them and drank all of the champagne which had cost them so much labor to secure. But that, as well as what became of the empty bottles, like the question as to how their heads felt in the morning, has nothing to do with this puzzle.

Without asking me for any further information, as I do not wish to appear to know too much about this transaction, I require you to tell me how many burglars there were and how they might have divided their seven quarts of wine and seven pints of wine, and the five empty quart, bottles and the five pint bottles so that each man would have an equitable share. Of course it is assumed that no wine is to be transferred from one bottle to another.

Any reputable burglar knows that champagne can not be handled in that manner, so there is no opportunity of introducing a clever juggling trick in connection with the puzzle.

In the bottle puzzle, only two burglars were in view, but it does not take a Sherlock Holmes an instant to prove that there were three burglars in this gang; there were 21 pints of wine to be divided and 24 bottles, and as three is the only number which will divide those quantities, we know that there must have been three men, so we will go on with the puzzle part of the question, which even at this stage of the game calls for a sober brain.

One burglar takes 3 full quarts, 1 empty quart, 1 full pint and three empty pints. Each of the others take 2 full quarts and 2 empty ones, 3 full pints and 1 empty one, so each man gets three and a half quarts of wine, and four large and four small, bottles.

Here is an odd little bit of de-capitation, where the removal of the first letter, then the second, third and fourth in the three missing words, makes the meaning clear:

The lilies on the bank are ________,

While in our little bark we’re ________

Our course to favoring breezes ________,

Like birds upon the ________.

With lily-pads the oars are ________,

As eager hands the blossoms ________

Each shouts “Dull care away ________”

And echo answers “________.”

It seems to me a strange ________,

That we should pay so great ________,

For trifles like a little ________,

Or such a common thing as ________!

Growing; rowing, owing, wing.

Trifling, rifling, I fling, fling.

Caprice, a price, rice, ice.

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