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wits hale borne suit’ ed prop’ er ly sit u a’ tion
Grandpa Dennis is one of the kindest and gentlest, as well as one of the wisest men I know; and although his step is somewhat feeble, and the few locks that are left him are gray, he is still more hale and hearty than many a younger man.
Like all old people whose hearts are in the right place, he is fond of children, whom he likes to amuse and instruct by his pleasant talk, as they gather round his fireside or sit upon his knee.
Sometimes he puts questions to the young folks, not only to find out what they know, but also to sharpen their wits and lead them to think.
“Tell me, Norman,” he said one day, as they sat together, “if I have a cake to divide among three persons, how ought I to proceed?”
“Why, cut it into three parts, and give one to each, to be sure,” said Norman.
“Let us try that plan, and see how it will succeed. Suppose the cake has to be divided among you, Arthur and Winnie. If I cut off a very thin slice for you, and divide what is left between your brother and sister, will that be fair?”
“No, that would not be at all fair, Grandpa.”
“Why not? Did I not divide the cake according to your advice? Did I not cut it into three parts?”
“But one was larger than the other, and they ought to have been exactly the same size.”
“Then you think, that if I had divided the cake into three equal parts, it would have been quite fair?”
“Yes; if you had done so, I should have no cause to complain.”
“Now, Norman, let us suppose that I have three baskets to send to a distance by three persons; shall I act fairly if I give each a basket to carry?”
“Stop a minute, Grandpa, I must think a little. No, it might not be fair, for one of the baskets might be a great deal larger than the others.”
“Come, Norman, I see that you are really beginning to think. But we will take care that the baskets are all of the same size.”
“Then it would be quite fair for each one to take a basket.”
“What! if one was full of lead, and the other two were filled with feathers?”
“Oh, no! I never thought of that. Let the baskets be of the same weight, and all will be right.”
“Are you quite sure of that? Suppose one of the three persons is a strong man, another a weak woman, and the third a little child?”
“Grandpa! Grandpa! Why, I am altogether wrong. How many things there are to think about.”
“Well, Norman, I hope you see that if burdens have to be equally borne, they must be suited to the strength of those who have to bear them.”
“Yes, I see that clearly now. Put one more question to me, Grandpa, and I will try to answer it properly this time.”