“Where is the maze of language in this affair?” Cub challenged.
“From what I’ve heard, the whole affair seems to have consisted principally of language. Now, I tell you what we’ll do. We’ll go to bed early and have a good sleep. In the morning, we’ll shake this affair up in a sieve and see if we can’t get rid of everything but the main lumps of the facts. Then we’ll size them up and see what we can make of them. In my opinion, we can get at the bottom of what you choose to regard as a profound mystery.”
“If you do, pa, you’ll return my goat,” said Cub.
“It’s up to you, Bob,” was his father’s reply. “I’ve no desire to keep him in my stable.”
Returning Cub’s “Goat”
In the morning after breakfast Mr. Perry called a conference on deck for the purpose of discussing “the mystery and Cub’s goat”, as Hal put it.
“Yes,” said Bud, his sense of humor stimulated by this allusion; “all Mr. Perry has to do to return Cub’s goat is to prove there isn’t any mystery about the affair.”
“I didn’t say I was going to do that,” objected the adult member of the party.
“What—return the goat or disprove the mystery?” asked Bud.
“Now you’re getting facetious,” broke in Cub.
“Not necessarily,” objected Mr. Perry. “I didn’t promise, or have in mind, to do either of those things. The fact of the matter is, a mystery represents the state or condition of mind of the person mystified. Now, I am not mystified over this affair at all; hence there is no mystery in it, so far as I am concerned.”
“Then explain it to us,” Bud challenged.
“Oh, no; I didn’t mean I could do that.”
“Then you must be mystified,” Bud argued.
“Suppose you have a difficult example to do at school, and finally after working at it a long time you have to confess you can’t do it—does that mean it’s a mystery and you are mystified?”
This was a poser for the boys. They had never looked at a subject of this kind on any such light.
“Cub, you’re the highbrow of our bunch,” said Hal after some moments of puzzled silence.
“Oh, get away with that stuff,” Cub protested, but, somehow, a faint glimmer of satisfaction at the “compliment” shone in his countenance.
“No, I won’t, either,” Hal insisted. “It’s true. This thing is too much for Bud and me. You’ve got to settle it for us.”
Cub “swelled up” a little with importance at this admission. He was sitting in a camp chair with his feet resting on the taffrail, it being a habit of his to rest his feet on something higher than his head, if possible, whenever seated. Now, however, there seemed to be a demand for superior head-work, so he lowered his feet, straightened up his back, and said:
“Well.”—speaking slowly—“I don’t want to get in bad with my father by trying to prove I know more than he does, but my argument would be that all of life is not arithmetic.”