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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 5. Whiling Away Time
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 5. Whiling Away Time Post by :grimmbot Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1144

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 5. Whiling Away Time


Excluded from the plays of the older fellows, Jack drew around him a circle of small boys, who were always glad to be amused with the stories of hunting, fishing, and frontier adventure that he had heard from old pioneers on Wildcat Creek. Sometimes he played "tee-tah-toe, three in a row," with the girls, using a slate and pencil in a way well known to all school-children. And he also showed them a better kind of "tee-tah-toe," learned on the Wildcat, and which may have been in the first place an Indian game, as it is played with grains of Indian corn. A piece of board is grooved with a jack-knife in the manner shown in the diagram.

One player has three red or yellow grains of corn, and the other an equal number of white ones. The player who won the last game has the "go"--that is, he first puts down a grain of corn at any place where the lines intersect, but usually in the middle, as that is the best point. Then the other player puts down one, and so on until all are down. After this, the players move alternately along any of the lines, in any direction, to the next intersection, provided it is not already occupied. The one who first succeeds in getting his three grains in a row wins the point, and the board is cleared for a new start. As there are always three vacant points, and as the rows may be formed in any direction along any of the lines, the game gives a chance for more variety of combinations than one would expect from its appearance.

Jack had also an arithmetical puzzle which he had learned from his father, and which many of the readers of this story will know, perhaps.

"Set down any number, without letting me know what it is," said he to Joanna Merwin.

She set down a number.

"Now add twelve and multiply by two."

"Well, that is done," said Joanna.

"Divide by four, subtract half of the number first set down, and your answer will be six."

"Oh, but how did you know that I put down sixty-four?" said Joanna.

"I didn't," said Jack.

"How could you tell the answer, then?"

"That's for you to find out."

This puzzle excited a great deal of curiosity. To add to the wonder of the scholars, Jack gave each time a different number to be added in, and sometimes he varied the multiplying and dividing. Harvey Collins, who was of a studious turn, puzzled over it a long time, and at last he found it out; but he did not tell the secret. He contented himself with giving out a number to Jack and telling his result. To the rest it was quite miraculous, and Riley turned green with jealousy when he found the girls and boys refusing to listen to his jokes, but gathering about Jack to test his ability to "guess the answer," as they phrased it. Riley said he knew how it was done, and he was even foolish enough to try to do it, by watching the slate-pencil, or by sheer guessing, but this only brought him into ridicule.

"Try me once," said the little C. C. G. W. M. de L. Risdale, and Jack let Columbus set down a figure and carry it through the various processes until he told him the result. Lummy grew excited, pushed his thin hands up into his hair, looked at his slate a minute, and then squeaked out:

"Oh--let me see--yes--no--yes--Oh, I see! Your answer is just half the amount added in, because you have----"

But here Jack placed his hand over Columbus's mouth.

"You can see through a pine door, Lummy, but you mustn't let out my secret," he said.

But Jack had a boy's heart in him, and he longed for some more boy-like amusement.

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