What Happened to the Shilling?

The Black-Out Book is one of my favorites. My copy is reprinted from an original and is filled with things to do on a long night at home during World War II, like learning about constellations and playing family games.

In my living room I have a vintage chair where I like to sit and look through this wonderful little book, which contains this puzzle, which I love. Do YOU have an answer?

This is one of the neatest little problems I have heard for a long time.

It concerns three girls of the W.AT.S. – or they can be V.A.D.s or W.R.N.S. if you prefer it – who decided to stay at an hotel one night during the black-out, because they have missed the last train back to their headquarters.

At the hotel they find that there is only one room vacant, but as this has two double beds in it, they decide to take it. The landlord charges them five shillings each for the night, and they go upstairs to bed.

After they have gone, the landlord reflects that he usually charges only ten shillings a night for that particular room and that it is probably unfair of him to charge the girls so much. So he calls the lift-boy, gives him five shillings, and tells him to take it up to the ladies, and explain that the room will only cost them a total of ten shillings.

On the way up to the room, the lift boy reflects that the girls will be quite satisfied with the return of a shilling each, and decides to pocket two shillings for himself, silencing his conscience with the thought that three into five won’t go, in any case.

Arrived at the girls’ room, he knocks on the door and hands them back one shilling each. They go to sleep quite happily, and the lift-boy spends his next afternoon off at the pictures with the stolen money.

But here’s the point. The girls have now paid four shillings each (five shillings, less the one the lift-boy returned to them). Three times four shillings is twelve shillings. Right? And the lift-boy has two shillings, which makes a total of fourteen? Right? But originally they paid fifteen shillings, didn’t they? Then what, in the name of goodness, happened to the other shilling?

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