Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Monday, November 06, 2006

Boreham on Coincidence (3)

This is the third in a series by F W Boreham from his essay The Long Arm of Coincid-ence, soon to be included in the forthcoming book, The Best Essays of F W Boreham.

On a beautiful summer's evening in 1924 I was enjoying, with a party of congenial friends, a delightful drive across the Devonshire moors. On the far horizon we suddenly descried a puff of dust out of which, as we drew nearer, there emerged a man with a few sheep: it must have been market-day at a nearby moorland town. As soon as we could determine the nature of the objects that had created the cloud, a mischievous mood fell upon me.

`Ah,' I observed, casually, `here comes a man with seventeen sheep!'
`Seventeen!' exclaimed my companions in astonishment. `How on earth can you count them at this distance? It is difficult to see the sheep for the dust!'

We drove on, and, in due course, met the flock. I could scarcely believe my eyes when it became clear that the sheep numbered exactly seventeen. I carried off the situation with a fine assumption of visual and mathematical superiority, deriding my companions on their pitiable blindness. But within half an hour, to my discomfiture, we made out another, and much larger, mob of sheep.

`Well,' exclaimed my friend beside me, `you were very clever in counting the animals in the first flock: how many are there in this one?' It was a case of neck or nothing and I resolved to go down with all flags flying.

`Do you mean to say', I replied, `that you really cannot count those sheep? Why, man, it's as plain as a pikestaff that there are a hundred and nineteen of them!'

Shall I ever forget the speechless stupefaction that I struggled to conceal when, on meeting the sheep, we learned from the drover that they numbered a hundred and nineteen precisely?

Source: F W Boreham, ‘The Long Arm of Coincidence’, I Forgot to Say (London: The Epworth Press, 1939), 87-96.

Image: Sheep and shepherd in Dartmoor