|image Don Nelson|
Mother is tired of Robert "disgrac[ing] the family," so she enlists her sister's help to nip this little problem in the bud. Auntie invites them to dinner and Robert is positively giddy with anticipation. As soon as he gets to Auntie's house, he eyes each dish and makes a mental note about which biggest, most-delicious-looking portion he wants for himself. When the pies are passed around, Robert of course takes the biggest one, but he is disappointed to find that it is hollow. "Poor Robert! Tears filled his eyes, but as no one seemed to notice what had happened, he ate the crust as bravely as he could and said nothing." At least he's polite.
Then, cakes are passed around. Robert takes the biggest one, but the center is disgustingly bitter. Robert eschews the dull oranges and pears and selects the big shiny apple. After one bite, he discovers the center is bad. Finally, the chocolates are passed around, and Robert takes not one but two of the "big beauties in the center," but they've been tainted with a horrible taste.
That night, Robert complains that the food was bad even though he always tried to take the best-looking portions, and his brother Charlie sagely advises that that might be the root of Robert's problem. Thus, Robert "put 'two and two together' and at last decided that the best and safest course for him would be to follow Charlie's suggestion in the future."
This is the end of the story, but it leaves us with so many questions: What did Auntie put in the food? How did she distribute it? Were the other family members in on it? How did they know Robert would take two chocolates instead of one? What about her menu--pies, cakes, fruit, and chocolate--is Auntie trying to send her entire family into a sugar-induced coma?
Is Auntie the sort of aunt who would put the poison into only the biggest portion or vary it up a little? Now, a clever aunt would put the poison into several portions, because she would know that only a great fool would always reach for the biggest portion. Robert is not a great fool, so he can clearly not choose the portion that is not the biggest. But the aunt must have known Robert was not a great fool, she would have counted on it, so Robert can clearly not choose the biggest portion in front of him.
It's a good idea to build up an immunity to iocane powder.
Source: Maxwell, Arthur S. "The Hollow Pie." Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1964. 25-28.
Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories: Volume 1