What was the chance in a million?
We are less credulous than we used to be. In the nineteenth century, a novelist would bring his story to a conclusion by presenting his readers with a series of coincidences — most of them wildly improbable. Readers happily accepted the fact that an obscure maidservant was really the hero’s mother. A long-lost brother, who was presumed dead, was really alive all the time and wickedly plotting to bring about the hero’s downfall. And so on. Modern readers would find such naive solution totally unacceptable. Yet, in real life, circumstances do sometimes conspire to bring about coincidences which anyone but a nineteenth century novelist would find incredible.
When I was a boy, my grandfather told me how a German taxi driver, Franz Bussman, found a brother who was thought to have been killed twenty years before. While on a walking tour with his wife, he stooped to talk to a workman. After they had gone on, Mrs. Bussman commented on the workman’s close resemblance to her husband and even suggested that he might be his brother. Franz poured scorn on the>