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马克吐温 百万英镑 02

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The 1,000,000 Bank-Note          Mark Twain

Now, something had been happening there a little before, which I did not know anything about until a good many days afterwards, but I will tell you about it now. Those two old brothers had been having a pretty hot argument a couple of days before, and had ended by agreeing to decide it by a bet, which is the English way of settling everything.

这里刚刚发生过的事,我是过了好多天以后才明白的,不过现在我就马上说给你听。这对老兄弟为一件事已经有两天争得不可开交了,最后他们同意打个赌来分出高低——无论什么事英国人靠打赌都能一了百了。

You will remember that the Bank of England once issued two notes of a million pounds each, to be used for a special purpose connected with some public transaction with a foreign country. For some reason or other only one of these had been used and canceled; the other still lay in the vaults of the Bank. Well, the brothers, chatting along, happened to get to wondering what might be the fate of a perfectly honest and intelligent stranger who should be turned adrift in London without a friend, and with no money but that million-pound bank-note, and no way to account for his being in possession of it. Brother A said he would starve to death; Brother B said he wouldn't. Brother A said he couldn't offer it at a bank or anywhere else, because he would be arrested on the spot. So they went on disputing till Brother B said he would bet twenty thousand pounds that the man would live thirty days, anyway, on that million, and keep out of jail, too. Brother A took him up. Brother B went down to the Bank and bought that note. Just like an Englishman, you see; pluck to the backbone. Then he dictated a letter, which one of his clerks wrote out in a beautiful round hand, and then the two brothers sat at the window a whole day watching for the right man to give it to.

你也许记得,英格兰银行曾经发行过两张一百万英镑的大钞,用于和某国公对公交易之类的特殊目的。不知怎么搞的,这两张大钞只有一张用过后注销了;另一张则一直躺在英格兰银行的金库里睡大觉。且说这两兄弟聊着聊着,忽发奇想:假如一位有头脑、特诚实的外地人落难伦敦,他举目无亲,除了一张百万英镑的大钞以外一无所有,而且他还没法证明这张大钞就是他的——这样的一个人会有怎样的命运呢?大哥说这人会饿死;弟弟说饿不死。大哥说,别说去银行了,无论去哪儿这人也花不掉那张大钞,因为他会当场被抓住。兄弟两个就这样争执不下,后来弟弟说他愿出两万镑打赌,这人靠百万英镑大钞无论如何也能活三十天,而且进不了监狱。大哥同意打赌,弟弟就到英格兰银行把大钞买了回来。你看,英国男子汉就是这样,魄力十足。然后,他口述一信,叫一个文书用漂亮的楷体字誊清;然后,两兄弟在窗前坐了整整一天,巴望来一个能消受大钞的合适人选。

They saw many honest faces go by that were not intelligent enough; many that were intelligent, but not honest enough; many that were both, but the possessors were not poor enough, or, if poor enough, were not strangers. There was always a defect, until I came along; but they agreed that I filled the bill all around; so they elected me unanimously, and there I was now waiting to know why I was called in. They began to ask me questions about myself, and pretty soon they had my story. Finally they told me I would answer their purpose. I said I was sincerely glad, and asked what it was. Then one of them handed me an envelope, and said I would find the explanation inside. I was going to open it, but he said no; take it to my lodgings, and look it over carefully, and not be hasty or rash. I was puzzled, and wanted to discuss the matter a little further, but they didn't; so I took my leave, feeling hurt and insulted to be made the butt of what was apparently some kind of a practical joke, and yet obliged to put up with it, not being in circumstances to resent affronts from rich and strong folk.

他们检阅着一张张经过窗前的脸。有的虽然老实,却不够聪明;有的够聪明,却不够老实;还有不少又聪明又老实的,可人穷得不彻底;等到个赤贫的。又不是外地人——总是不能尽如人意。就在这时,我来了;他们俩认定我具备所有条件,于是一致选定了我;可我呢,正等着知道叫我进来到底要干什么。他们开始问一些有关我个人的问题,很快就弄清楚了我的来龙去脉。最后,他们告诉我,我正合他们的心意。我说,我打心眼里高兴,可不知道这心意到底是什么意思。这时,俩人当中的一位交给我一个信封,说打开一看便知。我正要打开,可他又不让;要我带到住处去仔仔细细地看,不要草率从事,也不用慌慌张张。我满腹狐疑,想把话头再往外引一引,可是他们不干。我只好揣着一肚子被侮辱与被损害的感觉往外走,他们明摆着是自己逗乐,拿我耍着玩;不过,我还是得顺着他们,这时的处境容不得我对这些阔佬大亨耍脾气。

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