The £1,000,000 Bank‑Note

Die 1,000,000 Pfundnote

Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012


THE £1,000,000 BANK‑NOTE


When I was twenty-sev­en years old, I was a min­ing-broker’s clerk in San Fran­cisco,
and an ex­pert in all the de­tails of stock traffic.
I was alone in the world, and had noth­ing to de­pend upon but my wits and a clean repu­ta­tion;
but these were set­ting my feet in the road to even­tu­al for­tune, and I was con­tent with the pro­spect.
My time was my own after the af­ter­noon board, Sat­urdays,
and I was ac­cus­tomed to put it in on a little sail-boat on the bay.
One day I ven­tured too far, and was car­ried out to sea.
Just at night­fall, when hope was about gone, I was picked up by a small brig which was bound for Lon­don.
It was a long and stormy voy­age, and they made me work my pas­sage without pay, as a com­mon sail­or.
When I stepped ashore in Lon­don my clothes were ragged and shabby, and I had only a dol­lar in my pock­et.
This money fed and sheltered me twenty-four hours. Dur­ing the next twenty-four I went without food and shel­ter.
About ten o’clock on the fol­low­ing morn­ing, seedy and hungry, I was drag­ging my­self along Port­land Place,
when a child that was passing, towed by a nurse-maid, tossed a lus­cious big pear — minus one bite — into the gut­ter.
I stopped, of course, and fastened my de­sir­ing eye on that muddy treas­ure.
My mouth watered for it, my stom­ach craved it, my whole be­ing begged for it.
But every time I made a move to get it some passing eye de­tec­ted my pur­pose,
and of course I straightened up then, and looked in­dif­fer­ent, and pre­ten­ded that I hadn’t been think­ing about the pear at all.
This same thing kept hap­pen­ing and hap­pen­ing, and I couldn’t get the pear.
I was just get­ting des­per­ate enough to brave all the shame, and to seize it,
when a win­dow be­hind me was raised, and a gen­tle­man spoke out of it, say­ing:
“Step in here, please.”
I was ad­mit­ted by a gor­geous flun­key, and shown into a sump­tu­ous room where a couple of eld­erly gen­tle­men were sit­ting.
They sent away the ser­vant, and made me sit down.
They had just fin­ished their break­fast, and the sight of the re­mains of it al­most over­powered me.
I could hardly keep my wits to­geth­er in the pres­ence of
that food, but as I was not asked to sample it, I had to bear my trouble as best I could.
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.
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.

Mark Twain
The £1,000,000 Bank‑Note / Die 1,000,000 Pfundnote
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