The Stolen White Elephant

Der gestohlene weisse Elefant

Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012







The fol­low­ing curi­ous his­tory was re­lated to me by a chance rail­way ac­quaint­ance.
He was a gen­tle­man more than sev­enty years of age, and his thor­oughly good and gentle face and earn­est and sin­cere man­ner
im­prin­ted the un­mis­tak­able stamp of truth upon every state­ment which fell from his lips. He said:
You know in what rev­er­ence the roy­al white ele­phant of Siam is held by the people of that coun­try.
You know it is sac­red to kings, only kings may pos­sess it, and that it is, in­deed, in a meas­ure even su­per­i­or to kings,
since it re­ceives not merely hon­or but wor­ship.
Very well; five years ago, when the troubles con­cern­ing the fron­ti­er line arose between Great Bri­tain and Siam,
it was presently mani­fest that Siam had been in the wrong.
There­fore every re­par­a­tion was quickly made, and the Brit­ish rep­res­ent­at­ive stated that he was sat­is­fied and the past should be for­got­ten.
This greatly re­lieved the King of Siam, and partly as a token of grat­it­ude, partly also, per­haps, to wipe out any little re­main­ing vestige of un­pleas­ant­ness which Eng­land might feel to­ward him,
he wished to send the Queen a present — the sole sure way of pro­pi­ti­at­ing an en­emy, ac­cord­ing to Ori­ent­al ideas.
This present ought not only to be a roy­al one, but tran­scend­ently roy­al.
Where­fore, what of­fer­ing could be so meet as that of a white ele­phant?
My po­s­i­tion in the In­di­an civil ser­vice was such that I was deemed pe­cu­li­arly worthy of the hon­or of con­vey­ing the present to her Majesty.
A ship was fit­ted out for me and my ser­vants and the of­ficers and at­tend­ants of the ele­phant,
and in due time I ar­rived in New York har­bor and placed my roy­al charge in ad­mir­able quar­ters in Jer­sey City.
It was ne­ces­sary to re­main awhile in or­der to re­cruit the an­im­al’s health be­fore re­sum­ing the voy­age.
All went well dur­ing a fort­night — then my calam­it­ies began.
The white ele­phant was stolen! I was called up at dead of night and in­formed of this fear­ful mis­for­tune.
For some mo­ments I was be­side my­self with ter­ror and anxi­ety; I was help­less. Then I grew calmer and col­lec­ted my fac­ulties.
I soon saw my course — for, in­deed, there was but the one course for an in­tel­li­gent man to pur­sue.
Late as it was, I flew to New York and got a po­lice­man to con­duct me to the headquar­ters of the de­tect­ive force.
For­tu­nately I ar­rived in time, though the chief of the force, the cel­eb­rated In­spect­or Blunt was just on the point of leav­ing for his home.
He was a man of middle size and com­pact frame,
and when he was think­ing deeply he had a way of knit­ing his brows and tap­ping his fore­head re­flect­ively with his fin­ger,
which im­pressed you at once with the con­vic­tion that you stood in the pres­ence of a per­son of no com­mon or­der.
The very sight of him gave me con­fid­ence and made me hope­ful.
I stated my er­rand. It did not flurry him in the least;
it had no more vis­ible ef­fect upon his iron self-pos­ses­sion than if I had told him some­body had stolen my dog.
He mo­tioned me to a seat, and said, calmly:
“Al­low me to think a mo­ment, please.”

Mark Twain
The Stolen White Elephant / Der gestohlene weiße Elefant
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