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英文版《百万英镑》连载(九)

2005-12-22 00:00Mark Twain

    "Here it is, sir," and I handed it to him.

    "I've won!" he shouted, and slapped Abel on the back. "Now what do you say, brother?"

    "I say he did survive, and I've lost twenty thousand pounds. I never would have believed it."

    "I've a further report to make," I said, "and a pretty long one. I want you to let me come soon, and detail my whole month's history; and I promise you it's worth hearing. Meantime, take a look at that."

    "What, man! Certificate of deposit for £200,000. Is it yours?"

    "Mine. I earned it by thirty days' judicious use of that little loan you let me have. And the only use I made of it was to buy trifles and offer the bill in change."

    "Come, this is astonishing! It's incredible, man!"

    "Never mind, I'll prove it. Don't take my word unsupported."

    But now Portia's turn was come to be surprised. Her eyes were spread wide, and she said:

    "Henry, is that really your money? Have you been fibbing to me?"

    "I have, indeed, dearie. But you'll forgive me, I know."

    She put up an arch pout, and said:

    "Don't you be so sure. You are a naughty thing to deceive me so!"

    "Oh, you'll get over it, sweetheart, you'll get over it; it was only fun, you know. Come, let's be going."

    "But wait, wait! The situation, you know. I want to give you the situation," said my man.

    "Well," I said, "I'm just as grateful as I can be, but really I don't want one."

    "But you can have the very choicest one in my gift."

    "Thanks again, with all my heart; but I don't even want that one."

    "Henry, I'm ashamed of you. You don't half thank the good gentleman. May I do it for you?"

    "Indeed, you shall, dear, if you can improve it. Let us see you try."

    She walked to my man, got up in his lap, put her arm round his neck, and kissed him right on the mouth. Then the two old gentlemen shouted with laughter, but I was dumfounded, just petrified, as you may say. Portia said:

    "Papa, he has said you haven't a situation in your gift that he'd take; and I feel just as hurt as—"

    "My darling, is that your papa?"

    "Yes; he's my step-papa, and the dearest one that ever was. You understand now, don't you, why I was able to laugh when you told me at the minister's, not knowing my relationships, what trouble and worry papa's and Uncle Abel's scheme was giving you?"

    Of course, I spoke right up now, without any fooling, and went straight to the point.

    "Oh, my dearest dear sir, I want to take back what I said. You have got a situation open that I want."

    "Name it."

    "Son-in-law."

    "Well, well, well! But you know, if you haven't ever served in that capacity, you, of course, can't furnish recommendations of a sort to satisfy the conditions of the contract, and so—"

    "Try me—oh, do, I beg of you! Only just try me thirty or forty years, and if—"

    "Oh, well, all right; it's but a little thing to ask, take her along."

    Happy, we two? There are not words enough in the unabridged to describe it. And when London got the whole history, a day or two later, of my month's adventures with that bank-note, and how they ended, did London talk, and have a good time? Yes.

    My Portia's papa took that friendly and hospitable bill back to the Bank of England and cashed it; then the Bank canceled it and made him a present of it, and he gave it to us at our wedding, and it has always hung in its frame in the sacredest place in our home ever since. For it gave me my Portia. But for it I could not have remained in London, would not have appeared at the minister's, never should have met her. And so I always say, "Yes, it's a million-pounder, as you see; but it never made but one purchase in its life, and then got the article for only about a tenth part of its value."

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