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Chapter 2

  • Now, something had been happening there a little before, which I did not kno_nything about until a good many days afterwards, but I will tell you about i_ow. Those two old brothers had been having a pretty hot argument a couple o_ays before, and had ended by agreeing to decide it by a bet, which is th_nglish way of settling everything.
  • You will remember that the Bank of England once issued two notes of _illion pounds each, to be used for a special purpose connected with som_ublic transaction with a foreign country. For some reason or other only on_f these had been used and canceled; the other still lay in the vaults of th_ank. Well, the brothers, chatting along, happened to get to wondering wha_ight be the fate of a perfectly honest and intelligent stranger who should b_urned 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 _aid he couldn't offer it at a bank or anywhere else, because he would b_rrested on the spot. So they went on disputing till Brother B said he woul_et twenty thousand pounds that the man would live thirty days, anyway, o_hat million, and keep out of jail, too. Brother A took him up. Brother B wen_own to the Bank and bought that note. Just like an Englishman, you see; pluc_o the backbone. Then he dictated a letter, which one of his clerks wrote ou_n a beautiful round hand, and then the two brothers sat at the window a whol_ay watching for the right man to give it to.
  • They saw many honest faces go by that were not intelligent enough; man_hat were intelligent, but not honest enough; many that were both, but th_ossessors were not poor enough, or, if poor enough, were not strangers. Ther_as always a defect, until I came along; but they agreed that I filled th_ill all around; so they elected me unanimously, and there I was now waitin_o know why I was called in. They began to ask me questions about myself, an_retty soon they had my story. Finally they told me I would answer thei_urpose. I said I was sincerely glad, and asked what it was. Then one of the_anded me an envelope, and said I would find the explanation inside. I wa_oing to open it, but he said no; take it to my lodgings, and look it ove_arefully, and not be hasty or rash. I was puzzled, and wanted to discuss th_atter a little further, but they didn't; so I took my leave, feeling hurt an_nsulted to be made the butt of what was apparently some kind of a practica_oke, and yet obliged to put up with it, not being in circumstances to resen_ffronts from rich and strong folk.